12 Whalesharks and Breaching Humpbacks
Trip Start May 20, 2010
195Trip End Sep 05, 2011
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Day : 422
Temperature: : 27 degrees
Weather : Beautiful
Having driven back down from Tofo the previous night we were relieved to see that the weather had cleared and we were able to get out diving. The following morning we rose at the crack of dawn and headed down into town to Diversity Divers to get kitted up. The weather was beautiful and the sea was flat calm which was great...none of us fancied another bout of sea sickness.
We headed south to Kingfisher and Manta Point dive sites, but no sooner had we left the bay and we spotted a couple of huge dorsal fins in the water.......whalesharks!
Our dive guide urgently shouted to the back of the rib, "Quickly! Masks and fins on...get ready to get in the water!!" Frantically people were grabbing equipment and shoving feet into fins, faces into masks, and excitedly perching their bodies on the edge of the rib waiting for the all clear from the guide to get in the water.
20 Seconds later our guide shouted "OK, go go go!!!!" and the four of us slid gently into the water making as little splashing as possible. The water was pretty murky and the visability poor with a lot of debris and plankton....about 10 metres maximum. We all spread out...there were plenty whalesharks for everyone. Lifting our heads out of the water we could see a couple of whalesharks in one direction, a couple in another, several more further out, and the odd one on it's own. Wow! Wow! Wow! I could see an enormous dorsal fin coming straight towards me and putting my head into the water the mighty shape of the whaleshark became clear, swimming head on with it's huge mouth wide open sifting the plankton. What a sight! Such a huge animal, 12 metres long, it's enormous tail alone larger than ourselves....so majestic and graceful in the water, not giving two hoots about us being there and within a couple of minutes it had dissappeared off into the murky water again
We knew that this was special when our guides were getting excited about the situation before us. Normally boats will see only one or two whalesharks a day, sometimes none at all....so to have 10-12 on one day was spectacular. This was confirmed when we returned to the dive shop later that day and everyone was going nuts. According to the researchers based at Tofo, so little is known about Whalesharks. Most of the resident sharks in the area are all males, normally solitary animals, so to have them in a group like this is very unusual and happens only once or twice every year. Nobody even knows where the females are, or where the whalesharks go when they are not around or when they dissapear to breed. It's such a mystery. How lucky we were!
Our dives although pretty were fairly uneventful. We saw enormous potato bass about the size of a human, huge schools of goat fish, a turtle and beautiful moray eels
We did see a dorsal fin of a normal shark when we were back on the boat, but we were advised not to get into the water as their can be great white sharks in the area. Furthermore, many of the mantas have huge chunks taken out of their wings, having been attacked by something very large. Researchers believe these injuries to have been inflicted by large sharks, but nobody knows what kind of shark so it's all guess work. It is because of these injuries that the mantas come to these reefs, for the "cleaning stations". These cleaning stations are areas on the reef where tiny fish peck off dead skin and bacteria from the mantas injuries. The mantas glide in and around over the reef whilst the cleaner fish get to work, a symbiotic relationship where by the small fish get fed and the mantas have their injuries cleaned, allowing them to heal and prevent infection
On our last dive of the day we heard the distinctive noise of humpback whale song...can you believe it?! Looking around we couldn't see anything in the murky water. However, when Kevin and I resurfaced I went to speak to him and directly behind him only a hundred metres or so away, near the dive boat, I see the enormous hulk of a humpback whale breach the water! Three quarters of it's body in the air and a gigantic splash as it hits the water. You can imagine our reations! It continued to breach another three times, once it's entire body completely out of the water.......OMG, this was an AMAZING sight!
As we headed back to shore we were given a final treat when we spotted another humpback just a few hundred metres off shore, lying on it's side in the water, waving a pectoral fin at us in the air. Well, what an I say. We will definitely be back to Tofo! The only down side is the FREEZING water at 21 degrees, but hey, when you've got 12 whalesharks, breaching humpbacks and the odd giant manta, who cares?!