Unless you care about something, you’re unlikely to work hard to preserve or protect it.

Oxford World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment 2023
Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford University
St Hilda’s College
26 September 2023

Prince Hussain Aga Khan has developed extraordinary archives from multiple photographic expeditions that cover diverse geographical areas and habitats, inhabited by myriad marine and terrestrial species.

Exhibitions, public screenings, illustrated talks, books, and limited edition print sales are all used to inspire people to fall in love with nature, encourage them to change their consumption behaviours and motivate them to educate others.

Established by Prince Hussain in 2014, Focused on Nature supports global conservation efforts through financial contributions to the world’s leading conservation organizations and grassroots initiatives.

He is a board member of Mission Blue and the Shark Conservation Fund, a member of the Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation’s Council for Hope, and an ambassador for the Natural History Museum.

The photographs that Prince Hussain Aga Khan shares with us on the occasion of the World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment 2023 were taken during recent expeditions to West Papua and Southeast Sulawesi. The biodiversity depicted in the images as unique as it is threatened, and highlight the urgency to protect the planet’s animal species and ecosystems.

It truly felt like this large pufferfish was a slightly jaded, trusting old soul…

I stayed with it, just beyond a small cave in the reef that may have been home, for a number of enlightening minutes.

Misool, Indonesia, January 2023

Truly one of the most stunning and colorful sea fans I have ever been privileged to come across.

Unbelievable beauty and extreme elegance…

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

Incredible spirals of Turbinaria reniformis coral at a site at Wakatobi.

The complete structure and others there were massive – so big and healthy it was hard to believe as you swam over and around them.

One normally wouldn’t compare much to Raja Ampat, which is the pinnacle of marine biodiversity and ecosystem health; but the coral at Wakatobi is by far the best I’ve ever seen.
Beautiful, grandiose structures, outlandish colors, dainty lattices, amazing diversity…

Indonesia, January 2023

A clownfish peeks out of its spectacular anemone home on our penultimate dive at Wakatobi.

These colors were beyond vibrant – one of the reasons we returned to this site.

Indonesia, January 2023

An orangutan crab rests upon its bubble anemone home on the wall at Wakatobi.

I’ve never seen an orangutan crab NOT on a bubble anemone in fact.
One or two websites claim that the crab actually creates the beautiful base upon which it sits; but I’m not at all certain of the veracity of this information.

These crabs are very small. You could probably fit three or four in your hand without them even touching each other.
They’re also quite hard to photograph even with a macro lens: difficult to get every hair, as well as both their claws, in focus.
An extra difficulty in this case was that we were treading water the whole time we photographed this creature.

These are some of the most bizarre animals you could ever encounter underwater.

Indonesia, January 2023

Nudibranch reaching out towards another coral structure on the wall.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

Chromodoris lochi or willani I believe.

Many nudibranch species are unmistakable in their appearance, unforgettable and impossible to confuse with others.
This one I frequently forget… partly because it has similarities with other species.

It was hard to photograph this animal while treading water off a wall.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

One of my favorites – a spine-cheek clownfish!

This species is significantly bigger and darker than most clownfish.
They are very protective of their offspring and bolder than many other fish.

Seeing these fish is always an immense pleasure.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

Beautiful green turtle in flight.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

A cuttlefish blending effortlessly with its surroundings.

Our guide Muji, Oli (scuba_reality) and I spent quite some time with this animal as it roamed the reef and practiced its impeccable camouflage techniques.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

One of many different color and texture schemes this cuttlefish manifested during our long encounter with it was dark and drab.

The unbelievable transformations various cephalopods can come up with never fail to impress.
The whole family is full of surprises! All species my friends and I have witnessed have been fascinating.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

A beautifully colored leaf scorpionfish rests on its leg-like pectoral fins on a branch of coral.

These are some of the strangest and most intriguing animals one can see anywhere under the waves, and are only common in Southeast Asia as far as I can tell. Places like the Philippines and Lembeh in Indonesia…

Leaf scorpionfish come in several colors, including green, black and purple.

Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 2023

Large male bumphead parrotfish.

These are the largest of parrotfish – reaching well over a meter in size.
Most parrotfish would be a quarter of their length or less.

Bumpheads commonly form schools, occasionally numbering twenty individuals or many more. At one famous place in Bali, a large school of them sleeps in a shipwreck!
Sipadan in Malaysia is the most famous location for them, somewhere I hope to return to one day.

We were told that, whilst bumpheads school in many places in Raja Ampat, one usually only sees couples where we were.

The male above and his female were incredibly comfortable with me (with the male coming closer and making more regular passes) and didn’t stop circling and hovering over the large coral bommie on which they fed and from behind which I photographed them.

These were amazing and incredible animals – among my first of the species – and we must have spent fifteen minutes together or more.

Another beautiful experience, full of admiration and joy, beneath the waves.

Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023

Magical manta at one of the more famous manta sites in Raja Ampat.

Manta rays are much more common – reliable in their presence – in some areas
Than others. Many dive destinations include specific sites for them.

Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023

Stunning wall of glassfish under an overhang that was also inhabited by a wonderful wobbegong.

Whilst the glassfish were generally grouped and in formations (as is always the case), the variance in topography and light made for very mixed photographic results.

Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023

Amphiprion ocellaris

One of the most common clownfish in the region and many people’s favorite…

Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023

A cleaner wrasse goes all out on a large batfish at a famous site in Raja Ampat.

Cleaner wrasses are incredible and highly dedicated when it comes to removing parasites and dead skin from their clients (for lack of a better word) — even in dangerous places such as inside their mouths and gills.

This was an incredible encounter, something very special to witness.

Whilst I have seen this symbiotic behavior a thousand times over 3 decades in and out of the water, this was by far the closest I have ever been to it.
The batfish was EXTREMELY trusting, at times less than 80 centimeters from me as I shot away with a wide-angle lens.

The fish could very easily have moved away for this highly personal hygiene service – and most would have.
But instead it stayed right there, mere inches away, allowing me to observe something rather magical for well over four minutes.

I was rather impressed by the fearlessness of the wrasse, who could also have moved away very easily, as well.

West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023

A ribboned sweetlip behind a gorgonian and a sponge.

Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023

A tasseled wobbegong, plated and surrounded by bigeyes.

After searching for wobbegongs – the weirdest-looking, most interesting sharks you can imagine – during that dive, this is the sight we eventually stumbled onto.

Tasseled wobbegongs are one of multiple species of “carpet sharks” found mostly in Indonesia and Australia.
They are quite common in the northern part of Raja.

Most of the time they’re well-hidden in nooks and crannies of the reef and hard to navigate around for fear of breaking coral. For this reason, they are slightly difficult to photograph.

But with this individual it was as if it had been brought down from the heavens and delicately placed in the most wonderful setting by a divine hand.
On an exquisite and large piece of coral acting like a silver platter this magnificent animal lay, posing like the king or queen of the coral reef.

An irresistible sight, I took well over a hundred photographs from different angles, more or less close to this incredible creature.

We saw perhaps three more sharks after this one on the same dive!

Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2023