Whale Shark Trip

31 03 2013

We went snorkeling yesterday to try to find and swim with a whale shark  at Gladden Spit off the coast of Placencia.  “In Belize, whale sharks seasonally visit Gladden Spit, a promontory midway along the Belize Barrier Reef to feed on the spawn of aggregating snappers-the only place this has been documented and is known to occur worldwide. Due to the importance of both snapper spawning aggregations and associated whale sharks, Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes were declared a marine reserve. Relatively slow moving animals, whale sharks are curious but docile. At Gladden Spit whale sharks will readily approach boats, snorkelers and divers if they do not feel threatened. They will often remain close to divers and snorkelers* and even boats if not chased or harassed.” (taken from here)

*If you are a snorkeler, odds are extremely slim in my opinion that you will see a whale shark.  They are migratory and feeding on snapper spawn 80 feet down, only three to five days after a full moon in March, April (supposedly the best month), and May.  From the surface over the divers this is all we saw:

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Supposedly there was a sunfish  and bull shark down there (there were 14 bull sharks in the water the day before we went), but we didn’t see the sharks – probably a good thing.  For us, as hopeful snorkelers, the trip was disappointing, and even for the divers (some had come from Switzerland and Holland just at this time  – some for 3 consecutive days to increase their odds – to try to see a whale shark), it was very disappointing as well.  One woman even burst her eardrum on the first dive and couldn’t go back in.  The divers went to a depth of about 60 feet. It was a pretty disappointing day in regards to seeing marine life other than from the boat.  While on board, we did see four dolphins

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who were friendly enough to swim with the snorkelers and one loggerhead turtle.

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The water is gorgeous

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and the trip to Gladden Spit is enjoyable (27 miles from the coast). Be careful about the sun!  Even though we continuously put on SPF 50 and wore clothes and covered with towels, after 7 hours in the reflected sun, we are crispy burnt! If you try to see a whale shark, I wish you well and hope that you will get to experience what we didn’t.  It would have been an awesome experience to swim with the largest fish in the sea (40’ with a 4’ mouth).  If you actually get to swim with one, you are blessed indeed!


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