Behind the Shot
Jacques Cousteau determined that the waters of Tikehau had the largest and most diverse concentration of fish than any other region in French Polynesia. Located 200 miles from Tahiti, Tikehau’s 16-mile-wide lagoon provide snorkelers and divers with an unparalleled opportunity to interact with the sea life, including many species of sharks and an incomprehensible abundance of fish, including tuna, snapper, barracuda, lionfish and clownfish.
In addition to shark encounters, many visitors come to Tikehau to swim with the reef manta. Surprisingly large, with an average wingspan of about 11 feet, the manta rays are gentle and highly intelligent creatures, with the largest brain-to-size ratio of any cold-blooded fish.
As part of a conservation project, Ryan visited Tikehau to document the reef and its inhabitants. “We visited the reef manta’s “cleaning station,” where the manta wait patiently while smaller cleaning fish remove parasites and dead skin from its body. I used to be terrified by nature, particularly the ocean, until I realized that humans are actually the ones harming nature, and I am one of them. The good news is that we can be the solution too, not just the problem.”