Opening Statement



Monday, 30 July 2012

Mexico Diary 3: Whale Sharks

July 23 2012

My cousin Don and I drove to the boat docks outside Cancun at dawn today. It looked like a very old resort area, maybe even a fishing village before that. A ramshackle fleet of seafaring craft bobbed with the waves. Each usually had two modern twin 150-250 hp motors in the back. There were a few magnificent  catamarans. The crews were busy getting ready to head out for deep sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, or perhaps just a cruise. Don and I had booked a trip off the coast out past the Island of Women to go swimming with the whale sharks, in one of the largest known aggregate gathering place for them in the world.

You may or may not have heard of whale sharks before. Swimming with the whale sharks is on some peoples' "bucket list". The Yucatan peninsula provides a huge feeding area for these denizens of the deep, who are rumoured to be able to dive up to 1286 meters below the surface. They are whale sized but actually members of the shark family. They do not breath air. They are typically about 9 meters long, weigh 9 tonnes, and are are a air filter feeding species.

Think of giant shark vacuum cleaners sweeping back and forth under the water, rising near the surface, with their huge mouths wide open sucking in all the plankton, algae, krill and possibly small fish. A diver got sucked into the mouth of one at our location last year, but managed to crawl out unharmed. Fortunately humans are not a part of their diet. I will not dwell on the stats, facts and figures, of which little is really known. For more info a quick wiki trip should help. You can visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark

I can't say swimming, or in our case snorkeling with the whale sharks is something I fear. I have been swimming, snorkeling and diving since I was very young. I've been bitten, scratched, chased by Barracudas, and caught in an undertow, I've swallowed a baby jelly fish once [not recommended], been swamped by waves, dived during a snow blizzard, and so on and so forth. I was ready for a good adventure. Truth be told whale sharks are relatively safe and I really feel alive in the water when I can swim with, or like the fish. Also I'd like some new underwater photos to update my blogspot. So off we go.

Our boat sailed out beyond the Island of Women and continued far into the open sea, somewhere over the horizon. There was no land anywhere in sight and it was a long ride. There was a small flotilla of ships and swimmers when we arrived, so we had to jockey for a spot. Soon enough the whale sharks were all around us. At any one time you could see the silhouettes and fins of at least half a dozen swim by. Here's how it works.

I'd sit on the side of the boat ready to dive in, when one was headed toward or past us. Then it's necessary to swim as fast as you can to catch up with it for photos and a good close up look. The whale sharks seem to just be obliviously going about their own way, doing their giant ocean vacuum cleaner routine. A 25 footer came up right underneath me. First time I have ever been bonked by a whale. As he continued on his way, I rolled mask over fins, tumbling down along his back, past the dorsal fin. Maybe he wanted me to grab on? We could go for a ride! I'd been told not to, it's not good for the sharks to be touched or something to that effect, so I didn't. I continued to slide down his back dodging the back and forth sweep of his huge tail fin. Floating upside down I continued to click photos as he swam out of view.

Two more came swimming past me, a few feet on either side, while I took more photos. Up close I could see their huge mouths, gills, fins and tail, up very very close once again. Torpedo shaped feeder fish trailed along it's under belly and sides, a common but quite fascinating whale shark sight.

It really was a major rush, and a darn good workout. My adrenalin was really pumping. It all seemed so unreal, but of course it wasn't. Surreal perhaps? No, the whale sharks were quite visibly there, all around me.
For awhile it felt like time had stopped, and all there was were the whale sharks, the sea and me.

My dive guide, Ancar was fabulous. Pretty, smart, competent, enthusiastic, and an excellent diver. Although we had to follow all the Mexican safety rules; wear wet suits, and no riding on the whale sharks etc., she also took me out for one last extra dive where we really pushed the envelop. Hooray for Ancar! If you go to the Mayan Riviera, check out the whale sharks! I usually don't do any commercial promos here on my blog, but for more info you can visit and even book excursions at: www.whaleshark-mexico.com


A whale shark up close during my dive! More photos are on the bottom left column below my blogs.

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