Before I learned to scuba dive, I loved to snorkel. Then I learned to dive and haven’t been snorkeling since, until last week. Of all the experiences I have had underwater, this one rates right at the top: Snorkeling with Whale Sharks!
Whale sharks are the largest of the sharks in the ocean, topping out at around 10 meters long, (35 feet). They have huge mouths which they open wide to catch plankton and krill. They are by far the largest living fish (non-mammal) on earth. The whale shark doesn’t have teeth and is slow moving and harmless to humans.
Whale sharks have been hunted by humans and were fished in this bay (Bahia de los Angeles, Northern Sea of Cortez) until recently, when the fishermen turned to the tourist trade. It is much more lucrative for the villagers to conduct snorkeling tours of these beautiful animals than to fish them. This is a good thing for the whale sharks, as they have recently been placed on the endangered list.
There were many whale sharks out feeding when I was there, so I was able to interact with several of them. They are not to be touched, nor should you get close to them as they are very large, and have a powerful tail that can injure swimmers. I noticed that the large soft eye of one of these giants followed me and my camera. It slowed down and watched me for a while and I was simply mesmerized by the intelligence glowing behind that eye. I felt like I made a connection with the animal which was directly tied to my heart. At that moment, I fell in love.
This is an experience I will never forget, and hope to have again. The whale shark is an amazing and majestic animal and will surely remain at the top of my underwater experiences for a lifetime.