West Coast Mission: Day 12

Trip Start May 10, 2006
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Trip End May 09, 2008


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What I did
Swam With Whale Sharks. Incredible.

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, May 13, 2007

When I were but a wee bairn, much longer ago than I'd care to let on *narrows eyes at younger but by no means better looking friends* I liked reading books about dinosaurs and animals and sea creatures and stuff. I remember a particular photo in a book and the paragraph of text next to it. I don't remember the name of the book, just this segment, it was about a quarter of the page and it was a photo of a whale shark next to a diver. I even remember what some of the text said, it mentioned that an adult whale shark could easily fit two adult humans in its mouth but they were harmless filter feeders, eating only plankton and krill. And that's when I decided I wanted to swim with them.

About 20 years later and I was sat at a computer in a hostel in Echuca, typing "whale shark australia" into Google and 3 Islands Marine Charters came up along with numerous other companies that ran tours to snorkel with the world's largest fish at Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth. The best time to go was May, I was meant to be in New South Wales the following May and Emma didn't want to budge on that. Fortunately we split up a couple of months later and it was sealed; I was going to be in Exmouth in May 2007 and I was going to swim with whale sharks.
I was chuffed to pieces when the others decided they were going to do this with me, after all its not cheap and we were all on a budget, I'd been budgeting for this for months and so had Loody since I'd told her about it in Perth. It was kinda sprung on the others but they were up for it.
This was going to be amazing.
 
We were picked up from the campsite at 7.30am by Andy, the videographer, who greeted us with the words, "You're a lucky lot aren't you, getting a private charter!" It was only going to be us, the crew and enough food to feed a small army on board today. Andy had said to the lass who prepared the food that there were 5 of us, not 15. She said we'd looked hungry. Fuck I love my life.

Bless Andy, he tried to liven us up on the bus journey to the boat. He's actually quite funny once it's not 7.30 anymore and you've been fed but until then his enthusiasm and banter was more likely to get him maimed or killed. We stopped to pick up Kelly, the divemaster whos job it was to spot the whale sharks once we were in the water and to make sure we knew where it was so we could swim with it. That was the eye candy for the day sorted then.

We got to the little boat and met Noz, a shy bloke who would be driving the safety boat (do you drive boats? I don't even know) which would pick us out of the water if we were in trouble or too tired to swim. We met Richard, the skipper and the guy who owns the company once we got to the big boat and then we were off to a little snorkel site, just to kill some time, relax, get used to the water. We were told what we could expect to see, y'know, what kind of fish. Rays. Sharks.

Erm... excuse me?? Apparently they're a harmless reef shark, they have no interest in making off with any of your limbs. But still, that's not comforting when you're duck diving, you look round and a distinctly shark shaped shadow glides past you, especially when you pop your head out of the water and the rest of your group is 15 metres away. I felt the order of the food chain shift slightly as I raced back to the others.
  
 
But anyway, I don't have anything witty or clever to say about today, it was just awesome. We spent the morning snorkelling and eating before the spotter planes radioed in that a shark had been seen.

I'd researched these tours ages ago and read all kinds of testimonies. You share the shark with about 4 other boats and only 10 people are allowed in the water at a time. You can usually fit about 20 people on a boat so I was prepared for the fact that we might only get a few minutes with one shark and thats it and I'd made sure the others knew this too.

We got in the water with 6 sharks.

Six!!

Some people don't even get one and we got six!

It's amazing, you can't describe the feeling, you launch yourself into the water and stick your head under looking for it then the first thing you see is this massive gob coming towards you and your heart leaps into your mouth closely followed by the rest of your internal organs.
Then you realise you should probably get out of its way on account of it being about 10 metres long and thus a lot bigger than you. The excitement never wears off.
 
Later, as we headed back about 30 dolphins swam alongside the boat. We'd been stuffed full of good food, had a once in a lifetime day out in the water and I'd fulfilled a lifetime ambition.
How fucking perfect could this day be?

I promptly tripped over the edge of the little boat as we pulled up to shore and ended up face down on the shore line.

I knew Abi and Dave were doing the West Coast, I just didn't know where they were on account of the fact we'd never been in range at the same time, we just kept picking up voicemails and texts from each other. When we got back from the trip there was a note at our site, they'd checked into the campsite and recognised my car. Kliff and Neil came round later an all and we made up for the lack of goon the night before until I pulled my usual passing out trick.

Oh come on, its not like no one knows what happens when I'm allowed to lie down.
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