Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Photographer Juergen Freund’s Encounter With Highly Venomous Sea Snakes

Swim in the distant clear waters of Fiji Great Sea Reef, a photographer sighted something that would be most arresting.

Juergen Freund from Far North Queensland shared the ocean with dozens of highly poisonous sea snakes.

Rather than fearing the banded sea kraits, he felt elated and began heading towards them.

They were “coming from all directions, swimming all over” him, which allowed him to capture a stunning portrait.

The only escape from the ebb tide for these aquatic banded sea kraits (Laticauda colubrina) was this lonely mangrove tree in the middle of the sea in the Great Sea Reef. (Juergen Freund, wildlife photographer of the year)

Banded sea kraits are one of the most venomous reptiles in the world, but Freund said they are beautiful to see up close.

“Sea kraits are very curious about everything,” he told 9news.com.au.

“They are usually found swimming through the reef chasing small fish into holes and coral crevices where they constantly poke their heads.

“I had worked with this species of sea krait many times and knew they weren’t aggressive – but you never know.”

In this file photo, a banded sea krait is seen swimming in the shallows of the Solomon Islands.
In this file photo, a banded sea krait is seen swimming in the shallows of the Solomon Islands. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As a precaution, Freund asked his wife to watch for curious snakes as he approached the tree, which served as a shelter when the tide receded.

“They are wild animals and are some of the most venomous creatures on Earth,” he said.

“In the event of a bite, there probably wouldn’t be any antivenom available nearby because we were in a very remote area.

“I was wearing a full neoprene wetsuit with a hood and my wife Stella was telling me about any snake swimming behind me.”

“I wasn’t really worried. But I treat them with the utmost respect.”

Juergen Freund and his wife Stella were lucky enough to attend the celebration at the Natural History Museum in London and "dressed to nine".
Juergen Freund and his wife Stella were lucky enough to attend the celebration at the Natural History Museum in London and “dressed up well”. (Instagram: @juergenfreund)
“It excites me to always be among the top 100 chosen images in the world,” he said, adding that in the future he would love to photograph whales.

“Besides being beautiful, there is communication and interaction involved.

“Other than that, my fascination with nature goes way beyond a to-do, tick-off or must-do list to photograph species.

“I’m as excited to photograph or film interesting insect behavior as I would be with an elephant or a jaguar, which I’ve never documented.”

The winners of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum in London, have been announced.  The award-winning images showcase the natural world in all its glory.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners crowned for 2022

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