Jan 082013


whale shark underwater photo

Diving with a whale shark

I’m not a great Story teller, never have been. But what do you do when you have a great story to tell? Do you let it slide, keep the memories to yourself, or do your best, and let it all out? After all, what can possibly go wrong?

My story goes back to 2001. I was working at a small dive center at Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras. I originally planned to visit the island for a few days, log some dives and carry on, but it quickly turned to be a 2 months Divemaster Course, then working for a few months, Instructor course and on and on as my passion to diving only accelerated since. Back to the story, a few months after completing my Divemaster course I was called to replace one of my mates who worked at a resort which was owned by the same owner as my Dive Centre.

Working at my Dive Center , our clientele was mainly composed of young backpackers and was a lot of fun, but since the resort’s guests were spending a bit more, they were offered a lot more in return.

It was early July, the weather was hot and the sea flat and “Oily” as the locals like to describe. These are perfect conditions for Utilas most famous visitors- the magnificent Whale Shark– world’s largest fish. My job was easy and I have done it many times before; cruise around from the resort to the north side of the island, dive a couple a dives and come back for lunch, before diving one last dive later that day.

I was standing at the front, chatting to a few of my customers, when we started seeing the first “boil”. A boil is basically a massive school of fish- Bonitas, which are small Tunas, on a feeding frenzy. the Feeding is so hectic its seen from afar as if the water is boiling, as -the fish are jumping out of the water everywhere you look. It’s much more than that though; the place smells of fish, and the sky is clouded by sea birds chasing the unfortunate baitfish from above. We all got very excited and I started setting my 15 or so customers for a quick snorkeling encounter with a whale shark which can often be seen munching in the midst of the whole mess.

We sat there all anxious at the edges of the boat, wearing fins’ masks and snorkels, but no whale shark in sight. Just when we were about to give up, I saw two massive parallel fins heading towards the boat and disappearing underneath it. “Manta Ray” I said -” Jump In!” no one does.” what’s wrong with you people – there are Mantas in the water!”

I looked at my captain with disbelief, and then nodded sideways suggesting I will check it out if no one will. Captain says fine. I jumped in the water. at first I saw nothing but the big blue- but pretty soon I saw one, then one more, and another, and before I popped my head to scream in amazement I was surrounded by no less than seven Mobila Mantas who seemed very curious to see who I was. The Mobila Mantas are the small relatives of the Giant Manta ray and are rarely seen in these waters, so it was a huge surprise for as all, and turned out to be too much for anyone to refuse , as the whole boat joined me pretty soon, but those few moments alone with those magnificent gentle giants were something I’ll never forget.

As I mentioned before, we were actually on a way to the dive site, so we swam back to the boat and headed up north. It wasn’t long before we came across with another ocean treat. Most of the divers were still reorganizing their Fins and masks or drying out when a 50 member’s strong Bottlenose Dolphins pod decided to join us and surf on the boat’s waves. We managed to stop and swim with them for a while. There are very few more exciting and mesmerizing things in life than being that close to wild creatures.The bottlenose Dolphins are pretty large and as this pod had no young calves, they showed a lot of curiosity and confidence and swam right next to as for quite some time. As I was pretty tired from the previous swim I started swimming back towards our boat, leaving my customers in the water for some more dolphins playtime. I was about 10m/30ft from our dive boat when I saw another boil of Bonitas right in front of me. Again, I couldn’t believe my luck as everybody else was to busy chasing Dolphins. I swam hard towards the boil when I heard Wagner- the boat captain screaming “Whale Shark!” It was right next to me, a small 20 ft giant, it swam right next to me and couldn’t care less. The whale shark opened its mouth to feed and it seemed so wide I could have easily fit myself in. The whale shark started descending only when everybody gave up on the dolphins to see it as well. We eventually saw it again, popping up for another go, and everybody had a big smile on their faces coming back from a swim with the giants.

When we finally decided to move on we couldn’t believe what time it was, it was nearly noon and we have spent the last 4 hours in the middle of the ocean. I have never seen diver so happily giving up on their second dive of that day.

It was my first and last day at the resort, but I’ll never forget that day at work. The day the giants came to say hello.

It was an experience I have never though possible; can you blame me for still living up my dream?

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