Editor’s note: I first came across Daniel Chafer’s work at MatadorU’s travel photography program, and was immediately captivated by his imagery of water.

Daniel has been living at sea for more than six years, giving him next-level access to surf spots and beaches across the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Below is a collection of some of his shots that I most responded to.


Sandy cay

On a day trip out to a sandy cay in the British Virgin Islands, I felt I couldn't capture what I saw through my lens. The island is full of palms and crystal-clear water with a combination of sand and reef. We all swam ashore, and for the next few hours we started to explore, only to find a fairy-tale bush track that covered the island. We tried to camp on the island that night, but a national park ranger told us to move on.


Cane Garden

I hadn't been camping for a while and wanted to find a location where we could watch the sunset over the campsite. We'd just managed to surf the right spot at the right time—a rarely breaking right point called Cane Garden Bay. We heard of a bay just north of Cane Garden, so we decided to navigate our way around the back roads to find it.


Sharing stoke

I asked this local man, Tafari, if he'd heard of the bay north of Cane Garden. He told me he'd take us if we didn't tell any travelers of this spot. We got to the top of the road and looked out to the ocean, only to see the kingdom of heaven. Tafari asked if we had anything to drink. All we had was warm orange juice, so we gave it to him.



The island of St. Thomas is home to many reef breaks, and in the US Virgin Islands the picturesque little beaches are covered with driftwood, coral, and colorful shells. Early one morning I checked the surf report to find the swell was up, so I drove to Hull Bay to find a perfect 3ft wave. On my paddle back to the beach I found a pile of beautiful shells and couldn't just walk away without creating something.


Navigating the sea

After doing loads of research on different islands to explore in the Caribbean, we figured if we penciled an outline to our journey we wouldn't mind being lost as long as we knew we were heading south to St. Lucia. Sailing the Caribbean is a lifestyle; you have the luxury to choose what private seashore you're anchored in, or find a beach with nobody around.



This is my good friend Tommy. As we had a few hours left before we had to catch the ferry back to St. Martin, he was taking a few snapshots of the local kids playing in the sand. I climbed the closest sand dune and stole his focus away for just a few moments to get this snap.


Looking into a fish tank

Photo: Daniel Chafer


Choppy ferry ride

As we jumped on the ferry that afternoon, we could see the wind was picking up and knew the seas would get a little choppy for our hour-and-a-half boat ride back from Tortola to St. Thomas. Fortunately enough, I could handle the rough waves, unlike most of the passengers, who were tended to by staff busily running around with paper bags and telling everyone to look out the windows into the horizon to feel better.


Tropical pigs

The Bahamas are an island nation consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets. One district called Exuma has the clearest waters you'll see on Earth. Big Major Cay in Exuma is populated by pigs, which, as legend has it, are descendants of survivors of a shipwreck. Now the pigs are a tourist attraction to many travelers who visit the Bahamas every year.

Despite all the talk I'd heard from the locals, I still wasn't too sure if these pigs would actually swim. But one morning we took a tender over, got settled right close to the sand, and, after waiting 10 minutes, to my amazement three pigs came stomping out behind the bushes, crashing their way into the water. I jumped overboard with a handful of lettuce and my camera. These pigs were so quick. Before I knew it they were fogging up my lens with their huge snouts.


Rain drops

My friend Reece and I paddled out at Botany Bay on St. Thomas, hoping to get some shots of us surfing. But my attention was drawn to the substantial rain that struck the surface with great force. I lost myself for a few minutes, staring into the ocean, until the rain actually started stinging. I held my underwater housing over my head to try to get some shelter.


Rowing is a sport for dreamers

This beautiful rustic boat was sitting by the shore in St. Lucia. Her name was "AUDREY LOU." The owner was standing next to her just lying back on his chair. As I stood close to him he began to tell me a few stories of the adventures he'd had with her. I asked him why he didn't buy a boat with an engine. He looked at me and burst out laughing, saying, "This keeps me happy; rowing is a sport for dreamers."


Simple pleasures

Most in the Caribbean don't have much but still seem to be always smiling. I was driving to the beach after work and saw this boy (Ricky) selling fruit at his mum's store. I pulled over and bought lots of fresh fruit from the family, then asked his mum if I could buy him a juice. His face lit up, and within seconds he'd drunk the whole bottle.


Playful dolphins

A day you could only dream of in St. Thomas: We set sail on our Atlantic crossing en route to Barcelona. The sun was setting, so I decided to go sit on the bow of the boat with my head resting on the edge, capturing some moments with the water and the sunshine. To my amazement three dolphins appeared. The dolphins were getting pushed by the boat, due to the low pressure system the boat's bow creates. They were piercing the water without a splash. I couldn't help but stare and be drawn into the expression of these creatures. They would whistle out of their blowholes like they were trying to tell us something, I always thought they were trying to tell us there was rough weather ahead.


Sunsets never get old

Land was seen on the horizon for the first time in two weeks, crossing from the vivid blues of the Caribbean to the cultural whirlwind of the Mediterranean. We were lucky enough to experience unusually calm seas for the 14-day voyage. Our flag had been twisted around the pole from the strong winds earlier that day, so Ian climbed over the rails to unravel the flag from its tangled mess. As he turned around there was a pod of whales ahead of us, playing on the surface while the sun was about to go under the horizon.


Summer all year 'round

The beach of Coki Bay, St. Thomas, is surrounded by calm, clear waters and a white sandy bottom. It fills up with beautiful reef fish and is a perfect spot to snorkel. I asked the locals for some dog biscuits, and as I dove into the water my biscuit started to crumble into a thousand pieces, the reef fish wiggling into a feeding frenzy.


Message in a bottle

Since I've been living on the water, it's been my dream to stumble across a message in a bottle. It's been six years, and I've found many old wine bottles with crabs and fish living in them but no script. I thought of an old story that a Caribbean Rasta had told me. He survived on a raft after his boat was hit broadside by a large wave and capsized in a bad storm. He'd been drifting between St. Lucia and St. Vincent for three days in a 6ft fiberglass boat, with a water maker he found floating from his emergency kit. So I decided to write his story on a script, hoping that one day another sailor would appreciate his journey and how he was rescued by a fisherman who trawled those waters every day.


Green flash

A lot of captains I've met along my adventures have told me about a green flash at sunset. I've spent six years of sunrises and sunsets hoping to see the horizon turn green. The atmosphere can cause light from the sun to separate out into various colors, allowing a green flash to appear right after sunset or right before sunrise. This day we were in St. Lucia. I'd just finished dinner ashore and was heading back to the boat with some fresh produce. To my amazement, there it was—flick—a vibrant green line that shone along the horizon. I missed photographing it. It's so hard to capture the flash; you need to be prepared to snap it up. This shot was just a few minutes before.


Carnival time

I hired an old Vespa with my girlfriend over a long weekend to explore some of the local reefs in St. Martin. I always try to ride down the back streets, as there always seems to be more alluring events taking place in the alleyways. The police pulled us over and asked us to turn around as there was a carnival taking place ahead. We thought we could hear thunder, but it was the sound of the drums and the roar of the crowds as they danced through the streets. The leader of the group was the man with the African Power t-shirt. His spirit and dance moves made everyone smile around him. As he swung past me he held his hand out and gave me a high five. He noticed my camera and stopped to pose for a few photos, but this natural one was my favorite out of the bunch.



We'd woken early one morning to try to beat the traffic on a busy Saturday at Grand Case in St. Martin. The beaches were still packed with tourists and the waves were coming up the beach, so we decided to walk down next to the marina to try to find a spot to get away from the crowds. A few kids had climbed through a wire fence and disappeared under the bridge, so I decided to follow them down, not knowing I was about to see this picturesque color of aquamarine.



I was visiting some friends based in St. Martin in a marina called Bobby's. We'd been exploring the island for reef breaks, and every morning I'd have a coffee on the dock at 8am and see a young boy walk past with four bags filled with fresh fish. After the third day I asked the young boy what his name was. He replied "Bobby," in a Rasta voice. I asked him where he takes all this seafood. Bobby said he walks four kilometers every morning to the local wharf to get fresh fish for his parents' restaurant. The day we set sail for another island, I let Bobby ride with us.