Meet Dive Ninja Expeditions Founder Jay Clue
Jay Clue is a conservationist, explorer, and photographer based in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He’s also an accomplished technical diver and instructor with over 5000 dives under his belt. After years in the industry he founded Dive Ninja Expeditions as a new platform for linking science and conservation with tourism. Under all the tattoos you’ll find a big nerd, who has 4 university degrees and numerous diplomas on all kinds of subjects from shark biology to quantum mechanics and marine archeology. Jay has been a proponent for marine conservation & research as well as citizen science projects. He was recently awarded the honor of becoming a Closed Hook Ambassador by Nakawe Project for his work in ecotourism and conservation. When he’s not diving or teaching you can usually find him wherever there are an abundance of delicious snacks.
Follow Jay's adventures on INSTAGRAM
Jay in action Credit: Simon Lorenz
1. What is your favorite shark and why? I’ve been in love with hammerheads since I first saw them in a magazine when I was a kid. Their strange shaped head really sparked my interest in sharks and the mysteries the oceans hold. I credit them for being the reason I became a diver. Even still till this day I get super excited at any chance to see them in the ocean. I love watching big schools of scalloped hammerheads cruise by in the blue. Although I do have this love / hate relationship with them since the population we have in Baja tends to be pretty camera shy (laughs).
2. What is one species of shark you would like to dive with? Right now at the top of my list is the Greenland Shark. There’s something incredibly intriguing about diving with the longest living vertebrate known to science - and better yet, it’s a shark! I just picture them as these wise old creatures that have seen so much of our planet change in their lifetime. Could you imagine sitting down with one and chatting about history one day? Think of all the things that have taken place on Earth in the last 300 years that it could have witnessed in its lifetime. Here is a shark that could of been alive when the United States Constitution was signed in 1776. That is just mind-blowing to me.
3. Can you tell us a little about your program Dive Ninja Expeditions? What inspired you to start it?
I started Dive Ninja Expeditions with the aim of trying to change dive tourism and create something unique in the industry by combining science, conservation, and tourism to create a true ecotourism platform. I wholeheartedly love the ocean and every creature in it, even the jellyfish (although they still freak me out a little bit sometimes! -laughs- ). So I wanted to create a program that allowed humans to give back to our oceans and learn more about them while still getting to see some of the most amazing things our planet has to offer. We run specialized trips and expeditions to dive with different animals and witness some of earth's greatest natural spectacles - such as the striped marlin migration in Mexico, or the curious oceanic manta rays of Socorro. But what makes these trips even more special is that most of them have a scientific or conservation theme to them in which the guests get to not only learn about the animals but take part in actual field research. For me this is the best part. It’s like getting to be a marine biologist for week. I love to learn from the scientists and researchers that we are super lucky to work with. I feel blessed to be able to experience this and share it with others. 4. What is the coolest/most interesting thing you've seen in the ocean? Without a doubt, the enormous mobula ray aggregations in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Imagine looking under the water and seeing thousands upon thousands of devil rays gliding together in unison. Layers upon layers of these beautiful creatures looking as if they are a ginormous flock of underwater birds soaring through the ocean. Now picture yourself swimming along with them as they accept you into their group - as if you were one of them. It is the most beautiful experience and it is so incredibly awesome that I struggle to find the words to really describe it.
5. Do you think taking people to dive and freedive with marine life is important for conservation? YES! I am a strong believer that if we continue to show others the beauty & importance of our oceans, then more humans will want to protect them and take action to help. It’s kind of the opposite of the out of sight out of mind thing. By showing them what’s actually there they start to realize the value of protecting it. Plus it also helps to change the general view of many species - such as how sharks aren’t really the ‘scary monsters’ that movies make them out to be. We see this all the time when we take guests for their first dive or snorkel. Or their first time with sharks or rays. Our team always includes a bit of conservation information in all of our tours and expeditions. And we can actually see how the guests viewpoints change through the day. We’ve had numerous guests go home and begin volunteering or cutting disposable plastics or speaking out about the issues our oceans face. Some of our students and guests have even gone on to create their own organizations. It’s really beautiful! That, for me, is the biggest reward I could have ever asked for in building this business. We go into every trip thinking that if we can just inspire one person to get involved today then we have done our job. Because that one new dive ninja will inspire another, and they will go on to inspire another. And another. And another. And together, that army of ninjas can without a doubt change the world.
6. What's the most challenging part of photographing sharks and rays? I think it’s just about patience and getting lucky. They’re not the easiest of subjects to begin with, but there are so many factors at play when trying to photograph them. First you have to find them. Then hope the lighting and visibility is good. Then really hope you get awesome interactions with them close to the camera. Then when all that is settled you have to hope you had a good breakfast and your skills are on point that day to get the shot. - laughs- But for me, I just love the experience of sharing the water with them. Even if I don’t get any good photos that day. Just being there watching them in their element and trying to understand them is worth more than any photo I could ever take.