Whale Shark Encounter

by Ed Robinson

What a Christmas present! A few days before Christmas last year the ocean blessed us with a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the largest fish in the seas - a whale shark! Not just for a short time, but almost all day. The friendly creature was sighted early in the day by several boats on the backside of Molokini, which was frustrating for me because our divers were making their dive in ignorance of the excitement several hundred yards away. Hope was up as Rene and the divers on Mana Kai made the second dive along the outside of Reef's End, in a long shot chance to see the shark in this area. Not so - while the dive was in progress I watched another dive operation swimming with the beast on the inside of the reef! Twice, our divers were so close and yet so far.

Whale Shark Image

But luck was with us. After everyone was safely onboard, we motored into the center of Molokini, where the shark had last been sighted. Suddenly we came upon a dark shadow, and there it was! Rene and I traded off boat-sitting while the divers spent half an hour swimming with a very curious shark. At one time, I watched in amazement as the shark swam to the surface amongst a dozen snorkelers, and stop nose to nose, just inches from the closest snorkeler who furiously back peddled, I am sure fearing for his life.

The whale shark would spend several minutes on the surface, slowly swimming as it allowed the snorkelers to catch a ride from its' dorsal fin. Then it would slowly submerge and circle the area, only to surface again amongst the small, splashing creatures above.

Drat! This is a busy time of the year and I know I have to break-off this encounter to return for an afternoon trip. I am already late, and I fear Roger is fuming at the empty dock. But as we arrive back at the launch ramp, the excitement carries over, and no-one cares we are late.

When the second trip on Mana Kai arrived back at Molokini, the shark was still there! The second dive team snorkeled with, and then scuba dived with the shark throughout the afternoon. Roger, after over 2,000 dives, finally got to dive with a whale shark! The excitement on our boat radios was deafening as Seadiver II, returning from our weekly Lanai run, diverted to Molokini and joined in the frolicking.

It's unheard of! A three boat load, all day, encounter with a whale shark. Unfortunately this sort of chance encounter can not be duplicated on demand. But it does show the unique nature of the diving we enjoy in Hawaii - where anything can happen. BTW - lightning does strike twice. The image accompanying this article was taken during a similar 1980 encounter at the same location.

-- Ed Robinson


Addendum: Since this story was written last year, ERDA guests and crew have had four more close encounters, and numerous sightings of whale sharks at Molokini. Not of the intensity of the above encounter, but any close proximity encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most divers.