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WHALE SHARK!!!!

When a Great Dive Becomes AMAZING!!

For me every dive is good, some are great and then there are the amazing dives. It doesn’t have to be that the visibility is astounding, or we see something huge, some of my amazing dives involve seeing my favorite nudibranch or a small octopus. But, if truth be told, there is at least one creature in the oceans that guarantees me a truly incredible and amazing dive, and that is a Whale Shark, the largest fish in the sea.

Sometimes however, it is not easy to get a guest as excited as we are at the prospect of seeing one, seeing their faces turn to utter horror at the words “shark” and “largest”. In fact some instructors have begun altering it to Whale Fish in order to calm the nerves of those who do not know what to expect. But one thing is for sure, no matter who you are, no matter where you are from or how many dives you have had or even how many times you might have seen one of these incredible creatures…. you will be wow’ed!

There are truly no words to explain it when you first see this behemoth of a fish glide right past you. Sometimes it can be mere inches away but you are completely unawares, only to turn and gasp at it’s sheer presence.

Whale shark at Sail Rock

Whale shark at Sail Rock

Past Experiences

I have had the opportunity to dive with whale sharks on multiple occasions thanks to my time diving here in Thailand. But there are 2 occasions that truly stand out.

#1 During my time training as a divemaster I had to return with one guest who had sucked his air faster than his companion, so while the instructor continued with her I began the ascent with him. It was a rare occasion where the visibility meant you could barely see 1meter / 3feet. I gingerly followed along Sail Rock knowing that the boats were “parked” above the chimney which started at 6m/18ft, so I followed the rock at this level keeping the guest close at hand. Suddenly a vertical thermocline created a 2m/6ft, swathe of crystal clear water, rather disorientating to enter after concentrating so hard on finding the chimney. At the precise time I entered from my side, a ginormous, vacuum cleaner type mouth, emerged from the other side. It took me a few milli-seconds to realise it was a whale shark and not something out of a sci-fi horror flick, and quickly hugged the rock in order not to touch it, indicating the guest should do the same. I swear we had to suck in our guts in order for it to get passed, it was that close. At the end of the dive we were the only ones to have seen it, a truly unbelievable experience… it’s not everyday you very nearly french kiss a whale shark.

silhouettes...

silhouettes…

#2 This was the dive that made me realise I might want to pursue becoming an instructor. It was my final dive after completing my Divemaster before leaving the island. We had a group of 6 Spanish and one of them was terribly nervous having quit barely 10min into the first dive. We decided on the 2nd dive that I would remain with her at a shallow depth while the instructor would take the other 5. We remained at barely 6m/18ft for the beginning of the dive until I heard the tell tale banging of tanks indicating something cool, another diver gave the “whale shark” signal and pointed the direction. It was the 4m/12ft, juvenile that had been around the boats for a week or so. Somehow, I just knew where it was heading and began slowly manoeuvring my diver closer and a little deeper till we got to a small pinnacle about 9m/27ft deep. Within seconds of us getting into position the whale shark changed direction and swam directly over us, enjoying the feel of our bubbles on it’s belly. It was so close we could have touched it (which of course we were careful not). After that I could not get her out of the water, she wanted to see everything, experience everything, and near the end even attempted to chase down the whale shark to get closer. She was so happy and excited at the end of the dive attributing the entire phenomenal experience to me… it made me feel fantastic and realise that showing people the undersea world might just be something I wanted to do permanently…

This wasn't our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

This wasn’t our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

Most Recent Encounter

It was nearing the end of September and whale sharks had only been sighted once or twice near Sail Rock, but we knew they were in the area. Most of dives up until this day had been Discover Scubas or courses, not giving me the luxury of diving for fun and being able to look around or carry my gopro. On this day I had an advanced fun diver, so not only was it going to be a fun dive but she did not require tons of attention but instead preferred just a guide.

News of the whale shark quickly spread and we all got in the water excited at the prospect of seeing it. It lived upto it’s reputation and swam above us for half of the first dive at about 14m/ 45ft.

On the second dive we descended over East Pinnacle, a pinnacle that sits just a few kicks from Sail Rock at approximately 17m/55ft below the surface. We dropped down and started exploring, the only divers at the time. Glancing at something over my shoulder I saw the whale shark suddenly emerge from behind us, he swam around us and descended. We were so excited and when other divers approached I was thrilled to give them the whale shark symbol and, as if on cue, he appeared again circling us and in general making our day.

Selfie with a whale shark.

Selfie with a whale shark.

They are truly phenomenal creatures, the largest I have ever had the honor of swimming near was a juvenile of maybe 5m/16ft, I can’t even begin to imagine an adult of 10m/32ft….

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Farewell Leipzig :( Hello Nettetal :)

11th December 2011

Morning Pastries

Today was another farewell day, I would be moving on towards the town of Cologne and another friend that I met in Coral Bay, Australia. Cathleen told me to sleep in and went out to buy us some fresh bread and pastries for breakfast. No better way to start the morning than German Pastries and coffee with a good friend.

Rideshares and Directions

We had managed to find me a rideshare to close to Cologne where Nadine lived and they were picking me up at noon. We packed and clean and got all sorted just in time for the rideshare to call and say they were running late. Well, they were a bunch of students who had come down for a party…

I called Nadine to let her know and get directions, it turned out she lived almost an hour from Cologne, but had used that town as it was the only one that was well known. She lived in a town near the Dutch border called Nettetal. Being a little irritated with life in general I got a wee bit frustrated. Cathleen, in her usual wisdom, told me it would be fine and all work out.

The rideshare arrived and I was suitably impressed by the very swanky car, not bad for students. Even had a seat warmer. I was given the front seat and after a tearful goodbye it was time to say farewell to a very good friend. Can’t wait to catch up again soon.

Soon we were on the road and chatting about what they were studying and my travels. I tried to call Buddha on and off but kept getting the network down message. (Maybe that was the one day the network really was down and the one time he wasn’t lying to me…maybe). Anyway we organised with Nadine to meet us at an offramp just outside of Cologne, and after missing the ramp the first time we finally found it.

Part of the Family

It was great to see Nadine again. We had met the first week or so in Coral Bay, she was part of my German Contingent, a running joke as our group was about 6 parts Germany, 1 part Bavarian and me and it seemed that with every one that left another German joined.

We caught up on the hour drive to her sister’s house where she lived, I felt really bad that she had come all this way to pick me up. Sometimes life surprises you with the kind of friends that are happy to go out of their way to be there for you. I had just left one such friend and was realising I had another one sitting next to me. No matter what curve balls life might throw at me, its good to know that occasionally it tosses me someone who has my back.

I was welcomed as part of the family by her sister Yvonne and her husband and 2 kids and nephew. They also had a couple of goats, sheep, a shetland pony with an attitude and 2 large dogs. It felt so welcoming and everyone was excited to meet me. The teenage boy had given up his room and Nadine and I shared it.

Well dinner was cooking I went to take my stuff upstairs and found it had already been taken for me, too cool. I sorted out my stuff and checked some email, I was still feeling very unsettled and stressed and wished I could talk to Buddha as it had been a few days, all I could do was email him and hoped he would reply. (Of course now I see that was wishful thinking as it turned out the girl he was living with had told him to stop stringing me along and he was beginning to listen to her).

Heading downstairs I felt comforted by the fabulous family dinner and all the chaos that came with it. More adventures await in the morning.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Lima Day 6 – String Glorious String

Jan 11th 2011

Did not sleep very well, too much going on in my head, probably didn’t help that Fernando fell asleep with his iPod on and the faint sound from the headphones filtered through the walls. Add to that my blisters from my sandals started itching badly so then I had to root around in my med kit to find the cortisone cream… if its not one things then its another.

Volunteer in Pisco???
I was meant to leave for Pisco today for a week of volunteering, but received an email yesterday saying they no longer had space and would only take volunteers for 2 weeks. I was a little annoyed but what can you do. We decided to change my ticket to spend more time in Cusco (which turned out to be a fabulous turn of events).

String!!!!
We had a fairly relaxing morning and then headed out to the Historical District to look for the string I use for making jewelery, Katia had given Fernando precise directions. Not only did we find it but it was only 7 soles (about $2.15 US) for about a 100m roll. I bought 5 and need to buy more. Fernando said he would be my string dealer and send me some when I need it.

Chinatown
There was a big commotion in the main square as the changing of the guards proceeded, apparently it was a special ceremony but no one could tell us much about it. Wandering towards Chinatown we picked up some street food on a stick, Fernando got heart and I got chorizo sausage, delicious. In Chinatown there was a big Peruvian guy harrassing an old Chinese guy begging for money, he was acting all tough guy (obviously making up for something). Fernando gave the beggar some money and very loudly chastised the big guy.

Ticket Change
After a quick but delicious lunch we grabbed the metro bus to Miraflores to change the ticket. The Metro buses are the new fancy big buses that will eventually replace the small buses that have no time table, careen through the streets like crazy and are generally a health hazard (all be it amusing to ride). We were able to change my ticket for only a $30 charge to leave in 2 days (13th), giving me 6 days longer there. It also means the possibility of visiting other places close by like Lake Titicaca.

Going Solo
Fernando headed off and left me to sort things out on my own. Found an internet cafe and wrote a blog entry, then headed to the main square. Then returned to the internet cafe to pick up my book I had left. I am telling you one day I will forget my brain somewhere.

Kennedy Park/Cat Park
As I returned to the main square I noticed a cat in the park, then another and another. As I was taking a picture some locals gestured for me to head around the back of the church. Low and behold there is an entire community of stray cats that are cared for by local groups and the city. They have beds, get food, and are quite calm around humans. Kids regularly walk up to them and drag them around, they seemed totally unphased. In the park they will walk and just plop down in the middle of the walkway and people have to walk around them. I also noticed a large absence of bird life in the park

Flying Dog Hostel
At 5.45pm I had set up a meeting with a hostel owner to look around his hostel and potentially get a link exchange for Bootsnall.com (an independent travel site I do occasional work for). the hostel was great and the owner was very proud of it. I mentioned I was heading to Cusco and he offered me a discount to stay at his hostel there. Little did I know that that hostel would turn into home away from home.

Heading Home and Dinner with Friends
Grabbing a bus back home, feel almost like a local, I headed back. the bus got super crowded and I gave up my seat for an older gentlemen. When I got off and walked across the street with a family we all nearly got hit by a taxi zooming past. We all laughed and they intimated how you had to suck you butt in when ever you cross the road.

Fernando showed up an hour later with the first of some friends who were coming for dinner and we went to shop for food. Or rather his friend and I walked behind Fernando and carried everything he passed to us. His friends were from when he was a young boy and they had a really close bond. Around 1am I went to go pee and ended up lying down and falling asleep, they all seemed to be having a very intense conversation downstairs anyway.

All in all another great day!

Stay tuned as things get emotional and we attempt another impromptu Spanish lesson.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima day 5 – solo adventure and museums

Jan 10th 2011

Today Fernando has a business meeting out of the city and so I have the whole day to keep myself occupied. I decide that it is time to step out on my own and test my skills on local transport. Heading out to the appropriate curb I grab a bus heading to Miraflores so I can meet up with Katia and see her shop. Fernando had instructed me to catch the green, red and white bus to Barranco. However, I recognised the name of Chorillyos and knew it was after Barranco, after quickly checking with the guy if they head to Miraflores I jumped on.

The small local busses that you just grab on the side of the street have a ticket taker come intense collector of passengers. These men and women ride half hanging out of the bus announcing the destination and trying to encourage folks to ride their bus. In between these techniques to attract new customers they wander around the bus jingling change and collecting the fair. It is all rather amusing.

The ticket taker on this bus kept giving me encouraging winks (at least thats what I am going with) and when a guy came and stood right in front of me he tried to make the guy move so I could see. The guy didn’t but I appreciated the attempt. After about 30min I finally recognised the big circle and bus stop and hopped off. What a relief. After a quick call to Katia she came and met me.

Her store is fantastic, with lots of cute and …. interesting stuff made by local young designers. The best was still Katia’s jewellery and I really want to buy a pair of her earrings. We hung out at her store as she worked on updating the inventory and price stickers for the new year. Around noon we walked over to a chifa (small chinese restaurant) and met Danny for lunch. But first, bless her heart, we had an icecream, she is a girl after my own heart.

We had the ever present Inka Kola and pork/veggies and crunchie noodles. Very filling and delicious. Walking back to the bus stop I hopped on the next bus and headed home.

I had hoped to get some laundry done, but when I got back to the house, Fernando’s mom was there and I could tell she was really busy so didn’t want to ask. Instead I decided to head to the museum she had recommended. As luck would have it, Fernando’s dad was heading out the door so gave me a ride.

Larco Museum:

The museum was amazing, very well laid out and not overwhelming. The exhibits were inset into a black wall and so the lighting was perfect. They even had a small room with a library and free internet (at least I assumed it was free). There was a room for what I can only assume was the overstock, glass case after glass case of pottery all sorted into sections. It just blows your mind.

Fernando’s parents had told me there was also an Erotica exhibit of Inca pottery (which was a little weird having them telling me to check it out). It turned out to be almost hidden away with the lights off. As you enter the lights come on section by section. I had thought this was because of children, but according to Fernando it is due to the prudish nature of the catholic religion. Lets just say the Incas left little to the imagination and one could get quite hot under the collar.
WARNING SENSITIVE PICTURES BELOW

Once I was all done there I headed home and decided to just walk the 15 blocks hoping to come across a bakery I had seen on the way. I didn’t find the bakery but just when I decided to have an icecream from one of the guys selling them on bikes, there were none to be found. Go figure. By the time I got home I was exhausted and crashed for 2hrs. Fernando came home around 10pm and we watched “Descent 2”, stupid scary, but amusing all the same.

Stay tuned for further adventures through “cat park”, more new friends and string glorious string.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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So this is me and my crazy plan!

This is me! And I am about to start an adventure of a lifetime, round the world and volunteering. Now most might think “well that’s great, go for a few months see the world, all young people should experience that before settling down”. However I am not your usual “young person”. I turned 33 yesterday and bought my ticket for the first leg this afternoon.

Now some might think this is an early mid-life crisis, but you would be mistaken. I have been thinking and dreaming of this for many years, but had to come to grips with not only the reasons for doing it but also the guilt of not doing what a responsible 30-something should be doing.

When the dream started a few years back it was me wanting to run away, not knowing where I fit in, not feeling American (I am an immigrant from South Africa) and yet not feeling part of my homeland either. Kind of a world citizen I guess one would say. Add to that, a feeling of guilt and pressure (most likely my own imagination) every time I left to go travel, or explore. I mean, I could have put a down payment on a house instead of riding an ostrich or sitting in Angkor Wat or dancing with the ladies of Lesotho… isn’t that what every responsible young adult is supposed to do??

But then I remind myself that all my travels and explorations have been done on my own dime and I have never been at want for anything. It’s also helpful having the folks as a backup and to crash at theirs on occasion. Am presently saving money living with the folks and working as a vet tech. They give me cheap rent and I do chores. I think that’s a fair trade and should not be something to be embarrassed about.

So here I am, just bought my ticket to Peru, trying to learn Spanish, figuring out what shots I need, and how to get visas, all well trying to stay sane enough to enjoy the process. I hope you will join me on my voyage of discovery, and help me prove that you don’t have to be 20-something to see the world!

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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