When I started diving in 2004 I knew I discovered a new passion. The underwater world. Within the next 10 years I travelled to different countries and got more and more mesmerized.
One of my dreams was to encounter a whale shark. That would be a dream come true. Luck wasn’t on my side, everywhere I went they were seen, but not around when I was there. Time to change my luck.
By coincidence I discovered a program in the Maldives conducting research on Whale sharks. Not with scuba gear, but freediving.
So, it begun. After completing my free dive training, I signed up and arranged my ticket to the Maldives. It’s harder than you think to spot a whale shark in the water. Standing on top of the roof of the Dhoni in the burning sun was a challenge so we covered ourselves in different ways for protection. There was also enough time to cool down in case we didn’t encounter a whale shark.
The moment we saw a shark we jumped into the water. Everybody had a dedicated task. Two people will measure the length of the shark, some take pictures of the shark and the (old) injuries / scars it has. One will take ID pictures to identify the shark later that day and one will try to swim below the shark to determine if it’s a male or a female. The crew on the dhoni will take notes about the (weather) conditions of the encounter.
To be fair, the moment I jumped in the water I forgot a lot of my free dive skills. It’s a challenge to keep up with the shark, duck down and try to get close.
Finally, my luck changed. In the 4 weeks I participated I encountered 45 whale sharks. And in a way I was able to help to understand the behavior of these majestic animals a little bit better.
Are you interested in helping the whale sharks around the Maldives?
Protect what you love!
The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme is a charity that carries out whale shark research and fosters community focused conservation initiatives in the Maldives. https://maldiveswhalesharkresearch.org