Saturday, August 21, 2010
Whale Shark Adventure
Dramamine? Check. Biodegradable sunblock? Check. Underwater camera? Check. Ready to rock, ready to get in the water with the biggest, most gigantic, most incredible creatures of the sea. Some of you may remember my attempt to swim with whale sharks from last year, a day full of seasickness and near disappointment. This year I was much better prepared for the adventure, took anti-seasick pills the night before and the morning of, got to bed super early, ate bananas, took vitamins, drank ginger tea, following every recommendation I could find to avoid being seasick. (Last year was the one and only time in my life I had EVER been seasick and I was not going to have a repeat). I was up and out the door early, glad to see clear blue skies and no wind.
I'd been following the whale shark reports closely this year, anxiously awaiting the day I would be paying them a visit. The sharks had come a little late, but when they arrived, they arrived in great numbers and much closer to shore than in past years. I was almost panting with excitement when the day came for me to hit the sea, I'd read reports of hundreds of sharks congregating together! When we arrived at the Punta Sam docks, I was happy to see a calm, almost glass-like ocean, hurrah! We sat through our orientation (no touching the sharks, only two swimmers at a time, don't get whacked by a tail) and made our way to the small boat.
There were only eight people in our group, plus our expert guide and crew. The guide was as excited as we were, he told us it had been a spectacular year for the adventure and he was looking forward to a great day. We sailed along, going out past Isla Mujeres, the captain chattering on the radio. He got a big smile on his face, other captains had found the pod and it was very close by! About 45 minutes after leaving the dock we saw a group of boats gathered, we had arrived. (After last year's 2 1/2 hours to find a couple of sharks, this was indeed a treat).
We saw our first shark and squealed and oohed and aahed, this gentle spotted creature was huge! Then another, and another, and another! Even the guide was impressed, he guesstimated in a quick count that we were in the midst of 150 to 200 whale sharks! It was time to get in the water and we were more than ready. I made my jump, adjusted my mask and snorkel and came face to face with my first shark. I think I got a mouthful of seawater as I gasped with joy. We swam alongside her, admiring her beauty (don't know why but I assign the female gender to all the sharks). The guide tapped my shoulder and there was another one coming up to our right. Tap tap, another one to the left. Tap tap, another one behind, all on the first jump! Back in the boat to give the next couple their turn. We were trying to find words to describe the moment, but all anyone could come up with was slack jawed "gah gah gah, ugh, oh, AMAZING". I lost count of how many jumps we had, there were so many sharks that we had unlimited opportunities to share time with them. Compared to last year's "one and done", this was a truly surreal experience. If I didn't know better, I would have suspected that Disney had set the whole thing up and these were actually animatronic creatures, it was just that perfect.
After countless jumps, everyone had had their fill and it was time to go. The captain had a hard time manoeuvring the boat out of the area, everywhere we turned there was a whale shark. We eventually got out, made our way to Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, dropped anchor and enjoyed a swim and some fresh ceviche made by the crew. It was refreshing and I was able to get most of the fish eggs out of my hair (the reason the sharks were so close to Isla is that the "bonito" fish were spawning so the water was full of their eggs, as was my bikini and scalp). I chatted with the tourists that were on our boat, they all agreed that this was one of the best days of their life. I turned to the guide and said "This was better than sex!". Being male, he had to disagree at first, then he looked pensive for a moment before saying "Hmm, on a day like today, you just might be right".
(See my whole set of whale shark photos and you can also book your own swim with whale shark adventure!)
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