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Member Since 14 Apr 2004
Offline Last Active Nov 08 2012 04:01 AM

#317446 Whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua, June/July 2012

Posted by leonandclaudia on 29 September 2012 - 09:21 AM

Much nicer trying finding them and capturing photos of tje sharks filter feeding in the wild..and not in some sort of tourist attraction semi aquarium type setup.. where what you see is rather artificial and predictable..just my two pence

A 'tourist attraction semi aquarium type setup' would be rather impossible to orchestrate. Cenderawasih Bay is immense. And very deep. Hundreds of fishing platforms scattered randomly in a 25 000 sq mile, 2000 ft deep bay, is hardly what we would call an 'artificial and predictable'. With or without tourists, and whether or not they choose to make the long trip to jump into the water surrounding the platform, the fishermen and their platforms are always there; have been there for decades and as long as they have permits to fish, they will continue to foster their 'relationship' with these gentle giants.
Recently, with a field station that happened to be in the nearby surrounds, scientists during their surveys curiously asked the fishermen why they had not been alerted to the presence of these whalesharks, they replied simply - ' ....well, you did not ask....'
As much as you may think this a aquarium type set-up, it could not be further from the truth. The only predictability in this case, is the spectacular destination and the whalesharks - guaranteed.

#316923 Whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua, June/July 2012

Posted by leonandclaudia on 22 September 2012 - 02:06 AM

Hi John, a very jolly group indeed! but then our trips are typically loads of fun, so nothing unusual. In West Papua, whale shark behaviour is rather uncommon compared to other parts of the world; in this particular bay, the bagan fishermen through the years have 'befriended' the gentle giants as they come up from the depths to investigate their fishing platforms when the nets are being lifted. The nets are very large and bulge with small baitfish,and when they are pulled up, as a matter of course, lots of little fish escape their fate - and it is this 'overflow' to which the whale sharks are attracted. Whale sharks are usually filter feeders, true, and so this is certainly 'different'. The advantage as a visiting snorkeler or diver wanting an 'up close and personal experience' with whale sharks, is that the gentle giants tend to stick around, sometimes for hours on end (literally!), in the general vicinity, whether there are baitfish floating in the water or not. They have also learned to suck on the nets which bulge with baitfish, a strange sight to behold! And so, snorkelers and divers can really spend quality time observing the whale sharks as they slowly swim around and around the platform, unlike other places where sightings can tend to be hit and miss. We have done the 'microlight spotting, there's one!, jump in quick, don't make a splash though, swim for your life and snap a quick shot' whale shark experiences before, and this Papuan experience was altogether different, relaxed , with sightings guaranteed. Bear in mind that there is not much actual 'feeding' really, the presence of the whale sharks is merely the result of the fishermen lifting up their nets three times a day, and the whale sharks consequently lured in to the 'overflow' falling out of the nets, which they seem to find a tasty treat. The feeding itself is not entirely necessary to keep them there, merely to lure them back to the general platform area, once they have left. Once the whale sharks have visited a bagan for the early morning net lifting, they disappear into the depths, and can strangely enough be 'called' back (if you will) by a spot of 'dunking' of a small net in and out the water and a sprinkling of baitfish. Just this small action in itself, can bring single animals, more often two's and up to seven or more, up to the platform area, where they will tend to stay for hours on end: snorkelers and divers at this point in their element, of course. And this is a daily occurrence, (whether the divers are there or not) as long as the bagan fishermen are active, lifting their nets at regular intervals, this behaviour is par for the course. The fishermen are of course rather amused at the seemingly ridiculous foreigners who like to jump in and swim with their the 'hiu bodoh' as they call them locally (the foolish shark (!)).
Anyhow, hope you can join us some day John!

#316868 Whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua, June/July 2012

Posted by leonandclaudia on 21 September 2012 - 06:56 AM

A mini movie of the Bittenbysharks team's most recent imaging expedition to the amazing whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua.The travel to Manokwari and ultimately, to the southern end of Cenderawasih Bay, was long and arduous, but well worth it! At the end of it all we found fantastic weather, glass calm seas, guaranteed whale shark sightings, we spent hours in the water with them each day.