Diani Beach, Kenya February 19/02/2012
Our annual whale shark tagging expedition took off with a splendid start yesterday. We had 9 people onboard, all equally excited and hoping to see (and maybe swim) with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. We had been out about an hour waiting for the micro-light airplane radio to crackle with the words “whale shark!” Instead Volker Bassen, the expedition leader got a phone call from a fishing boat nearby, they had spotted a whale shark. It took us about 15 minutes to reach the spot (cruising at 35knm , an experience not to be missed!) but by the time we reached the fishing boat, the shark had dived! Volker contacted the plane to come and help us find it but just as he put down the radio, he shouted “whale shark, straight ahead of us!”
It was an awesome sight; one of the biggest whale shark ever seen off Diani beach suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere and came straight towards the boat. There were a lot of sardines around the boat that seemed to attract the shark. Everyone put on their masks and fins in record time and jumped overboard while the whale shark decided to stick around, maybe to check out these strange creatures. We managed to swim with this gentle giant for about 15 minutes before it finally dived deeper and disappeared. By this time the micro-light airplane had reached us and it didn’t take more than 10 minutes before the boat radio started crackling “whale shark, 11 o’clock, 200 meters from you!”
It was the same whale shark and once again it seemed as if the whale shark wanted to check out who these strange creatures were, this time it stayed with us even longer, at one point the shark even touched the boat! After about half an hour the shark left us again and disappeared into the deep blue.
After a short time, the plane again spotted the shark and guided us directly towards it. This time Volker wanted to tag the shark with an identification tag (K009) but every time we approached it, it just dived deeper, making it impossible to tag. We did managed to get some great photos however, these photos will help us to identify this particular shark, because all whale sharks have different patterns and spots, just like the human fingerprint.
As we started cruising around, looking for the whale shark, Volker suddenly shouted “turtle, straight ahead!”. We came closer and saw that it was a dead hawk-bill turtle (probably drowned in one of the many fishing nets according to Volker) to our surprise we saw something sticking out from the top of the shell. “It’s an antenna from a tag! We need to get it!” said Volker.
Michael, the expedition rescue diver, dove in and tried to get the tag off the turtle without success until one of the clients dove in as well. Together they managed to get the tag but as they climbed into the boat there was a very unpleasant pungent smell surrounding them, dead turtle doesn’t smell nice, let me assure you!
So expedition 2012 is well underway!!