Whenever the dive boat goes out, we keep an eye on the open ocean looking for signs of whale sharks. Whale sharks eat teeny tiny shrimp called krill. As they chase them to the surface, the tiny fish follow since they also eat krill. The bigger tuna chase after the tiny fish and everything splashing around on the surface attracts the frigate birds who try to swoop down and catch the krill and fish as they’re chased up. When there are frigate birds circling and tuna jumping, we can be fairly well assured there’s a whale shark in the vicinity.
Yesterday we came up from our first morning dive and saw 6 dive boats north of us, all stationary in the same small area with a cloud of birds circling above them. One of the dive boats left the group with a girl in a bikini standing in the bow making two motions over and over again as they drove past us: arms spread wide and then a hand on her forehead like a fin. Arms wide, hand like a fin, arms wide, hand like a fin.
Big Shark. Big Shark. Big Shark.
Da Bull took one look at her, grinned and said “whale shark.” Oh man, there’s nothing like those two words to get a whole boatload of people totally excited. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough gas to get out that far and also get back to the shop so we opted to go back to the shop, gas up the boat and go back. Once at the shop, everyone scrambled off the boat, threw their wet gear in a heap, grabbed a snorkel and ran back to the boat.
Our boat captain drove like a madman but despite his fast and furious driving skills, we saw the dive boats leaving as we headed back. We held out hope that the shark would still be there but even the birds were dispersing. We circled around, watched the birds flock together and followed them from place to place until 5 minutes later we saw more tuna jumping. Our captain gunned it, we headed for the tuna and then saw a big black fin pop up and go back down. He stopped the boat, we all jumped overboard but we were 3 seconds too late because only two people in the group saw a giant shadow of the shark as it descended into the deep.
By this point we had to get back to the shop to set up for the next dive. So, we piled back in the boat and headed back to the shop chattering about whale sharks and whether it counted as a sighting to have only seen a fin.
The 11:30 dive only had 2 people signed up and I got on it just in case the shark was still out there. Da Bull chose a dive site close to the shark sighting and 4 of us went out. We had a lovely chill dive until the very end during our safety stop when we heard our boat motor gunning above us. Our captain pulled a donut over our bubbles, put a tank in the water and smacked it and Da Bull looked at me, smiled around his regulator, stretched his arms out wide and then put his hand on his forehead like a fin.
The second our 3 minutes were up we broke the surface and our captain said “Shark. Hurry.” We jumped in the boat and saw giant splashes of tuna on the horizon. As he slowed down the boat, right in the middle of the splashing fish, Cindy looked off the side of the boat, shrieked and pointed about 10 feet away “Right there! Right there!”
Just under the surface of the water was a giant black shadow. I slipped off the side of the boat, put my face in the water and the most massive thing I’ve ever seen in the water slid right towards me. Easily 30 feet, almost 3x the length of our boat, his body was black with yellow spots and I couldn’t have put my arms around even half of his head. He slowly, quietly swam towards me with his giant head and mouth stretched into a smile, then about 5 feet away he dipped down underneath me and I turned and watched as he sailed right away from us.
I looked at Da Bull and we shot through the surface as he shook both fists in the air “Yes!!! That was Awesome!!” I couldn’t even catch my breath I was so stunned and awed. I’ve never seen anything so quiet or so massive in the water in my whole life. Cindy shrieked, Elizabeth’s eyes were massive as she said “He smiled right at me and I thought, if he opens his mouth I’m going right in it!”
We came back to the shop and I wrote my facebook status:
Kaitlyn Barrett is WHALE SHARK! WHALE SHARK! WHALE SHARK!!!
Awesome. Amazing. Chevere. Never seen anything like it.