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.