Expedition: Danajon Bank

Ten amazing facts about coral reefs

By Tyler Stiem

Photo: Guido Borgenon/Guylian Seahorses of the World

Photo: Guido Borgenon/Guylian Seahorses of the World

As we prepare for our expedition to Danajon Bank double barrier reef in the Philippines, we’ll be sharing some key facts and stats about corals, coastal habitats, and conservation. Here are 10 amazing things you probably didn’t know:

500 million

Number of people who live near coral reefs and depend on them for food, livelihoods, and well-being.

30 billion

Value, in US dollars, of coastline protection, tourism, and food provided by coral reefs every year.


Average number of lives saved per coastal village during India’s 1999 “supercyclone,” thanks to the wave-dampening effects of mangroves and coastal marine habitats. 


Proportion of the world’s fisheries yields that come from waters less than 200 m deep.


Proportion of coral reefs that have been degraded or destroyed globally.


Number of marine reserves in the world, for a total of 4.2 million square kilometers, as of 2010.


Proportion of our oceans protected by marine reserves.

135 km

Length of Danajon Bank, a rare and threatened double-barrier reef in central Philippines, and the focus of our expedition. The total area of the reef is 234,950 sq hectares.


Number of threatened species that depend on Danajon Bank for their survival.


Number of marine protected areas established on Danajon Bank by expedition partner Project Seahorse in collaboration with local communities.

Help us protect Danajon Bank and send an ocean conservation message to the world! You can receive gorgeous, gallery-quality photo prints, a book about the expedition, postcards, and much more in exchange for your support.

Documenting the 'Cradle of Marine Biodiversity'

By Tyler Stiem

Photo courtesy Luciano Candisani/iLCP

Photo courtesy Luciano Candisani/iLCP

Over the next few weeks, the Expedition: Danajon Bank team will be blogging over at National Geographic Newswatch. Here’s the first post:

“Long term and meaningful conservation success really is only possible if NGOs and photographers work together – very often also working with scientists. If you can get those three sectors working together, you’re pretty much a non-stoppable force.”

— Thomas Peschak, Conservation Photographer and iLCP Fellow

The International League of Conservation Photographers has pulled together an unstoppable force to launch a conservation campaign on behalf of a rare and threatened double-barrier coral reef called Danajon Bank. Four iLCP photographers, including Thomas Peschak, will travel to the Philippines in April to visually document this 90-mile reef system. More than a year in the making, our two-week photo expedition is a collaboration between NGOs, photographers and scientists, all of whom are interested in conserving this unique marine ecosystem – one of only six double-barrier reefs in the world.

iLCP is teaming up with Project Seahorse to reveal for the first time the full beauty of Danajon Bank and the imminent threats it faces. Pictures will be taken by Peschak and another three of the world’s finest marine photographers: Luciano Candisani, Claudio Contreras, and Michael Ready. This international team hails from South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and the United States (respectively). Joining our photographers will be pre-eminent marine biologists Dr. Amanda Vincent and Dr. Heather Koldewey of Project Seahorse and the Zoological Society of London.

Read more over at National Geographic.com.

Meet Michael Ready, expedition photographer

By Tyler Stiem

Javan gliding frog ( Rhacophorus margaritifer ), West Java, Indonesia.

Javan gliding frog (Rhacophorus margaritifer), West Java, Indonesia.

As we prepare for our expedition to Danajon Bank, Philippines over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to the photographers and scientists on the team. First up is iLCP's Michael Ready, a naturalist and photographer based in San Diego, California. 

From vanishing amphibians to bioluminescent squid, Ready’s collection of images seeks to reveal the diversity of life and particularly its smaller and lesser-known forms. Ready’s field expeditions have taken him to locales around the world, including the Amazon Basin, Central America, South East Asia, and Japan, where he was honored to swim in mountain streams and photograph giant salamanders as old as him.

We sat down with Ready to talk nature photography and hear the story of one of his favourite images. 

Mike, what made you decide to join Expedition: Danajon Bank? 

I was inspired for many reasons.  First and foremost, I believe in the core mission of iLCP and I know the good that powerful images can bring. By raising the general awareness of ecologically rare and sensitive areas like Danajon Bank and others, we inspire a connection to the beauty and diversity of wildlife and the people that it sustains.  I have also long admired the work of Project Seahorse, and am excited to have an opportunity to assist in fulfilling their important mission.

What are some of the challenges of nature photography? Tell us the story of getting one of your favourite images. 

A Japanese giant salamander ( Andrias japonicus ) faces the current in a river pool. This ancient amphibian grows up to 56 inches (142 cm) in length and is believed to have a lifespan possibly over 100 years.

A Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus) faces the current in a river pool. This ancient amphibian grows up to 56 inches (142 cm) in length and is believed to have a lifespan possibly over 100 years.

Nature photography is not so glamorous!  For every beautiful image there is usually a lot of stress and strain behind it, slogging through mud, insect bites, and myriad other environmental hazards endured — and many failed attempts… 

One of my favorite places to be is in the water. Sometimes that water is the vast expanse of the ocean, and sometimes it is a shallow woodland stream.  When I worked on capturing images of the giant salamanders in the mountain streams of Japan, I learned very quickly the power and deception of flowing stream water.  

After a day of searching, I was thrilled to discover a large salamander under a gentle waterfall.  Little did I know it would take me several hours of  fighting a cold strong current just to get close enough to photograph the ancient amphibian. When, however, after all the effort, you finally get to see the animal in its element and get the photograph, it’s always worth it.    

How does your approach to conservation-focused assignments differ from other nature photography you do?  

With nature photography in general, there is an emphasis on capturing a singular, stunning moment in time—untouched by the human hand and revealing the intrinsic beauty of an animal, or an animal within its environment.  My approach to capturing these images necessarily differs from an assignment with a conservation focus.  

In this case, I capture the essence of the story with images of the animals in their habitats and the people living alongside them, but it is equally (if not more) important to document the threats to the existence of the entire ecosystem.  The entire story cannot be told without images of both the beauty and the destruction of that beauty.

What are you most looking forward to about the expedition?

The photographer at work.

The photographer at work.

Getting in the water in what is thought to be the epicenter of the marine biodiversity of the Pacific Ocean.  I am also looking forward to working with such an amazing team of like-minded people — the other photographers and the Project Seahorse researchers.

How have you seen your work past work make a difference to conservation? 

As a result of the Flathead River RAVE in British Columbia, governments on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border collaborated to establish protections for the area from the threats of coal mining and other types of extraction.  I was proud to contribute my images of the last known genetically pure strain of cutthroat trout and stream invertebrate fauna to this effort.

I also collaborate frequently with amphibian conservation groups and my images are used to further an awareness and understanding of the most threatened group of animals on the planet.

For more images, check out Michael Ready’s portfolio at www.michaelready.com.

Our crowdfunding campaign is live

By Dr. Amanda Vincent

Photo:  Michael Ready /iLCP

Photo: Michael Ready/iLCP

In collaboration with iLCP, We’ve launched our very first IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, in support of Expedition: Danajon Bank. Our goal? To raise US $30,000 in support of the project.

As part of the campaign, we’ll be producing postcards, limited edition original photo prints, posters, signed copies of the book, and much more.

Our backers will also receive behind-the-scenes updates from the expedition team, and an exclusive digital preview of the photos. For as little as $10 you can help to protect Danajon Bank.

The funds raised by our campaign will help to cover some of the costs associated with the expedition as well as the printing of the book and production of the exhibition prints.

We hope you’ll help our cause!


Dr. Amanda Vincent, Dr. Heather Koldewey, and the entire Expedition: Danajon Bank team


Introducing Expedition: Danajon Bank

By Tyler Stiem

Project Seahorse and the International League of Conservation Photographers are excited to announce Expedition: Danajon Bank, a photography project that explores a rare and threatened double-barrier coral reef in the Philippines. It’s a collaboration between some of the world’s top nature photographers and marine scientists. 

(Learn more about our expedition team here, or find out how you can get involved.) 

Little-known to the outside world, Danajon Bank is one of only six double-barrier reefs across the globe, and one of the most important marine ecosystems in the entire Pacific Ocean. Species found all over the region are thought to have first evolved along this 90-mile stretch of coastline. 

Unfortunately, Danajon Bank faces many threats, including overfishing and destructive fishing practices (such as blast fishing with explosives), as well as overdevelopment, pollution, and climate change. The reef is home to at least 200 threatened animals, such as the elusive Tiger-tail seahorse. 

Our project aims to capture Danajon Bank in all its fragile beauty and share the images with the world to raise awareness about the threats facing this important ecosystem.

Following a two-week expedition in spring 2013, we will produce a beautiful hardcover photo book and launch a series of large-scale photo exhibitions at aquariums in London, Chicago, Hong Kong, Manila, and beyond. 

The result will be a powerful photographic legacy that will help conservationists in the Philippines and around the world push for increased protections for the Danajon Bank.