Reports from the field: Wetpixel Whale Sharks 2018

Day 2 of the 2018 Wetpixel Whale Sharks trip started early! We were on the boat at 7 am, and on our way shortly thereafter. The aggregation is a popular tourist attraction and as the morning progresses, many boats set out bring visitors to see the sharks. Our aim is to try and get out before the crowds and when the sharks are still concentrated in a dense group.

The drawback of this approach is that sometimes it is not easy to find the sharks! We spent about an hour looking for them this morning (and if truth be known found them because other boats had found them first).

However, the action was fast and furious with numerous “botellas” or vertical feeding postures. Typically, whale sharks feed by swimming with their mouths open, forcing the plankton-rich water through their mouth and over filtering pads that cover the entrance of their throats. The filtering pads are full of millimeter-wide pores that act like a sieve, allowing water to pass through while capturing food particles. This is known as ram feeding. If the sharks encounter a particularly dense patch of plankton, they stop swimming and use suction created by opening a closing their mouths to draw the water in. Whale shark tails sink and hence they end up stationary in a vertical position while doing so.

Mixed in with the whale sharks were quite a few manta rays (Mobula birostis) looping and feeding in the plankton-rich waters.

By around 11 am, there were many boats, and Rogelio wisely headed out to the outside of the flotilla. There were still lots of shark and manta encounters, with the whole groups capturing lots of images and video.

We hung out until all the boats and left, and although the harks were quite spread out, there were still lots of photographic opportunities.

At this time of year, there are often thunderstorms out at sea. We were chased back into port by one!

We went out for a meal and Phyllis got the prize for the biggest drink.

Sadly, Michael heads home tomorrow, but the rest of us will be heading out early again for more incredible whale sharks action.

Day 1.
Day 2.
Day 3.
Day 4.
Day 5.