Friday, February 27, 2009

Whale Shark Photos!

In 2006, I traveled solo through Mozambique, and stayed for a while at a place called Tofo. Aside from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, this was the best SCUBA diving experience I've ever had.

Also in Tofo (a backpacker hostel haven), they had an excursion to see Whale Sharks, which were migrating through at the time. There isn't much known about the whale shark--it is a solitary, slow swimming creature. They know zero about its mating habits, or even where it finishes migrating. How can you help but feel love for the lonely whale shark?

The idea of the excursion was: a small boat would go out and look for a dark shape in the water. Once found * if found * we would slink into the water and snorkel around it. Of course, there was a good possibility the boat would not find a "dark shape" in the water, and the excursion would be a waste of money.

I was lucky.

Our guide spotted one off the bow and the three girls in the boat started to freak out. Now the Whale Shark is completely harmless. They are filter feeders, and don't even have teeth. But get a load of this creature. They are gigantic. And the shape is exactly the same as JAWS. The three girls were so petrified they refused to enter the water with it. The thing is that scary looking.

I got in with a Norwegian, who happened to have an underwater camera. He sent these pics of me with the shark. I swam alongside him as long as I could. At one point, I was pretty sure he winked at me. Hi buddy!

I'm doing an Egyptian pose to avoid touching it, and thus scaring it into swimming faster.
You can get an idea of its size, compared to me. I was told this specimen was on the smaller end of the size scale.

It swam, or more like lumbered along. Again, holding my leg to avoid bumping into him.
At one point, I took a deep breathe through the snorkel and dove underneath the whale shark. I looked up, and above me was this gigantic prehistoric leviathan shape.

It was one of the most awe-struck, magical moments of my life.


Eddie in OKC said...

I always love any opportunity to see you in little to no clothing ;)

Tony said...

Whoa Jesse!

The dude swims with sharks!

Those are spectacular photos. Look at the size of that creature. No wonder it was magical for you.
After seeing those pictures, I just had to go look up info on the whale shark.

The Florida Museum of Natural History has an informative online article with pictures. Here's the link:

The female bears live young vs dumping eggs on the ocean floor like lots of other fish.

The whale shark does have teeth, but they are not used for feeding. (An evolutionary puzzle?)
It also has tooth-like thingies called denticles on its outside skin, near its fins. Good thing you didn't touch the critter, Jesse.
Thanks for sharing the experience. Damn!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jesse,

It must have been exciting for you to swim with the sharks like that. I know exactly how you must have felt. I work on Wall Street for 7 years and for Leona Helmsley for 2 months.

But seriously, when is somebody going to hire you to host a travel show? You are a natural.

Your friend Jimmy

Don said...

Excellent experience - one I would love to have real soon!! You do live life to the fullest!!

Anonymous said...

Jesse, wow, you certainly do lead the most exciting life possible. If you ever are in Oslo, Norway, don't miss the ship museum. There you will find the Kon Tiki balsa wood raft that Thor Heyerdahl sailed from East to West across the Pacific on a theory that Polynesia could have been populated from the Americas. In the midst of the ocean, the raft floated over a whale shark. Heyerdahl and crew were stunned. They had no idea what it was and at first it was terrifying to them. I believe 60 years ago, there was practically no knowledge in the western world, that such a creature existed. If you have not read Kon Tiki, it is an amazing and exciting book. I am relying on my less than perfect memory if some of these facts are erroneous. Thanks for those photos. Movienut