The Biggest Fish In The World
The Safari Endeavour sailed into La Paz on a balmy Friday morning, the whole ship brimming with anticipation for our whale shark excursion. As I gathered my group together we began to talk and joke about the upcoming trip.
After stepping aboard our vessel we headed out with sea spray and the whine of turbo engines. As we slowed, all the guests began to put their wetsuits on. The anticipation was palpable as my guests realized they were about to swim with some very large fish in wide open water.
Our guide, Edgar explained how we shouldn’t touch the whale sharks or use flash photography or swim directly in front of the shark. Then his eyes grew big.
He yelled, “Whale shark on the left! Group one, let’s go!”
There was a sudden flurry of activity as everyone tried to remember which group they were in and where they had put their fins, masks and cameras.
Edgar motioned us to hurry as we neared the shark that looked like a blotchy grey disk below the water. Suddenly, Edgar was jumping in and obviously expected us to follow.
Like little ducklings we piled in behind him and as he started shouting, “swim with me, quickly!” We kicked over towards the whale shark with our fins and our snorkels. It was an ungainly protuberance of splashes and controlled flailing on the ocean’s surface.
The whale shark’s massive mouth sucked in plankton and his gills flared out as he fed in the slightly turbulent water. I could hear muttered “wows” through the snorkel tubes as we got close to the behemoth.
It was beautiful. It was sinuous, gentle and intimidating all at the same time. As it propelled itself around with its tail the size of a small oak tree, we felt the turbulence from it wash over us.
As it fed, I became mesmerized by the spotted body, disk shaped head, and the many remora surrounding him. Edgar grabbed my hand and swam me to a distance closer than I would ever dare.
For a moment, I forgot to count heads and watch the group as I floated over this thirty foot long whale shark four feet beneath me. Then I was snapped back to reality as the whale shark stopped feeding and disappeared into the depths.
“Group one back to the boat!” Edgar shouted as we arrived above water. We headed back and ungracefully pulled ourselves back on board. Then group two went. We continued this way for a couple hours. I have to say I never thought I would be wowed by a fish. I never thought I would swim with forty foot long whale sharks, and I never thought I would find such a simple creature so mesmerizing, powerful and fun.
On the way back our group ate sandwiches, drank water and coke, and reminisced about what we saw that day.
Baja is the same as the whale shark. It’s powerful, gentle and dynamic and I’m hoping this isn’t just a brief sighting.