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Where angelfish fear to tread

Where angelfish fear to tread | Cape Cod LIFE August 2016

Photography courtesy of Ethan Daniels

“Each lake on Cape Cod is like a unique little ecosystem,” he says, adding that he particularly likes Pilgrim Lake because it’s large enough to provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including fish and amphibians. The lake is about 25 feet deep in the middle, and the visibility varies depending on the season and the weather. “When I was young,” he says, “[the visibility] seemed to be better.”

Snorkeling and diving in the waters of Cape Cod presents its own set of challenges. When working in ponds, for instance, Daniels says he must always check for leeches following a shoot. Once, when he was young, he emerged from a local pond after swimming to find 50 leeches on him. “You can’t feel them,” he says.

Off the coast, there are strong currents, he says, and the water is so cold one must wear either a wet suit or a dry suit. Daniels has snorkeled around several shipwrecks off Cape Cod, including that of the Port Hunter off Falmouth, and a barge off Chatham that was sunk by a German submarine during World War I. “The wrecks here are hard core,” he says.

In addition to his photography work, Daniels also co-owns a tour company called Coral Triangle Adventures with his business partner, Lee Goldman. The business offers guided 12-day snorkeling tours in the waters of Indonesia, Micronesia, Fiji, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. By day, Daniels and Goldman guide tour participants on snorkeling expeditions to view the region’s spectacular coral reefs, and at night, they give presentations on the region’s natural history. Most tour attendees are Americans, Daniels says, but the trips “are for anyone who is interested in travel to remote areas.” The groups meet in the country—say Bali, Indonesia—before heading out for the journey. Most of the trips are based on “live-aboard ships,” rather than hotels, which allow the travelers to get in and out of the region’s best coral reef sites with ease.

Every year, Daniels returns to the Cape at least once. He sees his parents in Orleans, and generally embarks on one or two snorkeling sessions per day. There are so many different lakes on the Cape, he says, and—though they are beautiful and bursting with wildlife—he never sees anyone else with a camera. “I’ve never seen any [photographer] in any of the freshwater habitats,” he says. “It’s not super exciting—it’s not like diving with great white sharks—but it’s a hell of a lot easier, and, I find, just as beautiful.”

For more information on Ethan Daniels’ work, visit

Matthew J. Gill is the editor of Cape Cod Life Publications.

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