Whale sharks, Seychelles, Sep 06

I spent a week in the Seychelles with some fellow BsouP members. We joined up with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles and went in search of whale sharks! We found them, and not just a few... 45 encounters in 4 afternoons!

We did two boat dives every morning and then spent all afternoon with the whale sharks. The boat dives were in the north of Mahe and the whales sharks were congregating in the south due to the plankton rich waters.

The sharks are found with the help of a dedicated microlight aircraft. As the boat sails out of the bay the microlight flies above and with constant radio contact directs the boat alongside the whale sharks. Then in a very controlled fashion the snorkellers slip into the water swim and the encounter begins. The encounters can last anywhere from a few seconds to a number of minutes. If the whale shark is not interested it will simply dive down to deeper water. If however the shark is interested it could be hanging around for 15 minutes if you are lucky.

It was an incredible experience and all thanks to David Rowat and his team. They are constantly monitoring and tagging sharks to learn more about migratory behaviour and routes across the Indian Ocean. They are also trying to stop the Taiwanese from fishing the whale sharks on their way through Taiwanese waters. They get huge amounts of money for each whale sharks they catch, as whale shark is a 'fad food' in Taiwan. They hook them and tow these gentle giants to shore and cash in. If you want to learn more please visit this website http://www.mcss.sc/whale.htm, you can even adopt a whale shark to help support this research!

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