Swimming with Senor Big!
The largest fish in the ocean, the whale shark, is also one of the most docile. I can’t imagine any other multiple ton animal that I would swim two feet in front of. What I mean is that I ‘ve been so close that I could reach out and stick my fingers in his 5 foot wide mouth! These monolithic dinosaurs have roamed the seas for millions of years as filter feeders scooping up huge mouthfuls of water and filtering plankton and small fish through their gills. If you get close to one while it’s feeding you can see the cascade of water being sucked in.
Getting up close and personal, you can also see a simply magnificent pattern on its back. This gigantic animal is camouflaged! Can you even begin what an animal this size would need to be camouflaged from? It has a beautiful dark back patterned with white spots. These spots are like fingerprints as each animal has a unique and personal pattern. Scientists are doing cutting edge research to identify and track these animals so we can better understand and protect them from illegal fishing. They are now using “trianglization” techniques of the spots like they do with stars. As the animal grows, the distance between the spots will change but the angles of the “constellation” of the spots remains the same. They are also counter shaded like other large pelagics meaning that they are light on the underside to camouflage them from the bottom and dark on the top so they blend in with the dark water as you look down.
The whale shark, Rhincodon Typus, can reach lengths up to over 50 feet! It is one of THE most exhilarating life experiences to be in the water with a whale shark. There are numerous places you can find whale sharks since they are circumtropical. However, they also are migratory so you find them in different places throughout the year.
One of the places in the world with the largest gathering of whale sharks is the small, laid back island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, just a 15 minute ferry ride from Cancun. Last summer alone the gathering numbered over 500 animals! The government has put into place protection measures so the animals are not disturbed or hassled. You can go by small boat out to the gathering area in the summer months and in groups of just two with a guide, you can snorkel with these giants of the sea. It is illegal to scuba dive with them.
Here is a link to a great video done by Blue Sphere Media.
Whale Shark Video
The sea holds some of the most amazing wildlife watching opportunities on the planet. Our company, Global Diving Adventures, aims to see it all! If you have an interest in going to see the whale sharks of Isla Mujeres, we are planning a unique adventure August 14th-20, 2011. This is a trip where you don’t need to be a diver to join us! We would love to have you come along! Email us for details and pricing at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you will be inspired to join us!
To Your Adventures!