As a little kid I fell in love with Peter Sis’ children’s book “Komodo!”. A true work of art that tells the story of a boy who gets lost on the island of Komodo, walking through a jungle where every tree, branch, leaf and root suddenly looks like the infamous Komodo Dragon…
It’s been a while since then, and after having explored many parts of the oceans and faced many of the amazing ocean predators, I am putting all my effort into allowing others to experience these wonders as well. As a part of this work I discovered the powerful tool of virtual reality about two years ago. I immediately knew I needed to become proficient in this new technology in order to immerse people from all walks of life in the life-changing presence of sharks and other fascinating marine creatures.
Shortly after reaching out Peter Apeldoorn and Daan Tan from VR Gorilla to collaborate on this venture, William Winram and myself quickly found ourselves testing an underwater virtual reality camera in the deep tank, before taking it into the field.
A few months later I co-produced my first feature virtual reality film “Komodo – A Paradise Under Pressure” together with VR Gorilla, The Watermen Project and Blend Media (more updates on the film soon!). We were honored to join researchers Dr. Andrea Marshall (The Queen of Mantas), Elitza Germanov and conservationist Janneman Conradie on their research expedition to Komodo National Park to investigate the impact of plastic pollution on the elusive reef manta ray.
It was my first time filming wildlife in virtual reality and it was the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure that did not come with its challenges, particularly the strong currents of Indonesia combined with the drag of a heavy VR camera attached to a 2m pole.
The reward was the realization of a life-long dream, meeting the largest lizard in the world, the infamous Komodo Dragon. In my ambition to allow others to experience this creature as close as possible in VR, it meant that I had to get as close as possible first. Thus I did not only see the Komodo Dragons, I ended up holding my breath, laying motionlessly on the sandy bottom of knee-deep waters, having a 3 meter long and 100kg heavy Komodo Dragon hover right above my head.
However, it was also a shocking experience to see the extent to which plastic pollution is threatening ecosystems both at land and underwater. Komodo Dragons were walking amongst plastic chairs, bottles, food wrapping while manta rays were ingesting tiny plastic particles when searching for plankton food.
Stay tuned for the release of the film and more VR projects in the future!