- A remote and isolated island. One of the world’s lost edens, rarely filmed.
- Nature’s nursery for sharks, whales, and fish.
- Home to the some of the world’s oldest, most pristine coral reefs – now in danger.
Flying low along the coast of Mozambique, we see the shimmering blue waters of the Indian Ocean, broken occasionally by green and white islands. The prow of a boat surges into frame, cutting a wide wake as it powers through the waves. On board is an international science team on a mission -- and time is critical.
They are headed towards Vamizi, one of the northernmost islands and home to some of the world’s oldest and most pristine coral reefs – a virtual wonderland of marine biodiversity. The Southern Equa- torial Current meets the African continent here, bringing with it warm waters and an upwelling of rich nutrients. Sheltered by the coral reefs, the area is an undersea nursery, a critical breeding and birthing ground for hundreds of species of fish and marine mammals. Reef and tiger sharks swim lazily through the colorful canyons with their pups, while humpback whales young and old breach and socialize above. But it is the reefs themselves – the rainforests of the ocean – that sustain and protect this flourishing habitat. Around the world coral reefs are under siege, and nearly one-third are dying. Destructive fish- ing, trawling, and global warming are all taking their toll, but Vamizi’s reefs have been fortunate. They are remote and have been undamaged... so far. But now oil and gas have been found beneath the ocean floor here, and plans for large-scale industrial drilling are underway.
Scientists like David Obura from Kenya and Tessa Hempson from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia know this could spell the end of this thriving ecosystem. So it’s up to a small team of scientists to prove that this ancient reef system is a critical habitat and must be protected. And they’ve brought along an unusual crew member to help them make their case. William Winram is a world-class free diver from Canada who specializes in swimming with sharks, dolphins and whales. Shedding clumsy scuba equipment, he’ll descend into the depths to swim with reef sharks so he can tag them for tracking to establish their range and breeding habits. Marine biologist Melinda Rekdahl from the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, has brought an old technology to her high tech work - a crossbow fitted with a small dart that strikes the whale below its dorsal fin and extracts a small skin sample before falling into the water.
”The film project that Mattias Klum is projecting on Vamizi is of vital importance.” H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. While highlighting the crucial science that is being done, the film is at heart the blue chip story of the chain of life here and its critical role in the health of the world’s oceans.
We used the latest state-of-the-art camera system, RED Epic, to capture the riot of color and biodiversity and to probe the shadowy crevasses of the reefs in 5K. Whenever possible, we used a wide pov – the fish eagle, the reef shark, the scuttling turtle hatchling – to create an intimate dimension to the storytelling style.
This film reveals an amazing place few have ever seen – a place in danger of vanishing forever. Prepare to step through the looking glass...
The International Science Team
- Melinda Rekdahl is a postdoctoral researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York that specializes in acoustics, behavioral ecology, and conservation of marine mammals.
- Tessa Hempson is a graduate researcher and PhD candidate at ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, specializing in the hidden life of Sharks.
- David Obura is the coordinator for CORDIO East Africa, supporting activities in main- land Africa and Indian Ocean island states, including research, monitoring and capacity building of coral reefs and coastal ecosystems.
- William Winram is a world record holding freediver, former world champion and expert in shark behavior. He is an Ocean Ambassador for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Mattias Klum is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer. He brings a unique artistic vision to his portrayal of animals, plants, and natural and cultural settings. Klum has been named WWF ambassador, IUCN ambassador and National Geographic Fellow. In 2013 he was awarded the Honorary Doctorate degree in Natural Science by Stockholm University.
Maryanne Culpepper is an award-winning producer/writer. At National Geographic Television where she served as head of development and later president. She was with National Geographic Television for more than 15 years, serving as head of development and later president.