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Exmouth Whale Shark Day

May 18, 2012

Friday 18th May 2012 Whale shark!

We woke up early and waited for the dive centre bus to pick us up at the entrance of our camping. We got picked up at 7.50am and the bus drove to one of the beach. A small boat came to fetch us and took us to a very nice bigger boat.

boat

From the boat, we had a great view of the shore.

sea

In total, we were 14 tourists signed up to see the whale shark that day plus a crew of 5 Australian guys. We had a short snorkel first while their little plane was cruising above the sea to spot the whale sharks.

plane

Once spotted, the boat moved to where one was. One of the team guy jumped into the water and gave us a go once he found it. We were split in 2 snorkeling groups of 7 people and we took tours to swim with the whale shark.

swimming with the whale shark

Here is a picture of one of the whale shark we swam with that another tourist, Hugh Glenn, took.

whale shark

Photo Copyright: Hugh Glenn

The whale shark is the biggest fish of the ocean. It can measure up to 18 meters long, although the ones that cruise the Western Australia water are usually between 6 and 12 meters long. It has 100 series of 3,000 tiny little teeth. The whale sharks can be seen close to Philippines, Mozambique, Borneo and a few other places, but it is more guaranteed to see one here in Exmouth, more than any other place in the world. He comes here to feed on the rich plankton and opens his wide mouth to swallow it while swimming.

There is still not much information known about the whale shark and the scientists are trying to understand more about it. They don’t know yet what is his migration pattern for example, neither for which reason it goes swimming 2,000 meters deep sometimes.

We had the opportunity to swim 4 times with the whale shark, and the longest swim was about 20-30 minutes. The Australian Marine Conservation is very careful to protect this animal. Not more than 10 swimmers are allowed to swim with it and it is asked to stay 3 meters away from it, 4 meters from the tail when being behind it, but that’s more for safety reasons as his tail can be really powerful.

It was an incredible experience to swim with this huge animal, which has the shape of a shark but is classified also as a fish.

On our boat was David Ireland.

David Ireland

He is a famous wildlife video producer in his sixties now and was there to do a 2-week shooting documentary about the whale shark. I had never heard of him but someone on boat said he was the first man to do some really good documentary about crocodiles so I asked him to tell me more about his life, and he told me his incredible and unique life story.

He is Australian, was born in Sydney. He was born fragile and with asthma, so his dad asked a very strong man working in a circus to train him so that he would get less fragile. That man taught him a great deal of breathing techniques and exercises and David got stronger and his lungs got bigger. He started to do free diving and got really good at it. Besides he started doing diving also, and became an instructor. He won the free diving championship and was sent to Noumea. There he fell in love with sharks and started feeding them and riding them. He became famous for being the man who rides sharks. Some television programme decided to do a documentary about him. David got really interested in the camera equipment and the cameraman filming him showed him how to use it. Once under water, the cameraman freaked out in front of the shark while filming David, and ran away, leaving the camera there. David picked it up and filmed with one hand himself feeding the shark with the other hand. Back on shore, the team found his shooting so good that they gave him the camera and a job. Here were the first steps of David inside the world of wildlife shooting.

Now…This was just the beginning of an incredible adventure. That adventure took him to many places around the world and made him shoot incredible animals. The most adventure he is famous for is shooting the biggest crocodile of the world in Australia. I had heard that from people on the boat who told me about him so I asked him to tell me that story too.

So here was David in Australia, for a 2-week shooting of crocodiles, and especially the biggest crocodile of the world. Now, I may not have understood everything correctly, but here is what I understood so far. They had setup a cage so that David could go in the cage to feed the crocodile from outside and film it at the same time. He did 2 weeks filming that went well, although sometimes the crocodile would manage to make holes in the cage by pulling the iron bars with his jaws, but it went quite well. On the last day, the water was really shallow, arriving below the knees. They thought the crocodile had left. David went inside the cage to pick up the cameras left there that had done some recording at night. He turns back and starts walking back to the shore. A girl from his crew spots the crocodile right behind him and screams to give him the alert. David speeds up, and the jaw of the crocodile closes few inches close to his back. He almost got killed by that crocodile and told me that after that for a few weeks he was waking up at night still seeing the scene of this nightmare.

I asked him if he had worked with hippos also and he told me briefly about a time when he was shooting elephants in Botswana (I think it was in Botswana…if I remember well) and they were kayaking. Suddenly, they were attacked by hippos and their kayak was half eaten. They had to swim to the shore and crawl quickly on it. The elephants were getting angry so they had to wait for a bit (or do something else, that I am not sure). As they had not kayak anymore, they had to walk back 12 kilometers in the sun to their camp. Crazy!

He told me about his channel where I could watch all the documentaries he had made. Here is the link. There are amazing videos there. It was an incredible privilege to meet him and hear some of his adventures directly from him. Check this link out, it will make you discover sooo much and make you dream.

http://www.davidireland.com/

In the afternoon, the plane spotted the first humpback whale of the season! They are back! The boat went there and we could see the whale emerge from the water sometimes. Here is one picture I took.

whale

We came back onshore around 3.30pm. While Chrissy went to the nearby beach, Michael and I drove the coast to Cape Range National Park, aiming to Turquoise Bay.

The landscape in this park was really beautiful.

Cape Range National Park

On our way to there, we finally saw kangaroos! Tons of kangoroos! Here is one of the first we spotted, yeah!

kangaroo

Here is a cute one, turning his head to look at us.

kangaroo

We practised our skills on taking pictures of jumping kangoroos and that wasn’t easy. We got mostly blurry photos, but here is one I managed to get which is not too bad.

kangaroo jumping

We saw a beautiful echineas on the road, with his beautiful long nose.

echineas

He had frozen on the road, and we were afraid he would get killed. Some cars arrived and we pointed to him to make them aware to avoid it. Then I pushed him with a stick to force him to get out of the road, off to the bushes.

Later we spotted a strange bird, not sure what it is.

strange bird

The landscape kept being stunning all the way we drove.

landscape

We finally arrived at Turquoise Bay, a gorgeous beach, completely deserted when we got there.

Turquoise Bay

We watched the wonderful sunset.

sunset

We stayed a bit longer, as the colours of the sky get incredibly beautiful after the sun has gone.

after sunset

On our way walking back to the car, we ran into a crab.

crab

It was 6.40pm and already really dark. We drove back to the camping, and it took us a long hour as there were tons of kangaroos on the road. Those kangaroos are crazy. Why do they stay so close to the road? Of course they are going to get killed!

kangaroos close to the road

It was one of the most stressful drive ever, we were driving at 40km/h, and spotting kangaroos every second. We finally got there and ironically had some kangaroos meat as burgers for dinner, ahah!

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