Mar 10 - Swimming with the whale sharks

We hung around Maamigili and signed up with the whale shark excursion for today. It's a crap shoot; sightings are not guaranteed, and forget about getting your money back if one doesn't show up. Late afternoon yesterday brought squalls with 30 knot gusts, but holding is excellent where we are, and other than a bit of bucking in the stronger winds, we sat quietly throughout. The Holiday Island Resort on nearby Dhiffushi island has a professional Diveoceanus dive shop. They're well organized and have a variety of excursions. The resort is in a beautiful location with, well...resort prices. The food is good, however, and the view gorgeous, so I can think of worse places and conditions. This morning, our excursion boat left the dock at 0900, and we went to the reef just outside the island, a frequent whale sighting area. According to Lonely Planet, there are 9 places to best sight and swim with whale sharks: Isla Holbox, Mexico; Utila, Honduras; Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia; Gladden Spit, Belize; Donsol Bay, Philippines; Tofo Beach, Mozambique; South Mahé, Seychelles; Koh Tao, Thailand; and South Ari Atoll, Maldives (our location). Wikipedia states "The shark is seen by divers in many places, including the Bay Islands in Honduras, Thailand, the Philippines, the Maldives, the Red Sea, Western Australia (Ningaloo Reef, Christmas Island), Taiwan, Panama (Coiba Island), Belize, Tofo Beach in Mozambique, Sodwana Bay (Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) in South Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Isla Mujeres and Bahía de los Ángeles in Mexico, the Seychelles, West Malaysia, islands off eastern peninsular Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Oman, Fujairah, and Puerto Rico." The whale shark is the largest known fish species, surpassing 40' length and 20 tons weight (jeez...). About 6 other excursion boats filled with people all gathered around the first whale shark sighted, and on command, we jumped in to swim and photograph them. The only thing to be afraid of was getting kicked by another snorkeler; folks got a bit crazy in the excitement. After a few minutes, the shark swam away to deeper depths, and we boarded our boat to motor up and down the reef looking for another shark. We were on our last pass, returning to the resort, when another shark was sighted, and we donned our gear and were off the boat when the dive master said "Go..." This second whale shark was larger than the first, and I was just about above him as he slowly swam my way. We were told he was about 5 meters, but I think he was 6-8 meters long. These sharks are not dangerous to divers, as they eat plankton, krill and large algae; humans are not part of their food pyramid. At any rate, it was a wonderful morning, enjoying a unique experience and learning a bit more about these gentle giants of the sea.

No comments: