Sharks! Last night we were told sharks were on the agenda for this morning. There is a channel nearby that has 40 resident sharks and that is where we head at 6:30am.
The current is from the center of the atoll to the ocean so we start in the atoll. Currents are standard fare here and every dive is planned around which direction the current is flowing. Deep is also the order of the week so far and we start at about 90ft. I have the camera in my hands and Debbie keeps tabs on the depth and will warn me if we get too deep. Going with the flow is relaxing and easy. There is a bit of picture fodder as we move along but not a lot of action.
Maseef, our dive master, turns left and we surf the current across the channel. On our right, upstream of course, the sharks are spotted. We work our way against the water but eventually make it far enough to allow us to observe 10 or 12 sharks glide through the water 30 or 40 feet directly below us. There are a couple of very large ones and several maybe only a metre or metre and a half long. They are so graceful and slick when the move and their movements propels them with such force.
Back on the dhoni we trade stories of how many sharks we saw and what make and model they were. A call comes from the front, dolphins! Debbie and I are sitting next to the captain and are the only ones to hear so we see a pod of dolphins playing at the bow of the boat. Just as some of the others arrive they dive deep and are not to be found.
A minute later another call, this time, manta! We have never seen a manta so Debbie and I jump to. The rest of the divers heard this call and the bow is now covered with bodies. The manta is right on the surface spinning and swirling feeding on the plankton that has gathered. It isn’t moving on so several of us don our fins and mask, jump in the water and try to get a closer look. The ray stays close or on the surface and it is a poor vantage point to observe from but it is exciting to see the creature for the first time.
A long transfer is in the works, 4 plus hours from one atoll to another. We are on the hunt for a whale shark, the largest fish in the ocean. The dive boat weighs anchor, we will use the dhoni to search for whale sharks, the smaller boat is easier to maneuver and all our gear is stored on it. We head for another dive site still 1.5 hrs on and will see if we can spot a shark to snorkel with. No luck. The strategy now is to jump in the water descend to the bottom of the wall and swim with the current hoping to meet one of the giants swimming upstream.
For some unexplained reason Debbie has trouble getting under the water. She turns over and kicks down but still cannot stay without kicking down. I am able to alert the dive master and he ascends to try to help. The other groups move on. As we are paused helping Debbie a small, maybe only 4M, whale sharks cruises by us on the way to the surface. It passes real close. So close that when I snap a picture I am only able to get the fin in the frame. I literally could have reached out and touched it. Because we were delayed our group of 5 were the only ones to see it. It was truly a sight, this huge fish swimming right towards me with its mouth open collecting plankton. All of the others on the boat are jealous. We have seen one of the things on our list, one of the things we hoped to see when we came here. We are very lucky as witnessed by the fact the others did not get the same chance.
On the return trip the captain of the dhoni notices another dive boat stopped in the water and it is surrounded by snorkelers. Get ready somebody calls and we all scramble to get our fins, masks and snorkels. The boat stops and it’s everybody in. Just as I put my face in the water and look down and big whale shark comes into view and is headed my way again. It doesn’t move fast just strong and deliberate. We all turn and swim.
About 40 people are all swimming along with this 12M fish just below them. The entire pack is able to keep up and we watch for as long as we can. The fish turns toward the deep and we back off and head to the boat to reboard.
It has been a banner day. Only 2 dives and we can tick off sharks, a manta, dolphins, and a couple of whale sharks. Not bad. We started the day with sharks and we ended the day with a giant one. Tomorrow we are to concentrate on mantas.