KONA, Hawaii – A group of divers had a rare close encounter with one of the ocean’s gentle giants on January 2nd off the coast of Kona.
“This was an excellent way to start the new year!” commented Keller Laros on his YouTube channel.
Laros, of Manta Pacific Research Foundation, shared his story with KHON2 news. In the video, you can see the crew from Jack’s Diving Locker spot a ruckus on the water off in the distance, as a “flotilla of tour boats” surround something in the sea.
“They’re acting like whale sharks,” remarks a passenger on the video. “Or dolphins.”
The group from Jack’s Diving Locker went in for a closer look. Once they got near, everyone realized they were in for a special treat. A “young, inquisitive whale shark” was making his way through the water. The group jumped in, paddling and contorting to keep up with the huge fish, which Laros estimated to be 20 to 25 feet long. As ocean lovers know, whale sharks may be the biggest shark in the sea, but they prefer plankton to people. Their gaping mouths filter feed on microscopic organisms in the water.
“Don’t touch it!” warned a member of the crew in the video. For the most part, the divers that surrounded the fish kept their distance, although the site of so many humans swimming with a whale shark is seldom seen.
“It’s pretty much understood here that you don’t touch, tease, harass, ride, any of the wild animals out here.” Laros told KHON. “It’s just a privilege to be in there presence and the whale shark is no exception.”