By Jade Johnston
Coral Bay, Australia is one of the best places in the world to come and experience swimming with the world’s largest fish. The whale shark, often growing up to 8 meters long, come to Coral Bay during the winter months (April – July) to feed.
There are a few other places worldwide where you can swim with these gentle giants (such as the Philippines), but Coral Bay is still one of the best. Why? Because the companies send up spotter planes, basically guaranteeing that your boat will be able to locate the sharks.
But I will leave it up to Lauren’s guest post (stay tuned!) to tell you more about the whale sharks and what you can experience with them. Because this post is going to be more humorous and less informative.
So let me set the scene
Some of my readers may already be familiar with my weak stomach when it comes to motion sickness. You may remember how I almost died in Fiji, but didn’t realize it because I was too busy vomiting. I am, after all, the girl who can give herself motion sickness by walking and texting at the same time.
Our whale shark experience started out shakily. Our trip, which we booked months ago was cancelled the same morning due to the weather. This caused my travel companion Lauren to burst into hysterical tears, leaving me to sort out postponing our bus and rearranging our schedule so that we could stay in Coral Bay for an extra two days.
The next morning, our trip was set to go out. We celebrated with coffee and half price blue coloured meringues from the bakery next door. Sugar and caffeine, I would later learn, are not good for upset stomachs.
The day started out well. Before we even left solid land we saw a family of dolphins playing near shore. And our first snorkelling stop (while the planes searched for sharks) was a relative success. If you may remember from my ATV and Snorkel experience the day prior, I am not the best snorkeler. Water freaks me out, as does all the things it contains. When a shoal of small and brightly coloured blue and yellow reef fish swam towards me, I did my best to keep a clear and safe distance, just in case they turned out to be small but deadly man eaters.
I even blankly refused to give up my yellow pool noodle floatation device, despite full knowledge that I could swim just fine with my flippers and wet suit. Better safe than sorry right?
It wasn’t long before our planes spotted a whale shark, and the boat took off. Sailing past the outer reef, into a part of the ocean where you definitely can not see the bottom.
Sitting up at the front of the boat, I managed to maintain a feeling of calm. But soon this was interrupted as we were herded to the back of the boat, into position to quickly jump into the water when we found the shark.
Unluckily for us, the shark decided to drive down into the depths, and we had to sit and wait for it’s return to the surface. Sit… and wait… and rock… back and forth.
I tried to keep it together. I really did. I tried to go to my motion sickness happy place. I tried to stare at the horizon.
But it didn’t work. I was sick. Bright, blue sick.
When we finally were instructed to jump in the water, I pretty much immediately sank. My body was still shaking from being sick, and I was pretty sure I was going to drown. So much so that I needed to be rescued from the boat.
But I had more luck the second time. While hanging my head over the side of the boat, I listened to the stern instructions from Steve, one of the staff.
“When I say go, you are going to jump in the water, and grab onto my hand OK?”
Before I knew it, I was thrown into the water and told to swim to the right. Of course, my weak legs took me no where quickly, but soon Steve grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the whale shark.
He was a juvenile whale shark, only about 5 meters long. As soon as I spotted him I was entranced. I didn’t even stop to worry about what would happen if I vomited into my snorkel (which was a big concern for me at the time).
The whale shark swam leisurely through the water, collecting in his giant mouth the plankton on which he feeds. He completely ignored our presence, safe in the knowledge that he was much, much bigger than any of us.
I was elated that I managed to see a whale shark. Despite being too sick to jump in the other 3 times that we stopped
At least I got to swim with one.
The remaining 7 hours of the cruise were too painful for me to even recount.