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.
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.
#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…
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.
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….