Day 1 – Expedition 2 – Rio Sirena

Paddling upriver this morning, we had no reason to think it would be better than any of our other days in the river. The sun was beating down on us, and the forrest began to feel like a furnace.   We only traveled a few kilometers, and we’d stop now and then to take photos of an ibis or tiger heron or monkey or something when at last

An Ibis

An ibis flying low over Rio Sirena

we came to a spot in the river where the river is forced around the skeleton of a giant fallen tree.  Anything of significant size, the river included is forced through a few narrow passageways.  The hope was that we could get some shark photos when they are either coming or going in this area.  All together I’ve spent about 10 days in this river, with hardly a straight view of a shark, and it seemed like today was going to be a repeat until, standing in the water the telltale signature of a shark approached from downstream.  Our can of sardines we had used as chum was working, a fin was fast approaching.

Ben Horton

Ben Horton looking for sharks, and looking to avoid crocodiles.

Before I knew it there were 3-4 sharks around me.  None of them seemed intent on coming very close though, and every time I moved even slightly they would take off.  So I got back in the boat where I could sit down and hang the camera into the water with one hand.  In minutes the sharks were investigating the camera, and I had finally taken a photo of a shark in this river.

The photo itself I don’t think is my dream shot, but hey…  I’ve spent about 10 days in this river, and right now I’m just happy my luck has turned.   I’m certainly hoping it stays on the better side for a while.  Perhaps it was an omen that as we were photographing the sharks, a jaguar swam across the river below us a few hundred meters, and I caught a glimpse of it climbing out onto a branch and leaping into the forrest.  My camera was currently occupied with a few sharks and a wide angle lens, so I get to keep the vision of the jaguar to myself.  My guide Heider has never seen one in his 8 years in the park.  Perhaps it was luck, or perhaps he got a whiff of our sardines!

Tomorrow I go back into the river, this time armed with a remote for my camera.  I want to be able to say I’m in the water taking these shark photos all the time, but that’s a lot easier to do when the sharks aren’t afraid of you.  These little guys are terrified of their own shadow.  They have yet to become the great and feared predator of the ocean.  For now they need these places like Rio Sirena to stay safe, and to grow into adulthood.Bull Shark

After a late lunch, we set out into the jungle once more, this time though to set up a camera trap.  My friend and guide Heider knows of a game trail where people go to look for puma and jaguar tracks, so we spent the better part of two hours hiking off trail and deep into the trees until we came upon a place where the trail widened with use and we saw potential for a great photo.  Not 30 seconds into the hike back we saw puma tracks, so I’m excited to see how this camera trap works.  Of course, it’s pouring rain right now and I hope that I did a good enough job weather proofing my equipment…  We’ll see….


About Ben Horton
Highly influenced by his love of travel and adventure and his constant search for something new, his imagery is vibrant with fresh and creative energy. Raised in Bermuda, Ben Horton has spent the majority of his life traveling and seeking out new adventure. Ben is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Young Explorer award for research on Cocos Island involving shark poaching. This led to becoming a photographer for National Geographic, and has allowed Ben to continue his passion for adventure. Follow Ben on Instagram

One Response to Day 1 – Expedition 2 – Rio Sirena

  1. Elda Brizuela says:


    Nothing like the rewards from Nature…

    Capturing a young bullshark in Sirena with such a gorgeous light, is just a gift for all of us who love sharks and work protecting them.

    What time of the day was the photo taken? I wish I was there…

    Tu amiga,……….Elda (La Tiburona)

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