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September 12, 2011

1

It’s a whale of a tale, but it’s all true

by Geoff Grant

Swimming with whale sharks is an incredible rush as my family and I discovered on our trip to the island of Holbox, Mexico. While you know on a conscious level that these largest of all fish are docile, it’s still a different feeling to jump into the ocean with anything bigger than your boat.

So when I saw this photo of a whale shark about to inhale this diver, it brought a smile to my face. And a bit of a rush as I thought back on our trip, too.

Of course, our experience was a tad different. We weren’t bait for breakfast and our visibility was more limited. To see the sharks, we had to swim right up close to them, which is incredible until one of them whacks you with its tail.

We only wish we could have gotten a photo as amazing as this one. This was taken by photographer Mauricio Handler off of Isla Mujeres in Mexico as more than 600 whale sharks gathered to feed on tuna spawn.

“I led an expedition of photographers and when you’re down there with the fish it is like another world,” Handler said. “The picture of the diver staring into the gaping jaws of the shark was an incredible adrenaline rush.”

The gentle whale shark posed no real threat to the diver, though. As Handler said, “If he had have been sucked into the massive mouth the shark would have just spat him out.”

But I’m not sure how pleasant an experience that would be. I’ll take swimming alongside, with the occasional tail whack, with a sense of awe.

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