Whale sharks with WildAid
- Sep 11, 2012
Fins and wet suits in hand, we headed out into the bright sunlight and azure waters to commune with whale sharks with the folks from Wild Aid and Virgin Unite, two of my favorite organisations! Both groups have joined forces to stop the practice of shark finning, where people slice the fins off the top of sharks and dump the rest of the shark back into the ocean to bleed to death. They then use the fins to make very expensive soup served mostly at weddings or other very fancy events.
But in the case of whale sharks, which are HUGE, they slice off that fin and use it to advertise the soup on signs outside of restaurants.
We rode for about an hour as our photographer, Shawn Heinrichs, gave us the whale shark scoop. It seems these whales come from all over at this time of year (July) to feed. He explained that the full moon we were under brought even more of their prized fish eggs to the surface. We were headed for Whale Shark Mecca. Shawn was like a seven-year-old waiting for Santa, he beamed with infectious enthusiasm for what we were about to experience.
We arrived in the middle of nowhere, water and swells for as far as the eye could see. And there they were, the big fins moving slowly through those swells, undeterred by the boats circling around them. They were hungry! Shawn and the others instructed us to not touch them, to swim towards them, look them in the eye and then pull alongside and try to catch their wake.
I jumped in and turned to see this huge 30 or 40 foot prehistoric creature coming straight at me and as the Jaws theme, dun, dunt, dun, dunt pounded in my head, I lost my breath. I swam closer and looked into his huge eye which didn’t move or blink. He reminded me of a docile, sweet horse in a dinosaur-like body. I pulled along side, trying to slow my now heavy breathing, and was caught in his wave. I swam alongside feeling and moving like a mermaid. He seemed as large as the earth itself. And we swam, and we swam and we swam together.
I knew I was getting farther and farther away from the boat and the others, but I felt safe and connected to my new friend, as though we could swim to a new land together. He seemed to say, “Come along and see what I see. Let’s play.” And I was all in! My only thought was that I might get kinda cold in this ocean when winter comes. We moved as one. It was effortless and smooth, as though we were flying. I felt his relaxed energy, saw it in his moves. I felt the cool clear water pulling me along swiftly beside him. I was on his magic carpet ride.
After quite a nice run, I thought I better look up though I didn’t want our play date to end. When I did, I was a LONG way from the group but, WOW, it didn’t matter. I had run off with a whale shark and we were in love! Reluctantly, I waved goodbye and thanked my new boyfriend. And as I swam back to meet the others, I was struck at how that big whale, the earth, and even little me were all made of the same stuff. We are all connected and by protecting their well being, we are protecting the well being of our planet and ourselves.
I’ve never had shark fin soup. I never will. The earth is full of beauty, and abundance. And for the brief time that I’m here spinning around on this planet, I will take only what I need. And I don’t need shark fin soup. I’m lucky to have this life to enjoy, to experience and to connect and fall in love with a whale.