I have crossed nearly everything off my “diving in Roatan” bucket list – remember when I saw a pod of wild dolphins, TWO hammerhead sharks, and found a GoPro Hero3??
Well, the only thing left on the list was a whale shark. To see one of these gentle giants (they can reach up to 60ft long!) was one of my lifelong dreams, and one of the reasons I ended up settling in Roatan…they are often spotted here and by the next island over, Utila, and I was determined to see one.
I had so many close calls, but pretty much everyone else except me saw one. I whined to my boat captain constantly to find me one, and I was so jealous every time someone here updated their Facebook with, “WHALESHARK OMG GUYZ”.
Yesterday, it was MY turn!!
I was sitting at the desk at the shop working and my boat captain came in and said, “Get your bathing suit and get in the boat NOW. I think there’s a whale shark out there.” Well, you don’t have to say those words to me twice. I grabbed my bikini, fins, mask and GoPro and we RAN to the boat and took off.
We saw three fishing boats spinning madly around the tuna boil… that usually is where you can find whale sharks, as the tuna show up to feed on the same little creatures that the whale sharks do. There were no other dive boats… I was so lucky. I got into my gear, got the GoPro ready and sat on the gunnel waiting for my captain to tell me when to jump. I was shaking with excitement once he actually sighted the whale shark – I’ve had a few false alarms with tuna boils before, and it’s so disappointing.
He finally said “Get in!!” (after telling me to watch out for black tip and mako sharks who try to get in on some tuna action and accidentally chomp snorkelers fins every once in awhile…!!) and I jumped. She was 50ft in front of me and I could see the outline as soon as I got in. I let a wild “WOOHOO” out to my captain and finned over to her. The size, you guys, I can’t even explain what it’s like to be 10ft from a creature that big, in the water right beside them. She was about 30-35ft long, just an absolutely massive shark (thank goodness they are filter feeders, haha). It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
I took some videos with my GoPro and lost her as she went down for a dive. She came back again twice – I got in a total of three times with her until she left for good. I had her all to myself – just fishermen in boats concerned with catching tuna… and me in the water with the biggest shark in the world. What an experience.
Casey @ A Cruising Couple says
OMG so so jealous! What an amazing experience and opportunity. So excited for you and glad you were finally able to see some 🙂 Hopefully we will one day!
Thanks!! It was so awesome. Hope you guys will have your turn as well 🙂
Camels & Chocolate says
Ahhhhh! This is fantastic! The whale shark is my holy grail of diving, and I've yet to see one (despite two separate dive vacations to Roatan). You lucky dog, you!
P.S. Were you at all a little scared? Though I'm obsessed with them, I think the sheer size and being next to that underwater might freak me out just a wee bit!
Thanks Kristin!! Hope you'll get to see one soon. I had to wait over a year and a half, so I feel like I earned my whale shark 🙂 And nope, thought I would be scared, but I was just so damn excited. Although I got a little nervous when she put her tail so close to me – some snorkelers have gotten smacked by them before and it isn't fun!
Jacquie @ Must for Wanderlust says
Okay that's incredible! I love your last 'I hope I don't get eaten by a shark!' But wow what an experience. Bet it was such an adrenaline rush. Great footage too. x
Hahah – my boat captain had just told me before I got in to watch our for black tip and mako sharks that come up to feed on the tuna 🙂
Molly Yonderblog says
Congratulations Rika! What an experience! We swam with a whale shark on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and it was without doubt one of the best experiences of our lives. It's hard to describe how graceful, and BIG they are! How special to have this experience all by yourself! Thank-you so much for sharing the video!
Thanks Molly!! It was such an experience, as you know. And yes, they are HUGE!!
That's so cool!
And I love your excited mask face.
You don't even want to know how much excited mask face got cut from this video. It was out of control.
ifs ands Butts says
Holy crap, I got really excited just watching this. You captured it so well and I'm so glad you finally got to see a whale shark!
Hahaha well that is pretty much the greatest compliment! Thanks!! It was very exciting 🙂
Wow! What a gorgeous whale shark. I saw one in the Maldives during a livaboard, but was far from alone with this experience. But still, with 15 other people kicking the waters around me, still an amazing experience. I want more!
That's awesome that you saw one though! It's a once in a lifetime (or none 🙁 ) for a lot of people. I'm secretly so happy I didn't have to share her with anyone!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
This is so incredible, Rika! We still have tons of things to cross off of our dive spotting list and Whale Sharks are right up there at the top. I think seeing one in the wild would be so electrifying; they are SO HUGE! I've already warned Tony that when we do spot these magnificent beasts for ourselves, I will undoubtedly pee from the excitement of it all! 😀
I think they are at the top of pretty much every diver's list! It was really quite the experience, at first I just thought I'd be all, "ahhhh WHALE SHARK" but when I was coming up on her the first time my mind flashed back to being in the Osaka Aquarium in 2009 and seeing a whale shark for the first time, watching it for over half an hour (much to the chagrin of my friends who wanted to move on to the next exhibit) and thinking "man, I want to be in there with that shark SO BAD"…. and all the times in Roatan I've had such close calls to see one… and how I was on a little island in the Caribbean as a dive instructor in the water by myself with a 35ft shark. Mind = blown.
Agness Walewinder says
Well well, what a surprise! You are a brave girl. This shark looks massive!!!
Best surprise ever. Yeah she was HUGE – around 30-35ft long! The same size as our boat!
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says
UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!! I think I would have died of happiness!
I think I did!
Colleen Brynn says
Wow! I'm watching this in class right now… what a treat! This would be amazing to see live.. one of those things that's REALLY hard to explain to someone just how amazing it is. You really have to experience it for yourself I think. I can only imagine how fast your heart was thumping!
It was definitely the most amazing thing, AND the most difficult to explain. I hope everyone gets to swim with a whale shark 🙂
OMG!! What an amazing experience! So jealous – and happy that you got to see one. Also…. what a set of free diving lungs you seem to have here! Happy High Fives!
Thanks lady! Yeah, I wish I would have had my snorkel but I did all three times in the water freediving and surface swimming bobbing up for air!