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Published: November 15th 2009
Ever since arriving in Belize, I have been bombarded with the propaganda of the Whale Shark. It’s such an elusive giant, it’s found in only a handful of places on our planet, and it’s migratory and reproduction habits are only guessed. But some things are known for sure, like each spring during the weeks of the full moon they visit the Belize Barrier Reef at Gladden Spit to feed on the spawning snapper’s roe. These majestic fish can grow up to 40 feet long and weigh over 20 tons, although they are usually only the size of a school bus. This wonder of the world is right here in our backyard, and we were not going to miss it!
Anne, Steve, their visiting daughter Katy, Aly, Zach, and Tyler and I all picked the 3rd day after the full moon of May to take our gamble at trying to spy the biggest fish in the sea, the great Whale Shark! I was mesmerized by the skies that morning, as you can see from my pictures! There were intense black storm clouds on both sides of us, and our captain was navigating a sunshine alley all the way out to the
reef! As usual, Belize showed her true colors as we approached the neon blue shallows and the cut in the reef out to the deep blue sea. I couldn’t wait to jump in the water! The regulations around the dive operations during whale shark season are pretty strict, and they only allow 3 boats outside the reef in 45 minute intervals. We waited our turn, then steered through the cut and started riding the six foot swells as we hunted our giant! The plan was to drop off the divers to 80 feet, and we would snorkel above them, all looking and signaling if we saw anything exciting! (I didn’t get to dive that day because of a head cold, but snorkeling six foot swells above the air bubbles of divers turned out to be just as fun!)
The swells were outrageous, and if you weren’t paying close attention to your buddy’s location, one rogue wave would separate you by 100 feet in an instant! We were snorkeling out in the deep seas - over 3000ft of dark blue nothingness lay beneath us and the feeling of insignificance set in quick. The only light was from brilliant streams of sunshine
cutting through the navy blue and our only guidance was the columns of millions of air bubbles expelled by the divers deep below us. Our first snorkel was without a whale shark sighting, but we still all gathered back in the boat exhilarated by the unpredictability of nature. We had a fantastic lunch on the boat, and went on a surprising snorkel about 50 yards behind our boat parking spot! The lighting was just right to capture the corals colors that day! Our second chance out at sea was hilarious - other boats kept signaling shark sightings and we would all jump back into the boat and try and chase them down! I think it was finally the third time in the water, and I’ll be honest, I was starting to think it wasn’t a Whale Shark kind of day. And then I saw him….a huge remora just like the one that was stalking me a few weeks before at Tobacco Caye! And I thought, that means there’s a huge .. shark .. right …. WHOA a 25 foot Whale Shark swam up from the depths below us and IT … WAS … HUGE !!! I was swimming as fast
as I could, but couldn’t keep up with him this time. After it was out of view, we all popped our heads out of the water and started exclaiming at once, “Wow! Did you see that! ? I want to see another one!?! That was amazing!!!” I couldn’t stop grinning for days - the size and majesty of the shark made me so proud to be a diver and underwater naturalist! And I couldn’t wait to buy some Whale Shark propaganda of my own!
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