Another intern's insight into Boot Camp, this time Samantha West relives their first live encounter...
It was the day before Whale Shark season officially began and our final practice session before taking clients out on the boat. The afternoon began with gathering all the equipment needed for a typical Whale Shark encounter including, the Secchi disk, plankton net, CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth meter), GPS and radios and of course recording sheets, fins, masks and snorkels. After loading everything onto the truck we headed to the Underwater Centre at the Berjaya Hotel Beau Vallon to get on the boat. With our trusty skipper Mervin we were shortly on our way to Conception Channel, North of Mahe, where we would be met by our micro-light pilot Johan for some whale shark encounter scenarios.
Last minute knot tying practise with Gareth and able assistant Honey, the team mut!
We divided the roles on the boat so that Leah began with radio and recording, with the help of team leader Abi, Gareth (team leader) was spotter and Mark and I were the ‘clients’. Unfortunately Susie was unable to make it due to her un-cooperative back.
Sam in charge of GPS and recording functions... when all was calm!
“Right 10°, 500m” says Johan. We are on our way, after confirming that it was a practice shark. The boat turned off the engines 50m away from the ‘shark’ and we entered the water for a pretend snorkel. Unfortunately the fake shark didn’t stick around for long and we were back on the boat in no time at all. Immediately after returning to the boat Leah gets the message “Left 5° 200m” followed by “This is not a drill…I repeat…this is not a drill”.
The frenzy began, our first REAL whale shark encounter. The radio was swiftly passed to Abi and all jobs abandoned as the three of us interns were getting in the water no matter what. The splash of the water as we were dropped in next to the 9.5m whale shark was quickly followed by an exhilarating experience of swimming alongside the worlds largest fish.
And here he is, sey.2011.004 a new shark to add to the Seychelles database!
The rest of the afternoon also saw us in the water next to a 4m whale shark and conducting some science experiments for later analysis.
Jubilant interns after seeing their first whale shark
It was a day of firsts for me. Not only was it my first whale shark sighting, it was also the first time I heard the sound of Leah squealing through her snorkel, something I wasn’t sure was possible until now.
A day full of screams, laughter, joy and overall an amazing experience. One of many more to come.