Waiting for Whale Shark Day
Jan 06, 2016
It was the final day on the Safari Endeavour and it was the day everybody had been talking about for the entire trip. Anticipation had been contained for most of the week as our expedition leader, Jeremy told us there is a chance we might not see anything but that didn’t stop our collective excitement. It was time to swim with the whale sharks.
I was slotted on the 8:00 am excursion, the first of the day. I rose before the sun mostly in anticipation for what the day held in store. I decided to channel my early morning energy in the sunrise yoga class. I figured if I was more limber, I would be better equipped to keep up with the whale sharks.
After a quick and delicious breakfast, we slipped into our wetsuits and stepped onto the small boat. Our expedition guide, Ellie split us into three groups and after a 20 minute ride and safety debriefing; we arrived in whale shark territory.
We were one of the first boats out there and before the engine could be turned off, the first shark was spotted and group one was in the water.
I waited with group two and after a few moments another shark had been located. I tightened my mask, bit down on the snorkel and plunged into the water.
At first I didn’t see anything other than bubbles and yellow flippers. Then, the stealthy behemoth revealed itself right beside me. I froze in awe of its sheer size. It zoomed past me like a subway car flying through the station.
It wasn’t until I was watching its tail flap side to side that I realized it wasn’t going to hang around, pose for some pictures and let me stare. I needed to keep up.
We swam alongside the fish for a couple of minutes until we couldn’t keep up anymore and it disappeared into the water.
We climbed back into the boat and repeated the process two more times. Each time we swam with a bigger shark. We even spotted a pod of Dolphins off in the distance.
After all the groups gathered back on the boat, Ellie asked who wanted to go one more time. Most people, including myself, were exhausted from swimming alongside the sharks. Only a couple of hands went up. I was pretty tired and didn’t know if I could go again but figured I’d give it one more shot. I threw up my hand to join them and I was glad I did.
The last jump was the best. It was like all the whale sharks decided to come and play with us at the same time. There were three gigantic sharks in each direction. There was so much going on we didn’t know which way to look.
A school of mobula rays joined in the action as well. It was the first ray I’d seen the whole trip. For the entire week, people would gasp as they spotted a ray leap out of the water but by the time I was able to turn my head around, it would already be gone.
I was fixated on the school of rays. I was swimming with them, watching their wings slowly flap up and down when I felt a tap on my right shoulder. It was the local guide. His eyes were wide open and he was shaking his hand and pointing his finger in the direction behind me. I turned my head and saw a gigantic whale shark with its massive mouth gaping, coming straight at me, five feet away and closing. It was the biggest thing I’d seen.
I arched my back and raised my flippers in an attempt to frantically swim backwards. We’d been told that the sharks only eat plankton and aren’t interested in us but instinctively, you want to get out of the way of a 25 plus foot fish with its mouth open.
As it swam by, I was close enough to see every spot on its skin and watch its giant gills flare outwards as it breathed. I’m pretty sure we even made eye contact for a split second.
It was an unforgettable experience that was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.