Its that great time of year again when the water has gone soupy with plankton and the mantas have started being seen. But then comes the big question… will the Whale Sharks follow??
Hopefully this year will be a yes, and with this in mind, we have prepared a little more information on our spotty friends!
In contrast to what many believe, Whale Sharks are actually carnivores whose diet, as well as plankton, consists partly of small fish, so being that cute pilot fish that hangs round the mouth of these huge beasts is not the danger free job we all thought! If you are lucky enough to get up close and personal with a feeding shark, you will notice rows of tiny teeth just inside the mouth. These, however, have been shown to be redundant as they play no part in feeding, as this is done by filtration through the gills. The Whale Shark differs from the other members of the filter feeders (basking sharks and manta rays fall into this category) as they are the only ones who actively suck water into their mouths as opposed to swimming into a water stream.
Measuring just over 50cm at birth, when fully grown males average 6m in length and females 8m – although the largest specimen ever recorded measured 20m. Whale Sharks are estimated to live for between 60 and 100 years, although no one documented this!
The small eyes they have possess very poor vision meaning navigation, as well as hunting, is done mostly by smell, using the highly developed nostrils located by the lower jaw.
These gentle giants are typically slow moving (tell that to anyone who has tried to keep up with one!) averaging 1km / hour, although when in a hurry, speeds of nearly 4km / hour have been reported.
So now you have all the facts, want to increase your chances of coming across one of these legendary creatures?? It’s all about location….
You need to be:
– In water between 18 – 30 degrees
– In a tropical sea
– In a plankton rich area
– VERY LUCKY!!