Surviving the whaleshark
Swimming with sharks? Or whales? Or both? I achieved what seems impossible- I have been swimming with Whalesharks.
My summer travels started in Guatemala, continued to Belize and finished in Mexico. As soon as I crossed the border from Belize to Mexico I heard nothing else, but the word “whaleshark”. Everyone was talking about their unique experience with those sea creatures. Due to my mediocre unexisting budget I was determined to skip this adventure. But then I came closer and closer and finally we were on Isla Mujeres, only some kilometres away from the whalesharks and people talked non-stop about them. Ok. Convinced. I decided to be part of this adventure. The word-of-mouth communication (= recommendations of others and apparently the most enhanced marketing technique) has worked. Now I only had to negotiate with Captain Tony about the price. My charms and blondness must have persuaded him and so I got THE deal: boat drive to whale sharks – whale shark swimming – boat drive to reef – snorkeling – boat drive back – food and drinks – for only 45€ (normally it is something between 70-100€). Not too bad for a lifetime experience.
We met at 7am. Together with Captain Tony and seven others we started our trip. After a 45-min bumpy boat ride we suddenly saw the first fin looking out of the water … then the second … and the third … I looked around and saw probably around 20-40 whale sharks swimming in the ocean.
Profile of a typical Whaleshark:
Age: 45 years
Weight: about 23 tonnes (the heaviest whale shark was about 36 tonnes)
Residence: Isla Mujeres (Mexico), but I am moving soon, I don´t like cold winters
Family: Married, 2 children
Special Feature: a family categorized as largest fish in the world, huge mouth
Sports: swimming, but not very athletic (swims up to 5km/h)
Favorite dish: Humans, especially blond girls plankton & crabs (vegetarian)
Future career: chilling out, relaxing, raising babies, eating tourists
“Put your flippers, diving masks and snorkels on – four people in the water, stay together in couples, three, two, one… JUMP!” Captain Tony commanded us. And there I was – In the middle of the ocean, surrounded by whale sharks and tourist boats. As soon as I put my head under water, everything got quiet and calm. I suddenly felt a bit afraid. Those fish were massive and their mouth was HUGE – I easily could have fit in there.
I tried to escape to the left, as the first whaleshark seemed to aim at me. Then this massive monster passed by… very slow with an elegant movement of its tail. I was fascinated about the dynamic, slow way they were swimming, their sparkling skin and their size. I soon lost my fear and just enjoyed swimming with these beautiful creatures.
If you wanted to keep up with the whale shark, you had to paddle hard, but most of the time you had to let go after a few seconds and wait for the next whaleshark. At some point I couldn´t resist and I had to touch one, even though Captain Tony told us, we shouldn´t. The result: the whaleshark went crazy and hit me with its tail. No joking- the skin felt really rough and the whaleshark probably didn´t even realize that I was touching it.
As one of the passengers got sea sick we had to go home earlier. Before returning to the island we made a short stop at a reef, where we could snorkel underwater and watch colourful fishes and plants. The underwaterworld of this trip really fascinated me and I am determined to do a diving license someday to enjoy the fascinating beauty and calmness of the ocean.
All in all, this trip has been a unique life time experience that I will never forget. And I had the luck that a professional photographer and a sports model / actress were on our boat, who took incredible shots of the whalesharks and allowed me to publish them to share them with you.
If somebody is interested in swimming with whalesharks: Isla Mujeres, Mexico, June-September is the place to watch them to a very reasonable price. But there are many other places around the world – the 14 places where you have the biggest possibilty to meet a whale shark are: Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Ningaloo Reef, Gulf of Mexico, Galapagos, Belize, Honduras, South Africa, Mozambique, Seychelles, Maldives and India.
All photos are taken by professional photographer Ewan Burns.
For more incredible shots of Ewan visit his homepage on http://www.styggimages.com/