Friday 29 June 2012

Wilderness Finale - The Whale Sharks

The Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the ocean.

It comes to the plankton rich waters of Western Australia to feast on the nutritous feeding ground here.

So very little is still known about this gentle giant, the largest one recorded was a mind blowing 18 metres long.

To be one of relatively few humans who ever have the opportunity to swim with them is such a privilege.

As it turned out, it was going to turn out to be one of the most amazing experiences in my life so far.

We rise at dawn and what a beauty it is. A beautiful day with perfect conditions on the water.

Whilst the spotter plane above searches for the Whale Sharks, there is plenty of time to relax. We marvel at sightings of Humpback Whales tail slapping and breaching around the boat and the Dolphins at play.

Once the call of "WHALE SHARK!" is boomed from the bridge, it is action stations. A frenetic scrambling of masks, snorkels and flippers ensues as we waddle like ducks and line up on the deck.

Everyone is buzzing with excitement and we all slip off the deck together, faces plunging eagerly into the water, eyes agog, heart pounding and..............

then you see it. If it was possible to squeal under water with a snorkel in your mouth, you really would. Everyone, takes in a huge intake of breath as this magnificent fish glides by barely noticing us.

It appears to be hardly moving but the pounding of my flippers through the waves tells me different as I cut through the water to keep up. The only word that is going through my head is WOW, WOW, WOW and I feel tears well up.

They are totally harmless and feed on plankton and small crustaceans by opening their mouths wide and filtering the food through.

No words can really describe how you feel. The experience itself is almost other worldly, dare I say even spiritual and certainly humbling. You are never more in the here and now than those moments you share.

We manage 5 incredible swims.

A little bit of me has been enriched, changed forever.

Back on the boat, we enjoy a sumptuous lunch. Everyone is quietly eating, eyes far away in a personal reverie, speechless and in awe.

A week later it is still sinking in. WOW, WOW, WOW.

ps. It was even worth getting stung by a jelly fish for!

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