|Seychelles and the whale sharks
In June 2005 we were diving in the Red Sea close
to Ras Mohammed and were very lucky to have seen a whale shark
gliding silently passed our dive boat just as we had finished
a dive. Some of our group were able to get back in the water and
spend a short time snorkelling and filming this rare experience.
This encounter fired up my enthusiasm to snorkel
with some of these spotted gentle giants of the sea in a less
speculative location. So, when one of my dive buddies called me
to say he was organising a trip to the Seychelles to see the migratory
whale sharks that pass the islands in the Autumn each year, I
jumped at the chance. The trip wasn’t just about whale sharks
as we planned to dive the islands in the morning and snorkel with
the whale sharks in the afternoon.
We dived with the ‘Underwater Centre’,
next to the Coral Strand Hotel where we were booked in for eight
days. David and Glynis run a slick diving operation, with everything
very well co-ordinated to fit our diving and snorkelling into
a eleven-hour slot. Yes, we were at it for eleven hours each day,
08.00 to 19.00hrs - long, exciting days.
We’d leave the dive centre at 08.30 for
the two morning dives, then back for a quick pizza, change the
kit and e-films ready for the drive to the other end of the island
to meet the boats for the ride out to snorkel with the whale sharks.
By late afternoon we were all tired out, the sun was sinking slowly
in the west and the microlight had to return to base. By the time
we got back to the beach and driven to the Hotel it was dark and
time for a well earned G & T, a quick shower and dinner at
20.00hrs. I must say it was cheap in the bar as most of the group
were early to bed for a well-earned rest after an exciting day.
The islands had some very
nice dive sites; 'Shark Bank' with its huge shoals of blue-lined
snapper, big-eye, barracuda, catfish and many stingrays
on the sand plus octopus and crayfish in most of the holes
in the rocks. There were many nice macro subjects on the
wreck of the Ennerdale, although the visibility was poor
close to the main island.
diving 'Brissare Rocks' and 'Dragons Teeth', snappers, batfish,
big stingrays and some stunning multi-coloured sponge covered
rocks. However, the excitement built as we sped out to the
southeastern tip of the main island in the afternoon to
meet the whale sharks. Nothing prepares you for that first
encounter with the biggest fish in the sea. Emotions ran
high as we climbed back in the boat, tears, silence, incessant
chatter, but we all felt exhilarated and at the same time
humbled by that first encounter. Guided by our microlight,
piloted by Johan, we would receive radio directions to the
nearest fish, “300m east, 200m, 50m now on your port
bow” would come over the ‘waves’.
Then, “now, right under the boat, go,
go, go”, we would slide into the water and there was this
awesome sight just a few metres away, gliding along sucking in
gallons of water as it followed the plankton trail, often oblivious
to our presence.
The microlight plays a crucial part in the 'Marine
Conservation Society of the Seychelles' whale shark project to
photograph, tag and collect as much data as possible to help with
the future management and preservation of this magnificent giant
of the sea.
If you would like to do this trip and don’t
have a friend to book it for you, then I would suggest contacting
‘Divequest at www.divequest.co.uk - they run whale shark
trips to the Seychelles, usually September/October.