Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Swimming with a whale shark?

About 2 months ago I was invited to go speak at an event in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. While I was there I took advantage of the time to shoot an episode of Nature Time for 3ABN's Kids' Time show.

After a little research I found out that I would be there during the early part of "whale shark season" when whale sharks return to the warm waters there by the hundreds.  Seeing a whale shark has been on my "bucket list" for some time, but now I would finally get an chance to see one up close!  I was excited.  Groovy.

In order to shoot the video, I next needed to do some basic pre-production planning:  locate a charter, schedule it, write a script, prepare the equipment, etc. According to my research, the "end game" was to be able to actually get in the water and swim along side of them. How exciting!  After all, these creatures are the largest fish in the sea, measuring up to 40 feet in length for the big ones! Zoinks, that is a lot of fish. That's about the size of a school bus...just to put into perspective.

The day came for the shoot but the ocean was too choppy that day. Bummer. Fortunately, I had a different episode we could shoot that day instead, so we pushed the whale shark shoot to the following day. That day we ended up filming an episode on "CENOTES."  If you're not sure what that is, don't worry, I will surely blog on it soon!

The next day the seas were pretty calm so we headed out.  The boat captain first took us about 20-25 miles out which is way far enough to lose sight of land. My wife and two kids had come along for the experience as well, so we were all excited. The next task was for the captain to take us on a structured grid throught sea as we scanned the horizon for almost 2 hours looking for any sign of large dorsal fins sticking out of the water. Sounds easy but look straight out over the sea straining your eyes to find a fin can be challenging, especially if there were some waves would cause minor crests to give the surface a different color.

Our patience paid off when we finally spotted the first whale shark, the crew cheered joyfully and we steered in its direction.  We immediately got our gear on and the captain instructed us to sit on the edge of the boat with our feet sticking out over the water. The plan was that he would drive the boat in front of the path of the whale shark, and at the right moment we would jump into the water and literally come face to face with the enormous beast.  

I'll tell you what happened next in my next blog. I hope you can wait and come back. I will at least include this photo of us ready to jump into the water...

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