Published: November 22nd 2010September 2nd 2009
September 2, 2009
At dawn, we awake to the sound of rustling, grab some coffee and get in our SCUBA gear. We climb into the Ponga boat and set off toward Darwin’s Arch.
We roll off the ponga backward, hit the water and once the bubbles clear, 70 to 100 ft visibility opens before our eyes. Schools of tropical fish are weaving in and out of the rugged volcanic rocks that have deep crevasses, perfect for the long, sharp toothed moray eels who watch closely as we settle down onto the reef. We drop down to the next shelf, 60 feet deep and we look out into the deep blue ocean. Then they begin to take form. First one, than another, Hammerhead Sharks gliding gracefully, deep in the water. Two turn and start moving upward over the lava rocks, covered with barnacles, straight toward me. I sit still, holding my breath as they draw near. 10 ft, then 5 feet, so close I could reach out my hand and touch their sleek, gray, muscular bodies but I don’t. They split and swim around me. I turn back to see an entire school, hundreds of hammerheads moving in one direction
from above and others moving the opposite direction coming from below. These are large animals, 6 to 7 feet long.
Moments later the shaker alarm goes off and our guide points into the deep blue. My dive buddies and I set out into the middle of the huge school of hammerheads. I think to myself, is this really a good idea? Then in the distance I see it, a 40 ft whale shark slowly swinging it’s long tail side to side. It is black and gray with white spots. Short of breath we catch up to the enormous creature as it begins to turn around. I am right at it’s tail fin, nearly 20 feet top to bottom, when I realize it is turning straight for me. I kick up to get out of it’s way and it glides right under me with a single flick of it’s tail. I swim hard to try to keep up when I realize there are 2 enormous sharks side by side. Beautiful and graceful they swing their tails and disappear into the blue.
September 3, 2009
We are sitting on the ledge at about 60 feet when the guides shake the
rattle and point up. At about 20 feet a fully grown, female, whale shark, at least 45 – 50 feet long, was swimming fairly slowly. I started kicking with all my might, swimming as fast as I could until I caught up with her. From near her pectoral fin, I summoned the courage to go up and over the shark to the other side. As I passed over I could see her rough skin, each white spot as big as my out stretched hand. Long gray lines reached from the head to the tail. As I swam over her body, in front of her dorsal fin, I noticed she was at least 2 of my body lengths wide. When I reached the other side I could see her eye, staring right at me. My friend Finny was gliding with ease, hovering above the nose. She reached for my hand and pulled me up until I could feel the force of the water sucking me down toward her enormous body. Drafting on the nose of a whale shark, my arms stretched wide, it took little effort. I felt like we were the only ones in the world sharing this moment with
On the nose of a Whale Shark
On our last dive at Darwin’s Arch we saw a young male whale shark only 15 feet long. Finny and I decided to follow it. We swam beside it for a while kicking, and kicking, trying to keep up with it. It was an adrenaline rush each time we saw a whale shark. We followed it until it grew tired of us tagging along and it decided to swing it’s tail sharp and hit me right in the gluteus maximus, then disappeared into the blue. The bruise lasted for several days. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
In all we had 8 dives at Darwin Island and we saw whale sharks on every dive, 18 in total. We also saw lots of turtles, Galapagos Sharks, Silky Sharks, White Tip Reef Sharks, hundreds of hammerheads, Spotted Eagle Rays, Dolphin, Manta Rays, Blue Footed Boobies, and much much more.
There are more photos below