This past weekend, I had the opportunity to live out a dream from my childhood. I was\am fascinated by animals, and sharks took up a considerable amount of my imagination as a kid. Particularly enthralling were images of divers swimming along with whale sharks. Swimming with them moved to near the top of my to-do list when we signed our contracts to live and work in Tanzania.
Mafia Island, known more for the GTs and offshore species that are beyond the reach of my finances, also hosts a seasonal population of the largest fish on the planet. We hopped a short flight there last weekend in the hopes of meeting one on its own terms.
After a bit of a fiasco with some local fisherman and their dhow, we decided to pay for a much more environmentally conscious operator that happened to be owned by ex-pats. They took us straight to the brown algae slick about a mile offshore, and it didn’t take long for the first dorsal to be spotted. They maneuvered the boat into position, and told us to dive in. I had our GoPro in tow.
The size and grace of these sharks was an incredible thing to see. They did not seem to mind our presence, or the sound of the outboard, as they kept on feeding during the duration of our visit.
The murky water was the very reason for them being there. Algae and plankton comprise their diet, but hamper the visibility. Watching them materialize before us in the water was indescribable and very humbling.
We didn’t touch the sharks, and definitely didn’t ride any of them, but I did get close enough to draft in their wake. Most of the time in the water was spent in pursuit, just behind the swaying 6ft high tail.
Being in the presence of such awesome animals is an addicting experience. If you ever get the chance, take it.