Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Swam With a Whale Shark


Stop hyperventilating. I did not take the above photo, and that guy was not swimming directly at me with that giant open mouth pointed towards my face. But, that is what a whale shark looks like, and just listen to this story...

I already told you that the Bay Islands are considered one of, if not the, best places in the world to see the biggest fish in the entire ocean -- the whale shark. Whale sharks are HUGE, belong to the shark family but resemble whales in that they eat plankton (a.k.a. not human divers like myself), and are covered in distinctive spots.

It's not prime whale shark season (that would be in the spring) in the Bay Islands right now, but Nicole, Jess, Sam and I still couldn't resist talking all week long about "Come on guys, HOW cool would it be if we saw a whale shark???" It's especially hard not to entertain the idea when giant whale shark paintings cover Utila's main street.


Well ladies and gentlemen, on our very last day of diving, we were enjoying another lovely surface interval (tanning time on the boat in between dives so that nitrogen can escape your body and keep you from passing out during the next dive) when our beloved boat driver, Captain Cookie, started yelling at us:

"GET IN THE WATER. GET IN THE WATER RIGHT NOW!"

We thought, "Maybe we've come across another pair of dolphins and get to snorkel with them like we did yesterday?"

"GET YOUR FACE IN THE WATER RIGHT NOW! DON'T WASTE TIME WITH YOUR *&@*%*# WETSUIT! WE HAVE FOUND A WHALE SHARK! HE IS RIGHT HERE!"

At that point we shut up and got ourselves into the water.

 See all the people on that boat pointing to that Jaws-lookalike triangular fin sticking out of the water? Yep, that's our whale shark. 

We had come upon a baby whale shark, probably about 10 to 12 feet long, with a huge body and all the familiar spots. He was right in front of us at the surface, so we all got to swim around after him for a good 10 minutes before he took off. IT WAS SO COOL.

 This was the best photo I could get myself. See him??

We swam with a whale shark. Okay, once-in-a-lifetime experiences this year: let's add one more. 

P.S. And as a final thought to all the worrying parents out there, Wikipedia says: " This species, despite its size, does not pose significant danger to humans. Although massive, whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes allow swimmers to hitch a ride. Whale sharks are quite gentle and can play with divers. Divers and snorkelers can swim with this giant fish without risk. :)

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