Friday, August 6, 2010

Whale Shark Day!

It was supposed to be our last survey with the 5 weekers. As always our skipper drove the GVI boat out of the bay. A few other dive centers visited Bay Ternay, too. As we made our way to the north-west side of the bay, a skipper on another boat shouted the words “whale shark, whale shark”.

Whale shark? Can that be true?

The skipper pointed to the Lighthouse and immediately we followed his advice. As we reached the corner where the small white lighthouse sits on the rocks, everyone observed the sea surface to see the shark fin coming out of the water. A big shoal of fish was the first indicator. The staff members and EMs were totally excited. It became busy on board. Fins on, snorkel and mask in position! And then we had to wait.

Was there really a whale shark out there? In our bay?

Someone screamed. There was it, the blue shark fin, right next to the fish. We stopped the engines not to disturb the shark and a few of us jumped into the salty water. There were a lot of jellyfish around the boat but no one seemed to notice. We had to swim to the shoal of fusiliers. Even seeing them was great. We waited; somewhere around here there must be the giant.

The guys on the boat shouted and there it was, the biggest shark on the world! It swam peacefully through the water, several pilot fish(yellow fish with black bars) accompanied the whale shark near the mouth and several other fish under the belly.

That was it, the first whale shark of our phase has marked the beginning of the whale shark season in the Seychelles. It was a small one, about four meters, a baby. Nevertheless it was faster than we were, a flick of the tail and it disappeared into the blue. Everybody was cheering and laughing at the sea surface.

We followed the shoal of fish and as if the shark knew that we wanted to see it again, it appeared once more. This time it came closer, so that we could look at the wonderful pattern on his back. It turned around, nearly hitting one volunteer. Of course, that would never happen. The shark descended down and we were able to take a few pictures.

Back on the boat, people were celebrating the first note on the whale shark slate. The others tried to see the shark again, but the boats came to close to the baby giant so that it swam away.

Nobody thought about diving after this amazing encounter. We came back into the bay, still celebrating our observation. Especially for the 5 weekers it was great to see a whale shark as it was their second to last dive in the Seychelles!

Back at the base people were totally freaking out because of the whale shark. The next divers made their way down to the bay hoping to catch a glimpse of the shark.

Surprisingly, the baby giant stayed in Bay Ternay. Therefore, survey number two was also canceled because of whale shark alarm. They had the opportunity to snorkel with the big fish for more than 30 minutes. As they came back, the whole base was in whale shark mood. Everywhere there were people talking about their experiences with the shark. It was an amazing day. Everybody was freaking out, the schedule became irrelevant and during the evening we admired the whale shark pictures. For some of us it was the first time seeing the gigantic shark. It truly was a day never to forget!