Blue Guru conducted its 2nd season of the Whale Shark Program in 2011. We very much hoped to repeat our success from 2010 of spotting a previously unrecorded whale shark. Last year we snorkeled twice with a 5-6m whale shark at Richelieu Rock. The 7 participants of the program recorded data & took photographs, which were submitted to Project AWARE's Whale Shark Project database, run in conjunction with the Shark Trust, and Ecocean's photo library. It was the first time this particular shark had been recorded in either database. How exciting!
In February 2011 we unfortunately did not spot any new whale sharks during our trip. However, the 2 participants this month were lucky enough to have private encounters with a feeding turtle & 2 manta rays.
After learning about turtle biology, distribution, identification techniques and the threats faced by turtles, we were treated to an amazing demonstration of turtle feeding methods in Similan Islands. The turtle broke chunks of coral away, as it foraging for food beneath. Half way through the feeding session, it swam up to the surface for breath. It was a wonderful treat for the 2 divers + dive guide to witness. Using their acquired knowledge, the divers were able to identify the turtle & submit key data to Project AWARE's database, contributing to research about these endangered species.
On 2 separate occasions later in the 4 day liveaboard trip, we were also privileged to encounter manta rays at Koh Bon, the dive site famous as a manta ray magnet. It was just our 2 divers + dive guide who spotted both mantas. This solitude added to the magical experience. The first was spotted on our safety stop in the big blue. Naturally we extended our safety stop much longer than 3 minutes as we watched motionless as the manta ray circle around us. The second was spotted on a dive along Koh Bon reef. We hovered down close to the reef, making sure none of our equipment was touching the coral. The manta ray swam overhead, giving us an awesome view. These private manta ray sightings were the highlight of our trip.
Next season, Blue Guru intends to add Manta Ray distinctive specialty to this eco-educational program, expanding it to become Whale Shark, Manta Ray & Turtle Awareness Program. This will increase the learning & opportunity to gain not 1, not 2 but 3 PADI Specialties. We will also be submitting photos & data on all manta ray sightings to an online database monitoring the manta ray population in Thailand. So even more contributions to worldwide & national research about threatened marine life.
Hopefully in 2012 we will spot whale sharks & manta rays again at Richelieu Rock. Will "our" whale shark return again? Or will we spot another as yet unrecorded whale shark? Will we see the same manta rays at Richelieu Rock, Surin Islands & Koh Bon that we saw between Jan-Apr 2011? Watch this space to find out .... or better still, join us on one of next season's trips!
If you are interested in joining one of Blue Guru's Whale Shark Program expeditions between Feb-Apr 2012 or any of their eco-educational liveaboard trips between Nov 2011-Apr 2012, email firstname.lastname@example.org