Monday, 20 June 2011

The Whale Sharks

We were a little concerned as we started out our day with an early departure at 7am from the caravan park. The guides were quite upfront in telling us that the weather was not great and that when we got out, if the wind didn’t improve there was a very real possibility that we may not even continue and if we did continue we may not see any whale sharks.

It’s a bit disappointing, but as we knew they are wild creatures and not at our beck and call so what would be would be. It was pretty rough and we all had to have a trial snorkel to test our gear and to ensure we were able to cope with the conditions. No pressure! So we made sure we looked confident, even though it was a lot harder than our two previous tame sessions at Turquoise Bay which probably lulled us into a false sense of security.

We had heard from some other campers at the park that on the previous day they had to wait 5 hours to see any sharks and even then only one so we were not exactly filled with a great sense of optimism. We enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee and investigated the onboard toilet, lucky its small or you could fall over, so we vowed to reduce the intake of liquid.

Suddenly a shout went up “Manta Ray” and we were into our gear like well oiled machines. At the given command of “go, go, go” we were off to see a giant manta ray up close and personal. It was fantastic and they are incredible creatures as they travel effortlessly through the water and oblivious to us. It was wonderful and we all clambered back with Suey looking somewhat undignified, that being a very good reason for not buying the reveal all video!

We all agreed that even if we didn’t get another opportunity we had had a great time and had nothing to complain about. We were then served a lovely lunch which we were enjoying as the spotter plane worked hard overhead. This is no small operation and there are a lot of overheads and charges which we now understand add up to the costs to everyone. Then unbelievably up went the shout “whale shark”. Stuff lunch we can have that anytime, whale sharks we can’t have again, so down with lunch into the bin and into our gear as we waited impatiently for our boat to get into the correct position. There are very strict protocols which we are briefed on a number of times. It is quite obvious that all the operators want this to be a sustainable industry and that they are deeply committed.

Only ten people are allowed in the water at any one time from the boat and we were divided into two groups. Ian and I were in the first group in and it was spectacular. We were able to snorkel alongside this fantastic creature from about 4 metres away, if you could keep up that is! With the clarity of the water you had a very detailed look at the 7 metre long Whale Shark which the crew were very excited about at as this was longer than they had seen for a while. We were so lucky. In no time our appointed 10 minutes were over and we made our way back onto the boat to enable the others to have their time. Back on board there were high fives all ‘round as we shared what we had seen.

As we were on a faster boat than many out today (and to our good fortune at the right place at the right time, as others had to come from the other end of the watch area) we had arrived at the site quite quickly and then as luck would have it we were given another opportunity and back in we went for another look. It was more than we could have hoped for. After we left the site the whale shark retreated to the lower depths and the other boats which arrived shortly after we had finished, missed out. Their whole day was possibly over then as they waited patiently for it to resurface whilst we proceeded back to the beach.

On the way back a whale emerged and breached within our sight.  What a way to finish the day.

In case you have the opportunity, check out  . I guess if we had a bucket list, this could well have been on the top! But, boy  are we tired and sore tonight now we are back!
We have some photos taken today and will have to wait to get the underwater camera photos developed. (Great hint Julie!)

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