I've been wanting to swim with whale sharks for years but for one reason or another I've never done it. Whale sharks are the largest shark species and the largest fish in the world, they grow to 40 to 45 feet. Thank goodness their diet consists of plankton and not people! They were really really big! These sharks are migratory, traveling around the world, staying in temperate, tropical seas. Unfortunately they are only protected in about 10% of the 100 countries they visit in their journeys. They are listed as "vulnerable" under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. I cannot take credit for this picture, but here is a whale shark:
Troy and I and Steve and Colleen set out on a swim with whale sharks adventure. We had a great boat ride out to Contoy Island, we even caught a glimpse of a school of rays and saw a couple of sea turtles. The water is incredibly beautiful, so many shades of blue.
Finally we made it out to the area where the sharks are usually seen. It didn't take long before a few of the giants were spotted. There were several boats with about 10 people on each boat but the Mexican government does a great job of protecting the fish. Only 2 people and 1 guide are allowed in the water around one shark at a given time. We received extensive instructions from our guide, Jose, which included: try to stay close to the head and swim, swim, swim. Don't ever touch the shark (those are the ones that I remembered anyway). The boats circle around and cooperate with each other to minimize the stress on the sharks. All the while the sharks swam around eating lunch without much notice of all the little people staring at them. The boat captains and guides seemed to do a great job in working together and trying to make sure everyone got several chances to swim with the sharks.
Troy and I were Team Number One on our boat. We put on our fins and snorkel and mask and sat on the side of the boat with Jose while the captain positioned the boat right in front of the shark. The giant beast was swimming right at us! Suddenly Jose was shouting "jump, jump, jump". For a few seconds I questioned my sanity, but before I knew it we were plunging into the water and looking at a huge fish swimming towards us. It was awesome but it didn't take long before the shark was leaving us in its wake. We got a pretty good look but it all happened so fast. I realized that this was gonna take some effort on our part and the shark was not gonna just stop and let us get a good look. After we climbed back aboard Jose was excited because the shark was swimming slow today. I think Troy's comment was something like "yeah, slow like a freight train"!
It took three times before I got a really really good look at the shark. They are absolutely huge and there are many smaller fish swimming along with them. I had to swim like crazy to try to stay near the shark's head long enough to get a good look at him. All the while trying not to drink the whole Caribbean through my snorkel. It was all worth it. I was close enough to touch him, but of course I didn't. They are really majestic creatures and it was an experience that I will always remember.
Here are a few pictures from our trip. There are all mine (well, Troy did take the one of me)!
Troy's picture of me
My picture of Troy
Whale shark pictures: