The last five days I have spent a fair amount of time in the classroom in the IDC centre listening to lectures on physics, physiology, equipment, dive planning and marine biology. Having just finished reading the divemaster manual (still have to do the nine knowledge reviews though) I knew most of the stuff that we went over in the lectures and at times it was a bit hard to keep my eyes open – Chris and Marco who have been teaching are actually really good, I’m just constantly knackered. It’s optional whether to go to the lectures or not and even though I don’t feel that I learned much it has probably helped me to also hear the stuff as opposed to only reading it in a book.
Besides being sat in a classroom I’ve done my skill circuit in the pool along with Kirsten, Tristan and Scott. I was the only one of us who wanted to be scored on my performance so I demonstrated all of the skills and the others practiced afterwards. I scored 116 points with 120 being the maximum points that can be obtained and except for one stupid mistake when I did my regulator recovery I was fairly satisfied with my performance. Afterwards Kirsten and I did the equipment exchange at the bottom of the pool while sharing one regulator. I’ve done it before and this time was not much different – a bit stressful and fun at the same time. It gave me the maximum score of 5 points so can’t really complain about that.
There haven’t been much time for diving the last few days so when there were no lectures on the program for the morning two days ago I quickly signed up for the morning dives. And I’m so immensely happy that I did!
On our way to Chumphon Pinnacle we were told that a whale shark had just been spotted at the divesite which made the whole boat smile and cheer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen 38 people get in the water that fast after the boat was moored at the buoy line! Once in the water we quickly descended around 15 meters so we were positioned midwater and started swimming. Shortly after the silhouettes of (way too) many divers floating around at maximum 10 meters depth appeared in front of us and we instantly knew we’d found the whale shark. When I looked up to the surface and my eyes caught the first glimpse of that elusive giant I think my heart might have skipped a beat. It was nothing short of amazing!
Although still a bit of a giant it was actually just a baby whale shark with a length of approximately 3 meters (everybody else’s estimation). According to my dear friend Wikipedia whale sharks can grow to over 12 meters. It stayed almost at the surface for most of the time and according to the pictures on my camera I had the pleasure of it’s company for 15 (way too short) minutes.
As I’ve only been diving for eight months now I can’t exactly say that it was an old dream coming true but it was definitely an experience I had high high hopes of having one day (and rather sooner than later). I would really like to dive with a bigger whale shark some day but for now I’m happy to have just managed to see one and I’ll tick it off on my diving bucket list.
It definitely wasn’t easy to photograph that lovely giant with so many divers (and their annoying bubbles) around. But what was much worse was some people’s behaviour around the whale shark. Although most of the divers present behaved nicely and gave the whale shark some space to move around there were unfortunately a few people who kept swimming right in front of it and one person had to be dragged away by an instructor or divemaster more than once.
I can totally understand the desire to be close to that huge fish but as divers we’re guests in their natural environment – the sea – and should act with respect to all the animals there. The divers themselves are however not the only people to blame as their instructor or divemaster should have briefed them on how to behave in a situation like that. Hopefully the whale shark wasn’t traumatized completely and will return again some other day (while I’m here that is).
While we’re at it with the amazing dives I might as well mention the night dive I did a couple of days ago. I went with Andrea and I think we were able to break our spell of misfortune as there were no weird or stressful incidents and instead we were spoiled with so many great sightings. We started out by seing a crocodilefish (my first one – they’re quite good at camouflaging themselves in the sand) and ended with a great barracuda (probably around 2 meters long) before we managed to find our way back to the boat (YAY!!). In between we saw heaps of blue-spotted stingrays, maybe a jenkins whipray (we’re not completely sure) and a scorpionfish.