Saturday, January 12, 2013

As the New Year gets underway, a small team from MCSS is once again visiting Djibouti to document the annual aggregation of whale sharks found around the Arta area of the Gulf of Tadjourah. This is the fifth annual expedition organised in conjunction with Megaptera, a French NGO, DECAN a local NGO and Dolphin Excursions, the owners and operators of the MV Deli, the base of operations for the three weeks.

The first week was one of mixed fortunes, we certainly managed to find whale sharks and capture lots of identity pictures but this was done only after running the gauntlet of killer swimming crabs! We have had encounters with these prickly little critters in previous years but nothing quite like this…. 

The massing prickly terrors of Djibouti!

There were literally thousands of crabs all around the Deli at night and all over the areas where the sharks were during the day. Why, we aren’t exactly sure as these crabs are not plankton feeders, maybe they are cultivating the taste for human flesh as they certainly seemed intent on nibbling at every swimmer as they got into the water.

What has also been notable again this year are the number of sharks with serious injuries almost certainly caused by the propellers from the ever increasing number of boats carrying tourists out to swim with the sharks. 
'Flash Gordon' so named after suddenly acquiring this 'flash' courtesy of a passing tourist boat during the first week...

The sharks seem to tolerate, to some degree, the somewhat blatant intrusions of swimmers that largely ignore any form of encounter code and simply dive away when the intrusion becomes too much. However, it does bring to mind the situation found in other areas of tourism over-exploitation and when this continual disturbance will cause the sharks to avoid the area for a more peaceful life…
Uneducated tourists harassing the Djibouti whale sharks

Week two is looking interesting as it will be just the team and old friend and avid whale shark enthusiast Hussain Al Qallaf… we look forward to  lots of incredible photographs!

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