An incredible creature


Great white sharks have a bad reputation and many people fear this powerful predator
of the sea. However, Chris and Monique Fallows of Apex Shark Expeditions hold these
unique creatures dear to their hearts and have studied them for many years. Karen van
Schalkwyk reports.

For the past 15 years Apex Shark Expeditions has worked with broadcasters such as
National Geographic, Discovery Channel and the BBC to showcase the great white shark
to a global audience.

Chris Fallows’ fascination with great whites started when he was working on a tag-and-
release programme with local fisherman. “One day we caught a small great white and
this sparked my fascination. I was offered a volunteer research position working with
great whites and then in 1996 I started my own company with a colleague and later
formed Apex Shark Expeditions. However, my fascination and passion is with all wildlife
as I grew up visiting nature reserves in Africa.’

Fallows is well known for his wildlife photography work. One of his most recognised
photos is that of the great white breeching off False Bay. “This image has been on over
300 magazine, newspaper and print images globally.’

Although Apex does not film documentaries it facilitates international crews and Fallows
is often the presenter on these programmes due to his extensive great white
knowledge. “We have worked with all the major broadcasters on a number of
documentaries but the most successful has been the Air Jaws series for Discovery. This
all came about in 2001 when documentary filmmaker Jeff Kurr came out to do the first
programme in the series.

“In 2002 we filmed Air Jaws 2 and in 2010 Ultimate Air Jaws. These shows were aired on
Shark Week and Ultimate Air Jaws became one of the most successful shows ever,
watched by 3.5 million viewers.

“The Air Jaws series captures great whites around Seal Island (off False Bay) and it is
incredible to watch these animals due to their power, agility and strength. We get up
close to the sharks and they are filmed from kayaks. Sometimes the camera is used as a
decoy and we film from the boat and use small GoPro video cameras that capture the
diver’s point of view. With the Ultimate Air Jaws programme some fantastic footage was
shot on the Phantom camera at high speed up to 2 000 frames per second. We also use
high definition (HD) underwater cameras which are attached to big rigs.’

Generally crews are from five to 10 people but Fallows maintains that it is better to work
with smaller crews on these documentaries. “It is extremely tiring as the shoots
normally take up to three weeks to get all the footage and sometimes we are out there
for 10 hours, seven days a week. Safety is critical so weather conditions form an
important aspect of when we can go out and film.’

Understanding wildlife

The other challenge is having crews on board who do not understand wildlife. “Some
crew members just do not understand the conditions and want the animal to behave
immediately. We always place the animal first and never push an outcome,’ explains

He believes it is their flexible approach that has made the Air Jaws documentaries so
successful. The crew does not have any pre-determined ideas before going out to film
and works with what happens on the day.

Fallows’ and wife Monique’s passion is tangible. Monique comments: “We just love being
out with the animals. Chris’s enthusiasm rubbed off on me when we met. We are
naturalists and it is great to do what we love. The animals allow us into their space and
we respect them immensely. When you are out there you can easily pick up levels of
distress or discomfort with the animal and we always respect their space.’

Fallows feels privileged to work with great whites. “I love seeing these magnificent
animals of the sea. The most important aspect for us is to share the planet with nature.
We do not have any more right to the environment than other creatures.

“The amazing thing about predators like the great white is that they are just going
about their daily lives. People do not have enough respect for their natural world. More
than 100 million sharks are killed each year by humans, compared to three or four fatal
shark attacks on humans a year. Human beings are wasteful, sharks are not. The great
white is an incredible creature. There are possibly less than 2 000 great whites left in the
water today.’

It is hoped that the documentaries can inform people about these animals so that they
change their perspective. “These documentaries give less privileged people a wonderful
opportunity to experience and learn about the natural world. The great white is not a
human killing machine but a wonderful creature of the sea,’ concludes Fallows.


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