Photography workshops, more specifically photography workshops for snorkelers and freedivers, can be extremely the helpful for anyone wanting to improve their underwater images, no matter the skill level or type of camera. These types of tours provide you with constant exposure (no pun intended) to beautiful marine subjects, all while being led and assisted by accomplished underwater photographers. Not only that, with the jaw dropping destinations and luxurious resorts and liveaboards we select specifically for these tours, you can rest assured that it will be the trip of a lifetime and you’ll have the photos to prove it. Here’s a little look into what a Snorkel Venture snorkeling photography workshop looks like and also what you can expect to learn from one.

What is a Snorkeling and Freediving Photography Workshop

As the description says, a snorkeling and freedving photography workshop is a photography workshop that caters specifically to snorkelers and freedivers. Snorkel Venture has a select team of professional photographers who are not only accomplished with a camera, but also well versed in the the locations we’ll be traveling to and will be your group leader for the duration of the photographic tour. These tours will be based in locations where sea conditions are mild, but also home to some of the world’s most beautiful reefs where exciting encounters with some of the ocean’s most photogenic marine inhabitants are guaranteed. As with all of our snorkeling safaris, the resorts and liveaboards who will be hosting us are well equipped for tours such as these so you can expect five-star service and accommodations with the added benefit of tailor made camera rooms and media centers.

people in camera room in Lembeh resort

How a Photo Workshop Runs

Our photo tours will run in a very similar fashion to our normal snorkel safaris, however, the guide will also be a professional underwater photographer and well adept at translating the complexities of underwater photography into more simple terms. On most evening of the tour you can expect the photo pro to lead a series of discussions complete with critiques with plenty of examples and demonstrations to help you transform that days mistakes into beautiful images the next. The photo pro will of course be in the water with you so as to better answer any questions you may have on the spot. These are group workshops, which many people find to be very beneficial as you not only learn from the photo pro but also from those around you. Of course, if you do prefer a more one-on-one type of session there are plenty of opportunities to have more private critiques and lessons.

What you Can Expect to Learn

Over the course of these photography tours the Snorkel Venture photo pro will cover everything from the very basics like how to make use of the camera’s automatic settings, what makes a compelling composition, selecting photogenic marine life and how to approach them, to the more complex aspects of underwater photography like manual exposure, white balance, and how to shoot smaller subjects while snorkeling.

Also, as guides and photographers for Snorkel Venture, our photo pros are well versed in the nuances of snorkeling photography and he will not only coach you on the technical aspects of cameras and help train your eyes to select the most photogenic subjects, but also help you to prepare your lungs and cameras in advance so you can make the most of your brief dives to the deeper subjects.

The lessons don’t just stop at the camera either. With the abundance of editing software on the market, a lot of which is either free or offered at very affordable rates, touching up has become a very important part of the photographic experience. Using practical examples and demonstrations  we’ll explore the different ways of photo editing so you can get the most out of your photos with the aid of post production software.

In the end, these photo tours are an exceptional and fun way to help take your underwater photos to the next level. With the assistance of the Snorkel Venture Photo Pro’s constructive critiques and the near unlimited access to some of the best reefs in the world you’ll be able to quickly catch any mistakes you may have made in one snorkel session and correct them the next. No need to wait another year before your next snorkeling holiday or to or search though Google for photographic tips, for the duration of the tour you’ll have everything you need right under your nose.

At the moment there are two distinct species of manta ray, the larger oceanic manta ray (manta birostris) and the slightly smaller reef manta (manta alfredi).  To keep things simple I’m going to just refer to them as mantas as they are found in the same areas with a few exceptions. Mantas inhabit just about any temperate, tropical, and sub tropical water world wide, with the exception of the Mediterranean. This gives us lots of options for being able to find them, however, to narrow things down I’m going to just list a few places around the world where mantas have a long standing reputation of turning up on a regular basis, and also just so happen to be snorkel venture destinations.

4. Indonesian Borneo—Sangalaki Island

A few miles off the coast of Kalimantan-Indonesian Borneo, is an idyllic island known as Sangalaki which tends to regularly host manta feeding and cleaning parties. While mantas do spend a fair amount of time roaming the open ocean, it’s easiest to find them by waiting next to their cleanings stations or by scanning the surface where mantas are known to feed. Cleaning stations are just giant coral heads that host colonies of different types of small fish, most commonly referred to as cleaner fish, who love to pick off the parasites of mantas. There are a few of these cleaning stations just off the white sand beaches of Sangalaki makiing this a very predictable place to encounter individuals and larger groups of mantas. Along with that, the ocean currents bring healthy amounts of plankton up to the surface around the island where you’re likely to find the mantas hoovering up the plankton with their giant mouths.

3. Palau

Snorkelers with manta in Komodo
Palau is another excellent place to find mantas, with one site known as German Channel as being the go to place. This channel was actually created by the Germans in WWII as a more direct route from the lagoon to the Pacific Ocean. Mantas can’t help themselves when it comes to narrow passage ways for a number or reasons. These bottlenecks in the ocean not only condense all the plankton into one area where the mantas just have face into the current with an open mouthes and let the plankton dense water flow through, but these geographic features also increase the current. Mantas are in incredibly dense animal and if they were to stop flapping they would quite literally sink. When a manta is cleaning they need to be as calm as possible for the cleaner fish to approach and do their work. So, in order to remain as motionless as possible without sinking they will approach a cleaning station while facing into the current and soar just above it using the current and their wings the same way eagles use the wind to keep them gliding. German Channel not only acts as a popular all you can eat buffet but also as a communal bath house for the mantas.

2. Raja Ampat

many mantas feeding on the surface
Raja Ampat is one of the world’s first manta sanctuaries and also happens to be one of the few places in the world where you can see both oceanic mantas and reef mantas together in one site. While there are specific cleaning stations scattered all over the area with more being discovered all the time and channels where mantas congregate to feed, they can be seen just about anywhere. This is one of the beautiful things about Raja, you just never know when they are going to turn up, and sometimes you’ll find yourself suddenly surrounded by fifteen or more of these gentle ocean giants as they go about their feeding ballet.

1. Komodo

Manta rays congregating in Komodo National Park
Komodo is one of my personal favorite places to snorkel with mantas as it just seems to always deliver in a big way. Komodo is like Raja in that you never know when one is going to casually pass you by as you cruise over the reefs, but it just seems to happen so much more frequently. That’s for the sites which aren’t really known as ‘manta sites.’ For the sites where mantas are known to congregate regularly, aka manta sites, the number of mantas can be quite astounding. Back when drones were still allowed in the park I was able to capture over seventy mantas on the surface in one photo. There are dozens and dozens of cleaning stations all over the park and multiple areas where the feeding behavior is predicable.  So, if they aren’t cleaning or feeding in one area we can move to the next where they are likely to be. Also, because there are so many mantas within the Komodo Natioanl Park you also regularly get the adrenaline pumping courting behavior which can involve up to forty mantas all competing for a single female. This type of behavior is not uncommon in the various manta sites around the world, but I’ve never witnessed it so frequently and with such an abundance of mantas as I have in Komodo.

Indonesia is a massive country, and because it’s broken up into over seventeen thousand islands it can be a bit confusing to know what is where, especially if you are a bit geographically challenged as I was before I moved here. I don’t want to make broad assumptions about people I have yet to meet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people might not know a lot that Borneo is not it’s own country and in fact three countries, the majority of which is Indonesia and known as Kalimantan. Or, that Indonesia also occupies about half of the world’s second largest island, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of—New Guinea. The Indonesian side is known as West Papua and is the home of Raja Ampat, while east of the border is Papua New Guinea. If you already knew all this, gold stars for you! Anyway, the objective of this blog isn’t to make you self conscious of your Indonesian geography, I know for a fact that many Indonesian people couldn’t point out Wakatobi on a map. The point of this is to simply break down one of the most beautiful countries in the world, by focusing on the locations which also conveniently happen to be Snorkel Venture destinations!

Indonesia map with Snorkel Venture locations

Fun Indo Facts

  • 17,000 Islands
  • 127 Volcanoes
  • 300 Different Languages
  • Center of Coral Triangle
  • World’s Highest Coral and Reef Fish Diversity

Jakarta and Bali

I’m not going to spend a lot of time with these two locations but they do deserve mentioning as a lot of our trips will begin at either one of these locations. Jakarta as you probably know is the capital of Indonesia and located on the island of Java. Jakarta is, for lack of a better description, a big city really well known for it’s traffic jams. Lucky for us this is just a transitory stop where we are essentially just using the airport and it’s comfortable hotel to relieve some of the jet lag before taking off to our final destinations.

bali rice fields and volcano

Bali on the other hand, while we also use the airport and it’s hotel the same way as we do Jakarta’s, is well worth a visit beyond the boundaries of the Airport. I would even suggest spending a bit of time here before or after the tour just to get a better feel for the island as it really is amazing. The island is full of interesting cultural sites, luxurious villas and boutique resorts, amazing food, jungles, and wonderful beaches.


Komodo Resort Aerial Perspective

Moving onto one of Indonesia’s most famous locations, Komodo. Komodo National Park is just a short one hour flight from Bali, and also one of Indonesia’s most iconic destinations. The park is made up of twenty nine islands, four of which are home to the Komodo Dragons. The snorkeling here is exceptional with over seven hundred species of fish and two hundred and sixty coral species. There is such a concentration of marine life in this park that you can readily predict what each snorkel session will be like. Manta rays are all over the place and can, quite frequently, be encountered in large numbers. Turtles are also prolific as well as other creatures like cuttle fish and large schools of fish. One of the beauties of Komodo is that the reefs are so diverse that no two snorkels will be the same. There are mangroves, sloping reefs, plateaus, walls, drifts, bays, manta cleansing stations, and of course the resort’s pier which attracts a ton of marine life.

A quick video showcasing our Komodo Tours


Pristine coral reef in Alor

Alor is a small cluster of islands just east of Komodo and accessed by a short flight from Jakarta. Alor is still quite un touched by tourism and with only a couple snorkel and dive resorts in the area. This is not to say the snorkeling is any less spectacular than some of Indonesia’s other top destinations. It’s quite the opposite. Because Alor is only now just becoming familiar with snorkelers and divers, and the local villages have really looked after their reefs by practicing more sustainable fishing methods, the areas reefs have remained in a near pristine state. Fringing the entire coastline of the area you can find a truly some of the most colorful and diverse reefs on the planet. The cold water rising from the south brings in nutrients that sustain the smaller fish which in turn bring in the larger animals like super pods of dolphins and melon head whales, mola mola, and if you are lucky a blue whale or two! These larger species are difficult to snorkel with as they are quite shy, but no less spectacular when they pass just in font of the boat. Much like Komodo, the reefs in Alor are very diverse not only in coral species and marine life, but also in style. We have a few piers that make fantastic and highly unique snorkeling spots—one of which is our resort’s pier and only a few feet from your bungalow, but also some fantastic mellow drifts, walls, and sloping reefs, all of which just seem to keep going and going.

A quick video showcasing our Alor Tours

Bunaken- North Sulawesi

Split shot of sea stars in sea grass and a sunset

One of the other major islands in Indonesia is Sulawesi, it’s the big silly shaped one in the middle. It is also home to some fantastic snorkeling, outstanding resorts, and really easy to arrive to from Bali. In the north we have five island just off the coast known as the Bunaken Natioanl Park, and in the south east we have another marine reserve known as Wakatobi. But now, lets talk about Bunaken.

View of pool and bar at Siladen Resort

To arrive to Bunaken we have to take a short one and a half hour flight from Bali to Manado, and then hop on one of the resorts large boats for athirty minute ride to the resort. So easy! The snorkeling here is really amazing with shallow hard coral plateaus that fringe the varying islands and then suddenly drop into the deep blue. Back in the day sea turtles were hunted here for their meet and eggs, but since the tourism industry has established itself and the declaration of the marine reserve the local turtle population is booming! Green sea turtles frequent the white sand beaches in front of the bungalows to nest and with a bit of luck you can witness an emergence of hundreds of baby sea turtles as they make a mad dash to the sea. Currents are vey mild here in Bunaken and the visibility and conditions are fairly consistent year round. Many of the other locations around Indonesia have a distinct high and low season which coincides with the wet and dry seasons.

A quick video showcasing our North Sulawesi tours which are either combined with Raja Ampat or Borneo

Wakatobi- South East Sulawesi

aerial view of wakatobi resort

Whether it’s the private charter flight from Bali to the resort’s own air strip, the idyllic palm studded islands fringed by white sand beaches, or the surreal underwater world, Wakatobi is definitely a place you wont forget.

Wakatobi is located quite a ways off the south east coast of Sulawesi in the Banda Sea. The islandscape looks very similar to the Maldives as the area is made up of many small low lying islands with white sand beaches. The robust reefs start at the surface, and at times when the tide is low the reefs actually break the surface. From here they gradually slope away from the atolls eventually dropping of into the blue water. There is no shortage of colorful reef fish here and the reefs are actually some of the most diverse in the world with seven hundred different species of coral. Currents do tend be be quite mild as well, similar to Bunaken, and also like the Bunaken, Wakatobi’s weather and sea conditions remain pretty consistent year round.

A quick video showcasing our Wakatobi Tours

Raja Ampat

Split shot of coral reef below and raja ampat islands above

Raja Ampat is, as I said in the beginning, part of West Papua. Raja does take a bit more effort to arrive to as the flight from Jakarta is about four hours, but I promise it is absolutely worth the couple extra hours in the plane. Raja Ampat is often referred to as the crown jewel for snorkeling in Indonesia, and for many people, the world. It’s reefs are teeming with life, big and small, and astonishingly vibrant.With over 1,766 fish species and counting and over 550 coral species, Raja Ampat is the most biodiverse marine environment in the world. What’s more is that since this massive area has been declared a marine sanctuary, the marine life is thriving, and species like sharks and manta rays which were nearly wiped out years ago are coming back fast and showing some really impressive numbers. Don’t worry, the sharks are honestly more scared of you than you should be of them.

Something to make note of with regards to Raja Ampat is that it is a very very big area. If you compare Komodo National Park with Raja Ampat, it’s like six times bigger and made up of over 600 islands with endless bays, sea mounds, lagoons, and mangrove labyrinths. In light of the the marine sanctuary’s large size, it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of the different regions of Raja before you book a trip as each region is slightly different. If you choose a resort which os located in the norther portion of Raja, that’s where you will concentrate your snorkeling, in the north. If decide to do the option in the south, and area known as Misool, then your tour will be focused there. There is the liveaboard option which will do a bit of the north and the south, but once again, even with a liveaboard the area is so big you still won’t even come close to seeing it all. In my own personal experience, I worked on a liveaboard in Raja for five consecutive years and every year we would still be finding new places to explore. It’s a truly exciting place full of mystery and beautiful surprises.

Large school of fish over coral reef

What’s the snorkeling like in Raja? Well, it has it all, and a vast quantities. Big schools of batfish, jacks, barracudas, mantas, sharks, the occasional whale shark, all the reef fish you could ever imagine, and the odd chance of a whale spouting on the horizon. It’s epic.

A quick video showcasing the liveaboard option for Raja Ampat, for more videos of our different Raja Tours check out our Youtube Channel or click here

Kalimantan- Indonesian Borneo

Kalimantan has more than some of the oldest, densest jungles in the world where giant ginger primates dwell, it also has chains ofidyllic islands surrounded by beautiful reefs. A remote island off of Borneo might seem like a real trek to arrive to, but it’s really only two short flights from Jakarta and a thirty to forty minute boat ride to the Nunuken Island, then it’s snorkel time! The reefs that surround the island are typical Indonesian reefs—abundant, vibrant and thriving.

There is also good chances to encounter mantas feeding or cleaning on one of their cleaning stations. But what is most intriguing, at least for me, is the ‘lake’ full full full of stingless jellyfish and fringed by beautiful mangroves.

A quick video showcasing our Borneo Tour which includes a stop in Bunaken National Park

There is nothing better than walking out of your beach front bungalow with fins and mask in hand and then casually slipping into the calm water just a few feet away into a complexity different world. Asia is home to some of the best house reefs in the world, where everything from mantas, schooling fish, mating mandarin fish, and of course stunning fields of coral are possible

Aerial view of Papua Explorers resort

What is a house reef? Well, it’s quite simple really. A house reef is the reef that is situated in-front of the resort. Typically house reefs are a bit more protected from current and waves since most resorts are built in bays or on a side of the island where the weather is more stable. 

Diamond spadefish below jetty in Alor

What are the benefits of snorkeling a house reef? Well, as you may have guessed, house reefs usually offer exceptional snorkeling without any of the fuss of jumping on a boat. You can come and go as you please and take your time with certain subjects. The more time you spend on the house reef you’ll become familiar with certain fish and you’ll start to notice their unique behavior. If you’re a photographer, being able to wait for the nice light is a major bonus while also being able to revisit particular subjects—anemones for example, so you can really get the shot you were after. Also, since most resorts will prohibit fishing on their reefs you can expect an abundance of friendly marine-life. 

Large school of fish in Komodo

Another awesome advantage of house reefs is that most resorts will have a jetty or pier for their boats. What this provides is a very unique habitat for animals. The pilings provide a sanctuary from current and predators, so most resorts will have a cluster of fish and other marine-life you wouldn’t otherwise find in the shallows. 

The group met for dinner on the first evening, after arriving in Bali and checking into the airport hotel. We shared a delicious traditional Balinese meal, served family-style while getting to know each other a little. As expected, people were tired from the long journey and jetlag so we went to bed early.

The following morning we reconvened in the lobby and met a local English speaking guide who accompanied us (and our luggage) to a waiting bus. As we drove through Bali, towards Uluwatu, he told us about the local people and customs and about the historical and religious significance of the beautiful places we were to visit that morning.

First stop was Uluwatu Temple- a traditional style- old Hindu temple, built on the edge of a high cliff, with spectacular views of the ocean down below. We also got to watch some local kids who were there practicing playing their musical instruments and dancing. So sweet. We went in search of some Macaque monkeys as we did not immediately see them around.

Uluwatu temple and ocean cliff

We then returned to the bus and went to the GWK park, a government cultural and tourist park on the way back to the airport. It is most well known for the 263m statue of Lord Vishnu on the back of his Garuda (eagle). It is a magnificent sight.

Upon return to the airport, we received packed lunch from the guide before leaving to check in for our onward flight to Kupang. Here we transferred to the hotel to check-in, and meet in the restaurant for a well deserved cold beer and a few giggles before dinner, and bed.

This meant by the next morning we were all feeling well-rested and fresh and knew each other a little better so the real fun could begin. A short transfer and flight later, we were on our way to Alami Alor resort. Located on the eastern island of Alor, the drive took about an hour and gave us a chance to take in the scenery.

Upon arrival at the resort, we were met by some of the friendliest staff, who quickly figured out who was who and which bags belonged to each of us, before taking the bags to our rooms for us. The rooms are individual bungalows, well-paced from each other for privacy, built on the rocky shore of the island, with large private verandas, partially outdoor garden bathrooms, huge beds and spectacular views over the bay and surrounding volcanoes.

After settling in we met in the communal lounge and dining area, a large open-sided structure with a stunning view of the calm blue water. Here we settled into the comfy couches and had a welcome briefing before lunch- a delicious spread of local food fit for royalty.

Alami Alor Resort

After lunch, we got to the really good stuff- snorkeling! We were eager to hit the water, and none of us was disappointed. We visited two sites that afternoon, one form the boat and the other from the resort’s jetty, the house reef. We were all instantly taken by the stunning (25m+) viability, the lush reef teeming with small fish and critters, and the schooling fish hanging around off the side of the reef. We returned for showers and evening cocktails as very happy people.

Diamond spadefish below jetty in Alor

The following days were spent more or less as follows- breakfast (pre-ordered the evening before from a menu) and freshly ground and percolated coffee, followed by aa trip on the boats out to two sites. We would spend about 1h15 – 1h45 at each site exploring the wealth of marine life that varied so greatly depending on the location. From sandy bottoms with coral bommies to sloping reefs, to boulders dropping off into the deep, to volcanic geysers bubbling through the substrate, we were constantly entertained and enthralled. We were treated to tea and water, and homemade baked goods and fruit on the boat between snorkel sessions! After a leisurely lunch back at the resort, we would go to one more site for the afternoon before returning to home base to relax in the lounge while looking at our photos and trying to identify all the previously-unseen creatures in the fish ID books the resort has on the coffee tables.

Aerial view of Blue Whale

The week was not without much excitement. Highlights were- Blue Whales in the bay!! Schooling dolphins and tuna hunting small fish leaping out of the water putting on a fantastic display! A mola-mola (sunfish) coming to say hello to us on the reef! Loads of tropical fish, nudibranchs, octopus, small critters, and Mandarin Fish mating!! Every day we thought “wow, this could not get better”, and the following day we would be proven wrong. Simply amazing.

After a spectacular week we traveled together to Labuan Bajo, western Flores, were we transferred by boat to the stunning island resort- Komodo Resort. The boat ride over treated us to the best view of the red-skied sunset.

Komodo Resort Beach Bar

After arriving and checking into our beachfront luxury bungalows, we met for dinner and a drink before bed. The following morning, we were back at it! Here we spent our days on a large wooden boat, leaving the resort around 9 am and staying out until about 4 pm. We would visit two sites in the mornings before lunch on the boat (a yummy buffet of local dishes and fresh fruit) and then another site after lunch. The first day we were lucky enough to snorkel with 5 manta rays, and we knew right then that we week was going to be special. And boy was it ever. From watching a cuttlefish lay her eggs into the hard coral, to drift snorkeling, more manta rays, countless turtles, octopus, eagle ray, eels and more, we were simply delighted at every turn.

Green sea turtle sleeping on reef

The house reef at Komodo Resort is utterly exceptional, and we snorkeled it several times, with many people agreeing it is one of the best reefs in and around the Komodo National Park.
Evenings at the resort were spent watching stunning sunsets from the beach bar, while chatting, looking through photos, exchanging funny stories and generally recapping the day’s events and new sightings.

Komodo Resort Island

By the end of the tour, we felt like we had all known each other for ages (far longer than the two weeks it had been) and were sorry to have to say goodbye when we got back to the airport in Bali.