2014 NOV – SWIMMING WITH A WHALE SHARK

5-foot mouth!

5-foot mouth!

I am delighted to have made a South African friend here. Brian heard my accent on the VHF when I was talking to Perry and called me to chat. We have become firm friends. Today Perry left for Part 2 of his travels, and I am missing him already. He is such a gentle caring person.

In the afternoon Brian picked me up and we dinghy’ed out into the bay to look for the grazing whale sharks. It took about an hour to reach the open ocean where we saw a tourist panga with people in the water and made our way over to them. There was this HUGE whale shark lazily swimming along and feeding, with a gaggle of tourists swimming alongside.

I have never swum in the open sea so I put on my flippers and snorkel gear but hesitated in committing myself to the ocean. There are all sorts of large scary critters down there! Eventually I rolled off the dinghy into the sea, persuaded by Brian’s encouraging tone – GET IN THE BLOODY WATER NOW! was how he put it.
That shark just looked huge to me. I swam towards it, but it swam faster so Brian towed me forward to catch up. I was a good 40ft behind the whale shark, keeping a wary distance, and in front of it was a bunch of swimming tourists. I guess the whale shark decided to avoid the tourists and the next minute it turned and came straight at me! I don’t think it saw me in the murky water?! I let out a startled squeal and kicked frantically to get out of its way and back into the dink. All I saw was this huge 5-foot mouth just inches from my nose!

It goes on forever!

It goes on forever!

Then only it saw me – or heard my squeal – and turned suddenly aside, but it was so close that I put out my hand to prevent it banging into me. It swam by me just inches away – brushing by me and almost scraping my nose – just incredibly massive. It’s size is daunting; not just its length but also its enormous girth. Plus it’s dappled tiger skin is very distinctive and adds to the awe as you watch it slowly swim by.
Then Brian went into the water and it came right by him too. He swam alongside it for some time as it fed lazily.

Brian following the whale shark

Brian following the whale shark

Later we were both sitting quietly in the dinghy about 50 feet in front of the tourist panga. We watched the tourist boat approach with its gaggle of tourists swimming alongside, and again the shark swerved suddenly and came straight at the dinghy. It moved so suddenly that we didn’t even have time to start the dinghy motor and get out of its way, not without harming the shark with our propellor anyway.

Shadow of the 45ft whale shark from dorsal fin to head only

Shadow of the 45ft whale shark from dorsal fin to head only

The sheer size of this fish is daunting

The sheer size of this fish is daunting

Suddenly it was beneath the dinghy and its fin scraped along the underside and it gave a huge swirl of its tail and dived a few feet to clear us. That’s some powerful tail and would knock you flying if you were too close to it; as it was some swimming tourists scrambled out of the way to avoid being swatted. Then the whale shark continued to swim and feed on its lazy way.
What an incredible experience. A once in a lifetime experience.

As we dinghy’ed back home, we paused to watch 5 large dolphin hunting small fry. They are focused hunters and rushed in to feed on the bait ball. There is nothing friendly looking about a hunting dolphin pack!

 

 

Looming out of the gloom

Looming out of the gloom

Coming closer

Coming closer

And getting bigger...

And getting bigger…

Just inches away

Just inches away

Passing by...

Passing by…

Going.....

Going…..

going.....

going…..

...gone

…gone

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