Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week One... from Abi

A belated post on week one from team-leader Abi March... belated because we had whale sharks to monitor!

Abi and one of her vertical feeding friends! Photo Simone Caprodossi

If you are a regular follower of the blog you’ll be aware that ‘whale sharks are very beautiful and spotty’ and after a successful first week in Djibouti I whole heartedly agree.

This week Dr David and I were lucky to have an excellent team on our boat, David Robinson and Simone Caprodossi from Dubai and videographer JB, a regular in Djibouti. By the end of the first afternoon Simone had doubled his total whale shark sightings, it wasn’t too hard as he’d only seen one previously. By the end of the second day, he’d lost count of how many whale sharks he’d now seen.
A Djibouti whale shark happily ram-feeding accompanied by a bunch of pilot fish friends, photo David Robinson

All the team, with our skipper Awad, were brilliant at spotting the sharks from the boat. In the water, photographers David and Simone could not only take stunning shots but also the crucial ID and scar photos as well as recall important information about the encounter. David in particular proved his observational skills to be excellent in descriptions of the giant spotty sharks and accompanying fishy friends.

Just like the team, the shark encounters were phenomenal. One morning I was swimming with a 4 metre male shark with a 1 metre cobia underneath him, I was taking photos when I spotted a turtle swimming alongside him. Later that morning Simone had the same shark and watched him barrel role, performing a huge ‘O’ shape, swimming upside down in a complete loop.

A Barrell-rolling whale shark! Photo Simone Caprodossi

Late in the afternoons is a particular favourite for whale sharks dining, getting in the water you are greeted by the amazing sight of stationary sharks vertically feeding. Its breath taking to watch these gentle giants opening their mouths and gulping, suspended effortlessly in the water.

Afternoon is vertical feeding time for Djibouti whale sharks, photo David Robinson

However, it’s also a favourite time for the lethal swimming crabs; waiting to get back on the boat can be an uncomfortable time, getting pinched from all angles by these critters.

Seeing double.... which one should I photograph first? The photographers dilemma! Photo Simone Caprodossi

Multiple encounters also became the norm, getting in with one shark, suddenly there were loads swimming past, like a busy road junction, coming by in all directions. It was hard to photograph but definitely worth it. On one occasion David had happily been swimming alongside a ‘small’ 3.5m shark when a 5m shark came past and barged the smaller one out of the way, all the while feeding as he went.

If the next 2 weeks continue as the first then 2011 will be a lot to live up to. There was no better way to spend New Year’s Day than swimming with whale sharks and it’s a great feeling to have seen whale sharks everyday this year! Like shoes, a girl can never have too many whale sharks, and so Djibouti is certainly the place to be.

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