When it comes to sharks, the great white tends to get all the headlines, and normally for the wrong reasons. From a diver’s point of view of course, they are not normally very high up the list of creatures you want to swim with! The same however cannot be said for the whale shark, which features high up on many divers list of must do aquatic activities. The whale shark is a beautiful and magnificent creature, and so for those of you looking for a bit more information, here are a few things you might not have realised about these amazing creatures:
Biggest Fish in the Water!
If you want to swim with something big, then this is the fish for you! The whale shark is recognised as being the largest fish in the ocean, with the largest ever measured coming in at just over 41 foot! That’s something you don’t see every day! To really understand their sheer size, you simply have to see one in the flesh.
Do You Know Where to Find Them?
Most inexperienced divers would expect the answer to be in the deep blue, but the truth is a long way from this. In actual fact, whale sharks are more commonly found at the surface of the water, and you’re just as likely to encounter one with a good old fashioned snorkel and mask as you are with deep sea diving gear. The best locations to find whale sharks are in warmer waters, with Honduras, Thailand, and the Red Sea known as good locations
Are They Dangerous?
People hear the word shark, and they immediately conjure up an image of a man eating, blood thirsty creature lurking in the depths. Whale sharks are filter feeders, and generally docile creatures to boot. This means that they love nothing more than swimming up and down near to the surface of the water, picking up plankton and nothing more. They are not considered dangerous to people, and have long been associated with divers. There have been isolated incidents of people almost being sucked into the giant mouths of these creatures, but no directly caused deaths have ever been reported (they have no teeth for a start!).
How Close Can I Get?
Whale sharks, as already mentioned are considered to be docile creatures, and remarkably, there have been reports of people catching a ride with Whale sharks! Naturally conservationists do not recommend touching the sharks, but it’s widely regarded that you can safely get as close as you feel comfortable, with the necessary safety requirements in place and other divers around you.
How Well Do We Understand These Creatures?
The answer to this is not that well. It is not clear exactly how whale sharks reproduce given that mating or pupping has never been observed. It is not considered at all likely that divers will be able to witness anything like this, and is assumed that mating takes place away from the surface. There is an understanding of how birth takes place, with female whale sharks carrying around 300 pups.
This creature really is a wonder of our waters, and it’s no surprise that plenty of people harbour ambitions of diving with them. All we ask is that the creature is respected, and there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t enjoy immensely the rare and joyous experience of swimming with these mighty creatures of the sea.