While scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands, this thrilled diver had a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a whale shark that was curious enough to swim straight up to him for a close inspection. The diver was part of a group that was exploring the waters near Darwin Island, a popular area for pregnant whale sharks to frequent during the autumn months.
The whale shark was slowly cruising past the island and it was headed past the divers. It made a graceful arc and turned to come face to face with this surprised, but delighted diver. As if having a close and curious look at him, it slowed almost to a stop as it looked right into his eyes. It drifted past him so closely that he could have reached out to touch it.
In complete disbelief, the diver turned the camera on himself to show the massive animal and its incredible tail as it passed so closely. The camera shows how magnificent this shark is as it dwarfs the diver and even the other large sharks around it.
Whale sharks can grow to almost 20m (60 feet) in length and can weigh an estimated 45,000kg (100,000 pounds). They are the largest fish on the planet and second in size only to a few species of whales. As huge as they are, they are incapable of harming a human and they have no reason to try to do so. Whale sharks don't possess teeth. Their large mouths open to allow water to be filtered by giant combs in their gills. They feed on plankton, krill, fish eggs and small fish.
As if the sight of this great beast were not enough, the scuba diver also had a very close encounter with several Galapagos sharks that were cruising the waters with the whale shark. They swam under and around the diver, but he was so in awe of the whale shark that he didn't pay much attention to the fearsome sharks that were so close to him. Galapagos sharks are the top predators here, growing up to 4m (12 feet) in length. They are occasionally aggressive and have been known to present considerable danger to scuba divers. These sharks were not displaying feeding behaviour and caused little concern for the group in this case.
The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most diverse and plentiful life on the planet, and in the ocean. For many scuba divers, seeing a whale shark is the ultimate diving experience. But to be approached by one who wanted a closer look is an experience that very few people will ever have.