Five days before the leaving day, thanks to the help of the polite Mr. Gilbert Innocenti (Secrétaire Général Association Monégasque pour la Protection de la Nature, AMPN), I got my permission to shoot images in the Reserve.
Another four busy days spent in organizing my mission and … finally everything was set. Now I can concentrate in stowing the photo and diving gears into my car: it will be a long journey, but this is the easiest way to carry all my stuff.
Friday morning, 32°C, sun-shining … a perfect weather to dive in the Mediterranean sea.
Wrapped on my 7mm neoprene semi-dry suit, I start to slave when I bring my heavy underwater equipment plus two underwater housings with cameras, arms and strobes and – looking like an extraterrestrial man – I cross the sandy public beach of Larvotto / Bas Moulin and weary pass through the thousands of persons lying on their sun-beds and getting tanned.
Where am I turned up?? The beach truly looks as a beautiful place, but the sense of the word “wild” is missed. Luckily, together with me, there is my guide and the official photographer of the reserve, the kind Jean-Michelle Mille.
For more than one hundred and fifty years, the Principality of Monaco has extended its territory over the maritime area and increased its surface. In July 2006, H.S.H. Prince Albert II launched a new urbanization programme in the bay of Monaco, which will include the construction of a substructure to be used as the frame, including real estate programmes, amenities and public areas. The artificial floor of the site has to be achieved so that the impact on the marine environment is reduced to the minimum. The aims of the inventory is to limit and monitor the impact of such a project on the marine area, its fauna, flora, and seabed - and to ensure that the substructures built would in fact contribute to the settlement of marine life.
The Larvotto Marine Reserve (50 ha), established in 1976, is a coastal reserve that develop in front of the beaches. Close by there is the Red Coral Reserve (1 ha), established in 1986.
One of my goals was to document the large schools of fish attending the reserve, and was partially missed. Even if some species were numerous, they didn’t allow me to approach at a photographically useful distance. They revealed very shy … maybe more concentrated in competing and improving for the coming F1 fishing-race! A black dressed photographer, making noises and bubbles, equipped with arms and powerful strobes, is surely less interesting and more annoying than daily activities. Sedentary fauna gave me more chances.
So, in the following dives, I decided to concentrate in single fishes and critters. As soon as I pushed my head underwater, I immediately realized that the backwash – even at 15mt depth! - should have been the first difficulty to overcome. As well as moving to and fro everything that floats in the water (even divers!), backwash affects the sense of direction and the balance. The second difficulty was the suspended particles floating in the water, that doesn’t help in shooting sharp and clear images.
I found some sheltered places close to the artificial substructures those had been installed many years ago with the intention to create artificial reefs, dens, hiding places for sedentary fauna.
Franco Banfi / Wild Wonders of Europe
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.