Entries in #sharks (2)


Whale  Sharks

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), are the largest fish in the sea. They can grow up to a length of 20m and are thought to live up to 100 years. They feed mainly on zooplankton and tiny fish that they filters out the water.

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Whale Sharks in Mafia - A Once in a Lifetime Experience 

A muted shout breaks the relative silence we have been sitting in.  Our boat hand has finally spotted one.  The boat slows, and we all begin to frantically kit up, snorkels and fins flying every which way, and various snippets of excited conversation are exchanged.  With my mask securely in place, I begin scanning the water of Kilidoni Bay, looking for a fin, a head, anything, for my first glimpse.  We twist around, until all at once we see it surface.  The whale shark is perhaps three meters from the boat, but even at that distance, it appears massive.

After a quick judgement call, the captain gives us the go-ahead, and we clamber over the sides of the boat, hitting the water with small splashes.  The moment my eyes open underwater, my first thought is of the immense “blue” of the scene, everything within sight is caked in layer upon layer of turquoise, blue, and aquamarine.  This moment passes quickly however, as I notice the creature directly below my feet. The five meter giant appears to be swimming lazily, but each flick of its massive tail propels it quickly through the water.  The spots peppering its back shine individually, reflecting the filtered sunlight of the ocean.  Its mouth is wide open, preparing to surface again and feed.

I scramble in the water, kicking and paddling in an attempt to get of its way, but there is no present danger.  It swims past, and I can see every detail of its enormity.  My initial shock of practically leaping onto its back fades, and I begin to swim after it, my legs struggling to keep pace with its tail. A minute of chasing later, I surface, breathless and grinning like a spoiled kid on Christmas morning.  We crawl back into the boat, and we’re off, pursuing whale sharks around the bay, each chase more surreal than the last.  

Looking back on it now, a month later, I still can’t believe what I experienced that day. Since my arrival here on Mafia Island, I have gone on three such whale shark trips, and each time I am blown away by the complete uniqueness of the experience.  There are very few places in the world where you can hop on a boat, and 30 minutes later, be swimming next to a nine meter whale shark, opening its gargantuan mouth to feed. In my three month stay on the island, I hope to fit in more and more trips, but even just the one would have been enough.   Truly, it is a once in a lifetime experience.

By Sam Kassman - Whale Sharks and Turtles Research Assistant

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