Day 88 – Remember, Whale Sharks Are Wild Animals…

Another early (6:30AM) start today, which was even harder than yesterday’s early start. We booked ourselves onto a whale shark tour yesterday, so we had to be at Exmouth Dive Centre before 7:30AM – it sounds easy, but we’re totally in holiday mode and it was touch-and-go. I shouldn’t be making excuses, but it was also harder because it was actually really cloudy, windy and rather dismal looking this morning (the radar actually showed that there was rain on the eastern horizon, too, which is the first rain since Uluru all those weeks ago)

20130809_RCH_0597 20130809_RCH_0600 20130809_RCH_0598This tour was much larger than the dive tour we did yesterday. Yesterday there were 8 people including us, today there were 20! Yesterday’s dive was off the eastern side of the peninsula, today we were in the wild, wild west. It was a 30-40 minute drive from their office to the boat ramp. From there we were ferried 7 at a time in the tender to their larger boat that was waiting in deeper waters. They spent time explaining how the dive with whale sharks would work – we were split into two groups of ten, and when they found a whale shark, they would drive just ahead of it, then give the orders to quickly jump in the water in front of it. We were reminded of today’s unofficial catch phrase, ‘whale sharks are wild animals’, which meant that they couldn’t be controlled and everything was going to be unpredictable.

DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPROTo test our whale shark entry procedure, we had a practise run that was combined with a snorkelling adventure. We saw more turtles (and this time I decided to dive down and chase it). It was pretty similar to what we’d seen yesterday – water was a similar clarity, with similar fish and corals.

20130809_RCH_0606 20130809_RCH_0612 20130809_RCH_0634 20130809_RCH_0649 20130809_RCH_0655 20130809_RCH_0656 20130809_RCH_0671We continued to follow the west coast south for quite some time. It felt like we encountered humpback whales every 15 minutes – some were boring, others were extroverted and slapped their fins on the water, breached, and poked their awesomely big tail out for us to see. They were close enough for us to experience ‘whale breath’, which I was lucky enough to only cop the faintest of whiffs of this pungent smell (if you haven’t smelt it before, it smells something like stagnant seawater crossed with old fish).

This kept us entertained for a while, but we were there to see (and swim with) whale sharks. They employ spotter planes that fly up and down the coast hunting (figuratively speaking) these giant fish. We’d had a few sightings, but by the time we’d arrived, they’d dived deep below the surface and weren’t to be seen. The tension was palpable. We were reminded for the fifth or sixth time of today’s motto, ‘whale sharks are wild animals’ and that they were trying their hardest to find one for us to swim with. It was obvious there was a little pressure on them to deliver.

We spent a good deal of time sitting around, circling in the area where one had been seen recently, but after nearly 45 minutes of waiting in vain, they gave in and fed us our lunch (cold meat buffet, with potato/pasta salad and bread rolls – simple, but more than sufficient).

It was now close to 2PM and we hadn’t had any success, so they started to slowly make their way north towards our start/finish location. The skipper suddenly stopped the boat and yelled something out to the crew members, who rapidly got ready to enter the water. We thought it was go time, but it turned out that it was a manta ray, that by the time we were ready to get into the water it had disappeared below. We all (all 20 of us) jumped into the water and swam around in vain trying to find that manta ray, but it wasn’t to be.

DCIM101GOPRO… and then, a humpback whale and its calf swam right past us! I was oblivious, but I heard excited shouting, so I stuck my head under water. It would have been less than 10m away from me. I fumbled with my GoPro and somehow only ended up with just the one dark/blurred/featureless photo… It all happened too quick – I saw a giant dark shape, and the distinctive white belly, and right beside it the much, much smaller and clearer shape of the baby. You’re not technically aloud to swim with the whales, but since it was unintentional it was OK (or something like that). We were told that we were incredibly lucky as it was a very, very rare thing to occur. It was cool, and we felt lucky, but it all happened so quickly that it almost didn’t feel like it really happened.

20130809_RCH_0679 20130809_RCH_0684We kept slowing moving back to the finish point, slowing every time a humpback whale was sighted (which was pretty frequent). The skipper suddenly slowed the boat again – this time it was a water snake, which is said to have THE most potent and deadly venom of any snake. …and then the dive crew jumped in to swim with it! Turns out that its fangs are at the rear of its mouth, so it’s considered unlikely for it to be able to bite you, but since we were on a boat a long, long way from a hospital, I thought it was a pretty crazy move. Even crazier that they picked it up and started to play with it!

20130809_RCH_0692We saw more whales, more turtles, some dolphins but no whale sharks. We heard that some orcas have arrived, which cause a lot of the sea life to leave – they’re basically the jerk redneck neighbours that no one wants to be around.

DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPROOne more quick snorkel just off the beach (very shallow) before the tour was finished. We saw some reef sharks, and giant starfish, as well as the usual fish/coral.

20130809_RCH_0695And that was it, we hopped back into the tender, got back into the tour bus and tried to stay awake on the transit back to Exmouth. We only swam three times, but for some reason the two of us are really, thoroughly exhausted. Exmouth Dive Centre have a ‘no sighting’ policy that you can join the next available tour, which isn’t until Sunday, but paying guests get preference, and if they have people purchasing tickets, we’ll have to wait a little longer. I’m in two minds about it – I’d really, really love to swim with some whale sharks, but at the same time, I’ve had a good time and we’ve seen some pretty awesome sea creatures and I’d like to start heading towards Perth.

20130809_RCH_0698So, because we were both so exhausted, cooking was too much of a chore (and since we’re paying so much for accommodation, take out was out of the question). Tonight was dinner in a can – Curry Beef and Potato for me, Irish Stew for Risa. A lot better than it has any right to be (for a $2 can of food).

88日目 8月 9日 (金)   うみは、ひろいな、おおきいな!!!

今朝は、6:30に起床。 朝ご飯を済ませ昨日のダイブショップへ出発!

今日のツアーは、ジンベイザメ(Whale Shark)と泳ぐツアーです。 あの、ちゅら海水族館にいるあの大きなアイドルです!!

日の出前の起床時は、低く雲がかかっていたので、もしや久々の曇り日?!こんな大切な日に! と思いきや、朝日が昇るとともに雲もどこかへ消え、今日もとってもよいお天気に恵まれました☆

ツアーの人数は20名なので、昨日よりかなり大きな船です。
11時から空からジンベイザメを探すための飛行機が飛び始めるので、それまでは沖に移動し、まずは、ジンベイザメについてお勉強。

ジンベイザメは、最大で18mほどまで成長するようですが、この辺りで見られるものは、だいたい12m前後。

サメといっても彼らのごはんは、ちいさなプランクトンで、歯もなく、とても温厚な性格なので、人間に危害を与える事はないそうです。

性格と見た目は、どちらかというとクジラに近いようですが、えら呼吸なので、くじらのように水面にでて呼吸をしなくても良く、多くの時間を最大3000kmほどのかなり深い海底ですごすため、他のクジラの様に研究がとても難しいようで、繁殖、移動、寿命などほぼ生態は、ナゾに包まれたままだそうです。(他のクジラのようにGPSなどタグを付けても水深が深すぎるためタグがもたないそうです。)

この辺りで見られるものは、ティーンエイジャーのオスが多いようで、栄養豊富で暖かい水のこの辺りで、ご飯をたらふく食べて大きくなり、どこか別の場所へ移動しているようです。(どこかは定かではない)

インストラクターとは、けっこう違ったことが書いてありますが、参考までにウィキペディア。
ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ジンベイザメ

いざ彼らを目の前にするとパニックになる人が多いそうで、スムーズな観察の為に、発見した際の練習をしました。

こんなでっかい図体していて、とっても臆病ちゃんらしいので、彼らに近づけるのは、一度に10人ずつなので、2グループに分かれ、
GO! GO!Go! GO!!! と言われたら海に入り、ガイドさんがこっちだよーという方向に着いて行くらしい。

臆病ちゃん&安全の為、(温厚といっても野生動物だし、最大で重さ40トンだからね!)
にしっぽの辺りは、4m、横は、2m前も4m以上は離れて泳いでくださいとのこと。

練習で飛び込んだスポットにもカメちゃんや、大量のさかながいましたよ♫

そしてこの練習のあとは、船に戻り、ひたすらジンベイザメを探します。

移動の間もあちこちにザトウクジラがいました♡ でかーーーい!!

彼らは、かなり図体も大きく、(最大20m、60トン)大きな潮をふいたり、巨体をジャーーンプさせたり、大きなヒレをバシーーーーーン!!!としたり、海面にいる時間もかなりながいので、とにかくかなり遠くからでも目立つので、すぐに見つけられちゃいますが、
ジンベイザメは、海面からは濃い青色と白い斑点模様がついていて、ちょうど海の色と、波の様子にそっくりで、なおかつ水面にいる時間が短いので とっても探すのが困難。

何度もなんどもかなり近くでザトウクジラの親子に遭遇は、しますが、肝心のジンベイザメは、いっこうに見つからない。。。。
見つかっても、すぐに深海へと姿を消してしまい、全然戻ってこない。。。

場所も飛行機からのラジオ、他の船とのラジオなどありとあらゆる手段をつかって見つけようと試みますが、ぜんぜん見つからず、時間は、すでにお昼過ぎ、、、

ランチを食べて気を取り直したものも、とうとう最後まで見つからず。。

しかーーし、またもやマンタを発見!!

どっぼーーんと飛び込むもマンタは、ぴゅーーーっと行ってしまいました。

しかーーーーーし!! 奇跡が!

なんとマンタ目的で飛び込んだときには、誰も気がつかなかったシロナガスクジラの親子が目の前に!!

実は、私が水中でみたのは、マンタではなくて、シロナガスクジラの赤ちゃんでした!

その奥には、大きすぎてなんだか混乱してたけど、あれは超巨大なお母さんだったらしい!!

本来ならシロナガスクジラと遊泳は、許可されていないけど、私たちの場合は、偶然の遭遇なのでOK.  なんとラッキーな♡♡

その後も、無線で飛行機と連絡をとりながら、シュノーケリングを2回ほどするも波が非常に高く数人ちょっとパニックになってました。

たしかに、船がめっちゃ傾いてジャンプしてるみたいに見えたときは、ちょっとビックリしたけど、全然大丈夫たと分かってたし、少し面白かった笑

最後の最後まで粘るもすでに4時を回っていたので、捜索を断念し、
帰路につきました。

またまた途中、ジンベイさん以外のレアな海の仲間を発見。
かなり大きなウミヘビで、これは、陸地で1番猛毒のヘビの何倍もの殺傷力があるという超恐ろしいヘビ!!

でも性格は、おとなしくこちらから危害を加えなければ襲ってくることはないみたいだけど、ガイドさん達海に飛び込んでしかもそのヘビをつかんで、見せてくれました。(もちろん船上ではなく海でね。私たちは、来る?と呼ばれたけどもちろん船上でおとなしく待機してましたた! ヘビだもん!)

 

最後の最後まで、色んな海の仲間に出会えたけれど、ジンベイさんは、おあずけ〜。

明日のツアーは、すでに満員なので、(1ツアー20名定員)、もし日曜日にツアーが決行されて空きがあれば、今回のツアーを予約した人から優先的に入れてもらえるとのことなので、、、、日曜日に行けるといいけど、、、もしムリだったら月曜かぁ。。。  キャンプ地も一晩$35なので、ちょっとキツいなぁ。

けど、ラッキーなことに偶然シロナガスクジラと泳げちゃったし、しかもこれはジンベイザメと泳ぐより奇跡的らしいし、ジンベイさんには会えなかったけど、大満足な1日でした☆

ちなみに初めて食べた缶のスープ。 私は、アイリッシュシチューを食べたんだけど、これが意外にお肉も野菜もちゃんとゴロゴロ入っていて、味もうまかった! $2でこれは、驚いたー。

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