Mafia, also known as Chole Samba, is an Island in Tanzania, located in the Indian Ocean about 25 km off the mainland coast. Along with Zanzibar and Pemba, it belongs to a group of islands sometimes referred to as the «spice islands”. Etymologically the name “Mafia” comes from the Arabic morfiyeh (“group” or “archipelago”) or the Swahili mahali pa afya (“healthy place”).
Between the island and the mainland there is a channel, a piece of ocean into which Tanzania’s rivers pour their nutrient-laden waters. It is right here that we can find them, these giant filter feeders, terrifying in appearance but completely harmless in substance.
They are the whale sharks, so named partly because of their size, partly because like many whales, they deed on tiny creatures. There is a resident population of them in these waters, mostly juvenile specimens.
There is extreme here as well. Not because the depths of this stretch of ocean, but because of the extremely poor clarity of these waters. It almost feels like swimming in a river. The water is emerald green. This, too, creates some fascinating scenery to capture… rays of light struggling to penetrate the murk, make for a backdrop in my shots.
The underwater scenarios here are, I would say, unique. Giant mouths appear suddenly, heralded by a cloud of small fish that seem to run away quickly so as not to be swallowed. Magnificent also to be able to photograph against the light.
Again, the most appropriate choice was to dive without artificial lights, letting natural light illuminate the scenes, also to be more agile and fast in the water.
In this case I used a wide-angle lens and fast times, even for close-ups, given the size of the subjects.
It was important to make use of specialized operator for sightings and approaches with a fast and appropriate boat.
I immersed myself in apnea. This was to make it much easier for me to move around in the water (speed) and in the constant getting in and out of the boat.
These good giants swim placidly and calmly, but without long freediver fins it would have been impossible to keep up, chasing them at their speed.
The basic components of the scene: giant mouths, clouds of tiny fish, emerald green water all illuminated by ambient light that with difficulty penetrated these murky waters.