Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Sighting the elusive whale shark

At Big Blue, our dive centre, divers, including the seasoned staff, are divided into two groups: those who have seen the elusive whale shark and those who have not. Even people who have worked there for years jump into the water every day hoping to catch their first glimpse of this near-mythical creature... Here are some facts about the whale shark:
  • It is the world's largest living fish (and its a shark, rather than a whale)
  • Its massive smiling mouth can be up to 1.5m wide (it's this big so that it can feed by filtering the water it swims into)
  • Typically, they grow up to 12m long and weigh around 15 tonnes
On the morning of the 7th July, during a deep dive to 30m at a dive site called Champon Pinnacle (famed for its reef and leopard sharks) my instructor, who was swimming in front of me, started pointing frantically into the distance. I looked over to my right and saw a massive, spotted, fish about eight metres away gliding gracefully through the sea as all the divers around me quickly grabbed their cameras. From its markings, size (about three to four metres) and from the reactions of the other divers, I quickly deduced that I was in the presence of the legendary whale shark (but a baby one).

When I got back on board Banzai, the name of the dive centre's biggest boat, everyone was buzzing with dis-belief, excitement and disappointment for those who missed the sighting. Keith, my dive buddy for the dive managed to catch this picture of the creature. Lucky isn't even the word.

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