Nature and outdoors

The Life Aquatic: Photos of How Humans Live and Play on the Water

Humans came from the sea, and we never really left. These snapshots celebrate life on the water from Cambodia to South Africa

Life Aquatic Cape Town South Africa beach surfers
Credit: DNA Photographers

Cape Town, South Africa

The port city of Cape Town lies on one of the world’s busiest trade routes, but strong winds also attract watersports enthusiasts, from wakeboarders to kitesurfers. Beneath the waves, thrill-seekers cage dive with schools of great white sharks, while others simply admire the views from the Garden Route.

Dublin Ireland Howth Sandycove fishing seafood
Credit: Joanne Murphy

Dublin, Ireland

Put down the Guinness, step away from Temple Bar, and head to Dublin’s sleepy coastal villages like Howth and Sandycove. In these centuries-old fishing towns you’ll find ancient castles, the legacy of literary genius James Joyce, as much fresh seafood as you can eat and buckets of charming local craic, to be sure.

Monterey Bay California USA, Humpback whales
Credit: Vivek Kumar/Unsplash

Monterey Bay, California, USA

Barnacle-encrusted rostrums of humpback whales crest en masse – to shrieks of delight from a nearby boat of whale watchers. On another day, it might be a pod of dolphins popping up to say hello, killer whales hunting down a seal lunch, or sea otters diving among the kelp forests in Monterey Bay.

The Life Aquatic Siem Reap Cambodia Water
Credit: Mike Pickles

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Each november, Tonlé Sap lake swells up to six times in size, as monsoon rains fill some 16,000 square kilometres of floodplains with fresh water and nutrient-rich sediment. The result is one of the world’s most productive ecosystems – a Unesco biosphere reserve and a vital food source for the people of Cambodia.

The Life Aquatic Zurich Switzerland Limmat River Water
Credit: Magnus Winter

Zurich, Switzerland

There aren’t many cities where you can – or would want to – swim through the central waterway. But the crystal-clear alpine flow of Zurich’s Limmat river beckons to locals and tourists alike, offering a floating tour of the historic cityscape.

Australia The Great Barrier Reef Busselton Jetty underwater dining
Credit: Samuel Hesketh

Busselton, Australia

The great barrier reef tends to steal most of Australia’s aquatic limelight. But on the opposite side of the country, the 1.8-kilometre Busselton Jetty is a hub of activity, hosting everything from an underwater observatory – with underwater dining – to annual Ironman swims. Meanwhile, leisurely cruises follow the Margaret River inland to mangrove forests, dramatic caves and picture-perfect vineyards.

The Life Aquatic Siem Reap Cambodia Water
Credit: Mike Pickles

Shek O, Hong Kong

While typhoons send most Hongkongers scurrying indoors, the surfing community rush from their homes to beach spots like Shek O and Big Wave Bay, where the winds whip up ten-metre swells. When the waves subside, the beachgoers return… and the surfers stow their boards and go back to checking the weather.

The Life Aquatic Davao The Philippines Water
Credit: Julian Abram Wainwright

Davao, Philippines

A boy rides on the bow of a bangka, the double outrigger canoes favoured by Filipino fisherman who fill their nets with yellowfin tuna, shrimp and crab. In the Sulu archipelago, a boat ride from Davao, in the southwest of the country, the Bajau people have mastered the art of freediving for their food, and are able to stay underwater for up to 13 minutes, at depths of 200 metres.

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