Underwater filmmaker and photographer highlights Kenya’s rich marine life
5:00 AM EST, Fri December 23, 2022
Kenya has 882 miles of coastline along the Indian Ocean, waters that are home to five threatened species of sea turtles according the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust. Underwater photographer and filmmaker Jahawi Bertolli captured this shot, titled "First Run", on Manda Island's Takwa Beach in the Lamu Archipelago.
The endangered whale shark is also known to visit the waters surrounding the Lamu Archipelago. The world's largest fish, they can grow up to 59 feet in length and pose no threat to humans. Bertolli snapped this shot during an unseasonal plankton bloom, one of their favorite meals, off the coast of Lamu in 2021.
This image of a juvenile whale shark was not captured in Kenyan waters, but off the coast of Koh Tao, Thailand where Bertolli went to school to learn how to be an underwater filmmaker. He tells CNN the young and curious fish "was a challenge to keep up with" before it disappeared into the depths.
Bertolli and his wife Elke, who is also a photographer, want to raise awareness of ocean ecosystems and inspire conservation. Elke is pictured here filming a school of bigeye trevally that had congregated around the Alpha Funguo wreck, off the coast of Diani, Kenya. The Bertollis were there for a UNESCO project about Africa's underwater cultural heritage.
Dolphins are also frequent visitors to the Lamu Archipelago -- and along the entire East Africa coastline. This shot was captured in the crystal-clear waters off Mnemba Island, Tanzania where Bertolli says the mother and calf were keeping a safe distance, but "couldn't resist a closer look at the humans floating on the surface (nearby)."
In 2020, Bertolli made a short film about Lamu's sea life and the conservation traditions of the local fishermen. Called "Bahari Yetu" -- "Our Ocean" in Swahili -- his goal was to show the community that their rich marine biodiversity is under threat.
Mzee Hassani, one of the fishermen interviewed for the film, watches it for the first time from his dhow with Elke Bertolli. Having been born and brought up in Lamu, Elke has known the fishermen her whole life, and Hassani was a great friend of her father's.
Ishaka, the main character featured in "Bahari Yetu," is pictured out fishing. The film is told in Swahili, from a first-person point of view. "We wanted to make a film that would speak to local communities because we wanted it as a tool of education," Bertolli says.