One of the best experiences is diving with a whale shark. A lot of divers have had the chance to snorkel with them, but diving is quite rare.
Whale sharks all year @ the South Ari Atoll (Maldives)
I have been lucky a couple of times. As we travel through the central atolls we always make a stop around Maamigili in the South Ari Atoll. There you can find the (probably) only known area in the meters world with residential whale sharks.
These sharks are in general quite young and most of them males. The theory is that these animals seek the protection of the reef in the night. Have deep feeding grounds right next to the atoll and after feeding come to the Maamigili area to warm up in the shallow waters of the outer reef.
So every week we check out is we can find a shark to dive or snorkel with. And as we do we jump in and try to stick to these rules:
- Don’t touch
- keep 3-4 meters distance
- Don’t go in front or under
Don’t touch the whale shark
First of all this is an endangered species and we should respect their wild status and try to keep m like that. Some people have this crazy idea that they would like to ride the sharks fin. Please the shark is not a toy, so don’t treat it as such.
Most of these sharks actually do not like to be touched. And once somebody does, they tend to block that person and dive deep down. In the end we can only go 30 meters deep (not allowed to dive deeper in the Maldives) and that is only peanuts for this shark, that has been documented to go more that 1.900 meters.
So if you would touch the shark, you have a big chance of chasing it off.
Keep 3-4 meters distance to the shark
If you get to close to the shark, the animal has a tendency to block you. Blocking is a behavior that they show as you are disrespectful, often followed by just ducking down and getting away from us humans.
As the animal blocks, it turns its back towards the diver. Kind of like a push away. And then it often turns.
To give you an idea of what a proper distance is:
- 3 meters around the head
- 4 meters around the tail. After all the whale sharks needs some extra space to move its tail.
Don’t go in front or under the shark
These lovely giants are quite sensitive and that means we have to be extra caring. For instance as you would go under the shark, the bubbles that we make will hit the shark. And in general this is an unknown sensation and will scare m off. So better not to do.
Also the whale shark keeps swimming all the time. So if you get in its way by going in front, you will block it. Response is that the animal will do the same to you. So please do not go in front.
Remember you are diving
Seeing a whale shark makes us all go a bit crazy. The moment it happens we all tend to act like it is ‘sales at Bloomingdales’. We start swimming ourselves a heart attack and try to get ahead of other people. Well if the shark has any interest he is the one letting us close. And he will be the one coming back after it has passed.
For the shark that is cruising at the surface, ducking down to 30 meters is nothing. After all they can go towd to 1.900 meters. But for uss hopping down and up to 30 meters might be quite dangerous.
Since we have a tendancy to swimm our bumms off as we see this big fish, we also start losing track of our air consumption.
So please keep an eye out on your dept and gas, to assure that you will enjoy this dive with the whale shark and live to tell other about this awesome experience 😉