Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Shark Summit


The first time I glimpsed the dots bubbling underneath the ocean on the left, I thought I was hallucinating. I had sailed a jerky, sun-scorching hour to get to the whale shark reserve of Isla Contoy on the Yucatan Peninsula and needless to say, I wasn't in the best mental state.  The dreaded sea-seasickness had kicked in and I wasn't sure if I was seeing things.


 When we set off at the crack of dawn for EcoColors Whale Shark Adventure, I didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect this Mayan warrior above, jumping and waving his talisman on the dock. I think he was wishing us vaya con Dios Americanos estupidos. It did not feel comforting but what did I know?


I was still smiling when I hopped on the boat, excited about this once-in-a lifetime experience. There are only two places you can see whale sharks in the world:Australia and Mexico. And I wasn't going to just see them, I was going to splash down right next to them and snorkel.


By the time we set sail and the ocean rippled and rocked our small boat, I was having tiny second thoughts. Whale sharks are the biggest fish on Earth, averaging 41,50 feet and 47,000 pounds. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to get all up in their face. Just at that point, the bubbles rose up to reveal a cluster of polka-dotted whale sharks, surrounding our boat. It was almost like they were inviting us to join them.


This baby whale shark floated so close that I could touch him. I slung on  my snorkel mask and jumped in, queasy stomach and all. Our naturalist guide led us to a small group of whale sharks, We were instructed not to swim in front of the sharks because their eyes are on the side and they can't see in front. We swam on the side of the speckled fish, which are part of the shark family but are a slow-moving, filter-feeding variety. They eat plankton, microscopic plants and small animals. I was assured that human morsels are not included in their diet, which is a good thing because they swam so close to me that they brushed up against my skin. Although they ballooned out hundreds of feet around me, they weren't menacing but playful, like dolphins. Unlike dolphins, whale sharks are classified as "vulnerable to extinction" on the World Conversation Union's Red List. I'm glad I endured the six-hour adventure, there are only about  2,500 whale sharks in Mexico and I snagged an up close and personal visit with quite a few of them.

16 comments:

Catherine said...

what an amazing experience - I am just going back into the sea after my stingray experience...looks wonderful - Greetings from the Riviera...

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, I had a stingray experience in Grand Cayman and it was unforgettable too. Get back into that sea, wish I could go with you!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A good whale shark picture. Excellent one of you.

Fly Girl said...

Jean-Luc, thanks. Mu underwater camera wouldn't work so this is the only shot I have.

Eng said...

Great info! I enjoyed this post, and many of the others you've been putting out

lately.

Fly Girl said...

Eng, thanks for dropping by.

Andrew Graeme Gould said...

What an adventure you had on this trip, Rosalind Excellent! series of images, too.

Fly Girl said...

Andrew, it was an adventure that I'll always remember and not just because of the sea-sickness!

katie said...

Man I envy you. And I mean that in the best way possible. (BTW, I get sea sick too. SO not fun.)

I love your beautiful photos. Here's to many more awesome adventures! It's funny, I'd never really "seen" a whale shark or heard much about them until I saw a report about them on Good Morning America this morning. And what do I read about tonight when I visit your blog? Whale sharks. :)

Fly Girl said...

Katie, I had never heard of them either until this trip. That's why travel is so great, it opens you up to experiences you never even knew about.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Scary and awesome in equal measure. I think I'm jealous, but I'm not quite sure! :)

Fly Girl said...

Rachel, i think that sums it up. It was scary and awesome at the same time.

Jennifer said...

Whale shark! That's awesome. What a great experience.

Fly Girl said...

Jennifer, it was certainly exciting. Thanks for dropping by.

Lily said...

Love it! Reminds me of my recent nurse shark experience...:-) Thanks for sharing! And I laughed at the Americanos estupidos...too funny!!

Fly Girl said...

Lovely Lily, I'm glad you enjoyed my humor!