1560761_783527178329518_2129763375_nThe wind was forecast at nearly 20 knots today in La Paz, Mexico. Most whale shark tours were cancelled. The sea was lumpy and most tourists wouldn’t want to swim around in big waves with huge sharks. However, this would be our last day in La Paz and possibly our last chance to snorkel with the whale sharks. We called around and found a tour company who would take us.

Brian and I were the only tourists on the small motor boat. We bounced a couple miles across the ocean to reach the feeding area of the Whale Sharks. Our guide got very excited when he saw several huge, dark shapes in the water.

IMG_0529 (Large)The Whale Sharks are easy to spot. They often feed right near the surface on plankton and sometimes tiny fish. Their size was surprising and a bit intimidating – at least 30 feet long. They are the world’s largest fish, and some were easily as long as our boat.

We put on our snorkeling gear and jumped into the waves. It was easy to swim right up to the sharks and appreciate their beautiful, spotted skin, fluid movements and tremendous, gaping mouths. It’s forbidden to touch them, but in surging conditions like this one of them gently brushed the tip of its rough tail against my hand as it swam slowly nearby. Its firm skin felt like the finest grit of sandpaper.

IMG_0551 (Large)Ocean waves rolled over us, filling my snorkel and mouth regularly with salt water. I didn’t care. I was too enthralled with the largest sea creatures I had ever encountered. Thankfully they only wanted to eat plankton and had no desire for human blood. As I floated at the surface, spitting sea water out of my mouth, the whales bobbed a few feet away. Their bodies were often vertical, mouths outstretched toward the water surface, bobbing up and down.

Our guide swam with us for the first 30 minutes. As he got close to a shark to take a video of its huge undulating body, a strong current pushed his torso against the middle of the shark’s body. The shark didn’t like this unexpected contact and curved its body away from the guide, swished its tail powerfully, and was gone in an instant while the guide was tossed off to the side like a rag doll. Our guide was unhurt, but it was a powerful display of the speed and strength of this large fish.

IMG_0536 (Large)We got back on the boat. Our guide’s brush with the whale sharks made them skittish and they moved on to feed in another area about 100 feet away. The boat’s captain drove over to the new location for the sharks, then allowed Brian and I to swim with the sharks unsupervised. Our guide said this was one of the best days he’s seen for snorkeling with the whale sharks, with at least 5 feeding right near the surface. He wanted to give us some extra time with them. By now, I felt relaxed and at peace with the huge sharks. As long as we stayed out of their way, they would just go about their business of feeding and we were free to watch them. We floated around admiring their graceful curves until we got cold. During the boat ride back, we were glowing from the close encounter with these magnificent animals and excited to tell our friends back at the marina all about it.

Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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