Young whale shark swims right into boat with his head
Whale sharks are among the most majestic and beautiful creatures in the ocean. Massive and strong, yet gentle, they inspire wonder and awe among all who are fortunate enough to see one up close. These lucky Canadians were taking part in an excursion with Searious Diving out of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. They had the good fortune of swimming with dozens of enormous whale sharks on this day. They had chosen Serious Diving specifically due to their reputation as ethical and conservation minded tour operators. Not only do they strictly adhere to the laws and guidelines that protect these animals from harm, both intentional and unintentional, but they have led the movement to put these protections in place. With true appreciation for these great beasts, and for ocean conservation, they are pressuring all tour operators to protect the whales while they allow people to experience ethical encounters.
After swimming among these whale sharks, the group was taking a final look as they prepared to return to the port. They had moved to the outside of the feeding area and had been watching a small group of whale sharks that were lazily swimming near the surface as they filtered the water for food. One of the young whale sharks swam directly at their boat. They watched in amazement, then concern, as the shark actually struck the boat with its head. Fortunately, the hull of the boat is very rounded and the shark's angle allowed for a very gentle contact which did not seem to affect the shark. The guests were thrilled to be getting such a close look until they realized what was about to happen. They were relieved to see the whale shark swimming under and continuing without harm.
Whale sharks seem like great monsters that could pose a threat to humans, but the truth is that they couldn't harm people even if they wanted to. Their mouths have no teeth because they filter the water for krill, plankton, small fish, and fish eggs. Even their throat opening is too small to swallow anything as large as a human. They are truly the gentle giants of the ocean. To see one of these animals close up is a privilege and a joyful experience. It is well worth seeking ethical and professional tour operators in order to minimize the impact that we have on these beautiful creatures. When done properly, these moments don't negatively impact the sharks or change their behavior. When done irresponsibly, these tours can be very stressful for the whale sharks.