It's 22nd of February, almost noon comes to life on board the whale shark expedition boat off Diani Beach. WE HAVE A WHALE SHARK!
Volker Bassen, seasoned captain, pilot and deep sea diver who also happens to have a passion for whale sharks shouts on top of his voice “Everybody in” to some of the guys snorkelling next to the boat admiring turtles.
The radio suddenly crackles again, “we've got 2 sharks, i repeat we've now got 3 sharks!”
As soon as everybody is in captain Bassen guns the engines, within seconds we are cruising at 60km/hr towards the spot where the airplane located the sharks.
“It's far, we'll need about 20 minutes to get to where they are so get
ready to jump” Bassen shouts on top of his voice in order to overcome the roar of the twin 200Hp engines as we almost ﬂy along the Kenyan coastline.
After about 10 minutes the radio comes to life again. “We see you, about another 5 kilometres” we hear the pilot saying, the boat suddenly turning over so slightly, almost automatically, a smooth, well- rehearsed manoeuvre. After all, Bassen and his team have successfully been ﬁnding whale sharks like this for the past 2 decades.
“We now have 6 whale sharks, i repeat; we now have 6 whale sharks, 2 are huge, at least 10 meters in length!” Bassen grabs the radio, “Ok, guide me to the biggest one!” He shouts.
Soon we can see a small dot in the sky, it's the spotter plane circling the area where the sharks are. “Everybody ready? 5 minutes to contact” Bassen shouts. “It's at your one hundred meter”
The boat suddenly slows down while turning. It heading straight ahead of the boat guys, I'll position us in front of him, jump when I tell you to Bassen tells us in a calming voice.
As for me, I'm about to pee in my pants!
Not so much because of fear as of excitement. Well, maybe both, I am about to swim with the world biggest ﬁsh, and a shark on top of that!
“He is coming right towards the centre of the boat, about 15 meters now, can you see him?” I turn around, suddenly a massive dorsal ﬁn breaks the surface and I see a head as wide as a bus, the shark is coming straight towards us as we sit there in anticipation.
“JUMP” Volker shouts!
I hesitate, have I gone mad?! Am I completely out of my mind?! That thing looks like it could swallow not only me, it's so big it could probably swallow the whole fricking boat if it wanted to!
I feel a hand on my shoulder gently squeezing it; “its okay buddy, don't worry, he is just a baby, he won't bite, try to remember that” says Bassen while gently pushing me into the water.
What I see is hard to describe, it's certainly the most impressive sight I have ever seen, no doubt about that! It will forever be burnt into my memory. I now know why people who have done it call it a wildlife experience of a lifetime.
As in a movie I see the massive shark gliding towards me with Steve Capone, underwater cameraman and whale shark researcher already swimming by its side. Something isn't right, Capone looks like a toy ﬁgurine next to this giant, and I suddenly realize how massive this leviathan is!
As the whale shark slowly swims past me with Steve Capone in tow I suddenly remembered to take a breath again. It was as being thrown back 200 million years in time when the dinosaurs roamed our planet. In fact, the whale shark roamed our oceans 200 million years before the dinosaurs, this is probably the closest Jurassic Park experience one can get. It's absolutely without comparison the best thing I've ever done.
In total we had 8 whale sharks that day. I can't wait to do it again, it's addictive.