Ok, I am going to just lay it out there on the line for all to read, I am a spoiled little shit when it comes to the ocean and seeing some of it’s magnificent creatures under the surface. Yeah I went there, I admit it, I am not proud but at least I got that off my chest. Thanks to my parents, my sister and I have been afforded the chance to see some unbelievable beaches and locations that many will never ever get a chance to see in their lifetime. I got the chance to see the pink sand beaches of Bermuda when I was ten years old, visited Belize more times than a lot of flight attendants do and still got to do and see some really cool shit in between. Down in Belize, where I got a lot of my underwater fish 101 knowledge, it wasn’t uncommon for me to swim with nurse sharks, sting rays, many species of fish, and see some coral formations that you only see on the Travel Channel. When I was younger our old time fishing guide would sneak frozen peas and sardine guts into our swim suit pockets so when we would hit the water all kinds of fish would swarm us like flies on roadkill. It was this luxury that I was afforded that I became sort of disenfranchised with snorkeling. Now granted I would always play along when we would have friends who had never snorkeled in Belize as I didn’t want to be “that guy”. It is funny as when we visit Belize with people who have never done that they would come out the water in amazement that they just saw all those different species of fish yet in my mind I was thinking “Yeah I have done that and have way too many t-shirts in my closet too.”
Well all of that is about to come to a screeching halt as I can honestly say with no reservation that I just did the most unbelievable thing in the world and sadly I don’t think that my words can express upon you how FREAKING cool it was! Last year at this same time I was over in Cozumel celebrating the destination wedding of some good friends of ours. A buddy of mine who I have mentioned before in this blog had just swum with the Whale Sharks of the coast of Isla Mujeres. I recall reading Scoop’s post and thought to myself that here is a girl who lives in paradise and sees the same stuff I have and she is impressed? I may have to check this out one day. Now that I have done this and I re-read her post, I now get it; I just swam with one of the largest species of fish in the ocean that dates back to 1828. I read where another friend of mine had also just recently swam with these magnificent bastards and in the back of my mind I am thinking “Why hasn’t anyone else done this?” I have over a 1000 friends on Facebook and there are only a handful of them who have done this? Anyway I will get off my soap box now (and go to below normal height) but if you have the chance, BY ALL MEANS GO SWIM WITH THE WHALE SHARKS! It is a moment in your life where you realize that you are just a simple creature living in a vast world and I get it why this is on so many people’s bucket lists.
According to Mr. Wikipedia the Whale shark is the largest non mammal vertebrate rivaling the dinosaurs in terms of sheer weight. They can live as long as 70 years and can get as long as 40 feet in length and weigh over 30 tons (that’s 66,000 pounds) and yet they are vegetarians and only feed on plankton. *Yes I swam with a bunch of Vegetarians and if they knew my real feelings for them before we were introduced I may not be typing this and Mrs. Trumpet may be wearing a black dress today* The whale sharks migrate to off the coast of Mexico from May to September each year and the peak time to see them is mid August. This particular day there were close to 100 Whale Sharks according to “Whale Shark Daddy” and thanks to the Mayan Gods we had beautiful weather on that particular Monday.
We had pre-arranged with Whale Shark Daddy for a tour on Monday and were picked up at our hotel at the bright early time of 7:45AM. After a brief breakfast we had our ‘briefing’ and were split up into groups of 10 and were directed to a boat. For those of you who are scuba divers, you can leave all that crap in the room as Whale Sharks are top water feeders and the majority of them will swim on the surface to feed so you only have to be a good swimmer. You can either elect to wear a life vest or rent a short suit wet suit which I did on Scoop’s advice as you have more mobility in the water. One thing that I did like and have to give Whale Shark Daddy mad props to was that he only would let you go into the water wearing Bio-Degradable sunscreen. As he said in the ‘briefing’ (in broken English) there are over 600 swimmers seeing the whale sharks each day and 600 people wearing that film creating sunscreen will kill off the plankton and will eventually kill the Whale Sharks. Kuddos to him and to the other companies who make sure that Gringo’s like us don’t make this species extinct!
After a 45 minute boat ride you come up to an area in the deep blue waters where there are like 60 to 70 boats full of other gringos who also are going to see the whale sharks. Now in the back of my mind I am thinking that “oh yeah this is going to be fun” until I see one of these big bastards firsthand. Again, you are reading a blog from someone who has pulled up some pretty big fish in his day and it doesn’t compare to these suckers. Everyone is paired into groups of two and you get to swim 3 sets with a guide and a photographer. As we are waiting for our turn we notice like 5 or 6 of these huge suckers swimming around the boat. It wasn’t until one swam under the boat and I figured it was 40 feet long since I saw head and a lot of tail as he swam parallel to the 34 foot boat. I ask the Captain how big they get and he gave me the Kilos which meant nothing to an Merican as we weigh everything in pounds but it was pretty big. Anyway it was time for CBT and Mrs. CBT to get wet and off the boat we went.
For those of you who are kinda nervous swimming with school busses the guides do a great job holding your hand and positioning you right up next to a whale shark where you are only feet away from this huge fish. At first I was thinking that I could keep up with this sucker as he wasn’t really putting a lot of turbulence out there with his tail but I was wrong. These suckers fly through the water as what I assume is the intake of the water and pushing out of the gills as the gills on these things are 5 feet long along the sides of them. After about 10 to 15 minutes you get tapped out and head back to the boat for the next group to swim. Now granted I am not in the greatest shape of my life but let me tell you, it is exhausting work keeping up with these jokers. We get to the second set and Mrs. Trumpet didn’t want to swim with them so I was paired up with another couple and here is where it gets kinda funny.
Back in the ‘briefing’ ole Whale Shark Daddy said that if you encounter a whale shark head on, don’t worry, they will go around you and don’t panic. Let me tell you, ole Whale Shark Daddy LIED because yours truly came face to face with one of those suckers. Thankfully I rented my wet suit because after coming within 5 feet head on I may or may not have had a brief pee in my wet suit. Seriously, it took everything I had to get out of the way of this sucker! Sadly the photographer, Matteo, didn’t get a still shot of my face to face encounter but it is on video. Still it is one of the best and coolest moments of my life.
After everyone is done you head to a beach area where everyone enjoys fresh shrimp ceviche and homemade guacamole and plug down a couple baby Corona’s. Seriously, if you have the chance to do this, you need to swim with the Whale Sharks, it is worth every penny! Now if you will excuse me I will go back to my being stuck up on seeing marine life and cool coral formations.
Here our Swimming Guide (can’t recall his name) informs us that nobody has browned out a pair of swim trunks swimming with the Whale Sharks
We have no idea what we are in for
The surrounding boats as we arrive to the area
You can see me hanging on the ladder for dear life as I ask Mrs. Trumpet if she has us up to date on our Life Insurance policies.
No that isn’t the Crosstown Bus, that is a Whale Shark
Great Shot of Mrs. Trumpet along the Express 44 into Midtown
I burned every ounce of energy in my legs to keep up with them and they were still way too fast
Just like Putty from Seinfeld – High Five Dude!
We lived to tell about it!
That is some serious lunch that was made 10 minutes prior!
Yeah, it was that cool!