Yesterday (Sunday, Mar. 14th) was a very special day. The wind lightened up so I could go out for the first time in a week. I also wanted very much to take my adopted grandsons, Antoine & Tristan, out to be with the Whale People one more time before they return to Quebec. Their mother Brigitte was ready as always to go too. The only problem was finding Vicente. Vicente parties “hardy” and Sunday morning is not his favorite time. I finally tracked him down and we got out at 10:00 am instead of the customary 7:30 am. Interesting how things work out as you will see.
After following our normal grid down to Punta Pescadero we began the return north in deeper water. Suddenly Vicente says, “what’s that?”, which is more often to get my attention than to seriously ask a technical question. It was a good-sized dorsal fin but I couldn’t make out the critter it belonged to.
Vicente then says, “Whale Shark, and a big one!”. Now I have been wanting to swim with a Whale Shark for the past 21 years. I knew they were around but had just never seen one. I got geared up (wet suit, mask, fins and snorkel) and Vicente put me in position to intercept. Funny thing was now that I think about it, as I was sitting on the gunnel waiting to bail over the side it never occurred to me to check if Vicente got his identification right!
Swimming out to him
The first attempt at intercept failed, he dove. In a bit he was up again and this time Vicente dropped me off right near him and I swam over to see him up close. All at once I was there, he was right under me and slowly surfacing….incredible sight! I was only a few feet from him and began swimming at a leisurely pace next to him. I dove down to check out his eye and then edged over to touch him, very much a Shark!! Skin like coarse sandpaper and a body of STEEL. What a beautiful creature, magnificent.
The mood was so mellow that as we came closer to each other I reached over and held on to his dorsal fin at the base to take a ride. What a “trip”!! He of course pulled me effortlessly; he was 98% muscle and 30’ long.
Reaching for the dorsal fin
After a little bit I think he got tired of pulling me and brought his considerably large tail around to give me a nudge but I backed off quick enough not to be hit. No aggression mind you, just a notice. I was as insignificant to him as the Remoras attached to his body.
Backing off from his tail
We swam together for a bit longer and then he causally disappeared into the depths. A thought came to my mind; if Vicente had not been late we would most likely have missed The Whale Shark altogether. The Great Mystery had once again gifted me.
Since writing this I have done some research on Whale Sharks and I believe it was not "environmentally correct" for me to have touched and then held on to this critters dorsal fin. I apologize to all of you who think that this is an OK thing for humans to do, it is not. I had no right to assume greater leeway in something like this. To swim with them is fine, to touch them is not.