When fishermen looked down into the water, they saw a huge mouth opening and ready to swallow a boat. However, this cavernous mouth belongs to a living talisman. The whale sharks in the Coral Triangle, Papua are good luck charms for the fishers. They’re not really whales, but they’re very large. And even if they could eat large prey, they feed on plankton and small fish. Whale sharks don’t need to take gulps of air, so they’re difficult to find and study by scientists.
But a group of local fishermen knows these magnificent sea creatures well enough. Here is their amazing story…
20. Mysterious Creatures
Scientists haven’t been able to learn much about the whale sharks. Questions on how the mate, where they give birth and how many are there in the world’s oceans remained unanswered…
19. The Coral Triangle
Three-quarters of the coral species in the world live in the oral Triangle, in Papua. It’s a sort of underwater Amazon rainforest, rich in over a thousand of species of fish. It is there where you can see the whale sharks.
18. Cenderawasih Bay, A National Park
In the Cenderawasih Bay, which is over 14,000 square kilometers, you can find a huge number of whale sharks. It is the largest national park in Indonesia and a place where fishermen have had a tight friendship with these creatures.
17. A Great Respect for the Whale Sharks
The ancient sea provided fishermen the food they needed for thousands of years. Even now, fishermen treat whale sharks with respect. They believe that these mysterious creatures bring good luck. This is what they do…
16. Feeding the Giants
For decades, fishermen have thrown fish scraps to these giants, for good luck. Time passed, and now, marine tourism has grown. Fishermen developed a stronger bond than ever, as their lucky charm brought tourists to visit them. And that’s not all!
15. A Better Life for Sharks and Fishermen
Now, these sharks keep on being a living talisman. They attract tourists and fishermen benefit from the industry. They camp for weeks on floating platforms that they created, called bagans. Then, at night, they turn on the lights, and the magic begins…
14. Cenderawasih Magic
Turning on the lights on the bagans is like a summoning ritual for the fisherman. They start fishing at night when the light attracts squid and small silverside baitfish. When fishermen start pulling the nets, whale sharks appear!
13. Checking the Catch of the Night
Attracted by the many fish, whale sharks come to take their gifts. Small fish squeeze through the nets and fall into the mouths of the behemoths under the water. Fishermen even let some catch go, to lure the sharks for the amazement of the tourists.
12. Witnessing the Magic
People around the world gather to see the giant whale sharks and the fishermen welcome the extra revenue. Then, some of the tourists travel half of the world, only to dive with the giant sharks.
11. Sneaking Up on Them
Tourists were astonished to dive and see whale sharks nudge them out of their way. The whale sharks are a gentle and respectful species that would gladly cruise next to the divers. But is it safe to get so close tot these huge creatures?
10. Huge and Gentle
Even as huge as they are, whenever they’re next to humans, whale sharks arch their bodies to avoid contact. However, they would happily swim around divers, as they are curious about them. Here’s how swimming with these creatures looks like. It’s amazing!
9. The Best Scuba Diving Experience
Scuba diving is an amazing experience if you end up swimming with the fish and the giant whale shark. And the fishermen also love to join in on the fun, jumping in the water with no equipment or goggles to swim along, like this man…
8. Their Faces Light Up
You can see it in their faces that the Cenderawasih fishermen love to interact with their longtime friends. Their faces simply light up with delight as more whale sharks join the fun.
7. A Coastal Gathering
In many coasts around the world, whale sharks only visit in the season, as they are a migratory species. They travel to Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, Isla Mujeres in Mexico, Gladden Spit in Belize and so on… But the whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay are special!
6. The Cenderawasih Whale Sharks
Why are these whale sharks special compared to others in different places in the world? These giant creatures are quite happy with their life in the Cenderawasih Bay, so they gave up migrating!
5. The Food is Great
A pleased customer will always come back, so the whale sharks are pretty pleased with the food in the bay. Why would they give it up in favor of a long journey? This is why this is the only place in the world where whale sharks are a constant appearance.
4. The Growing Tourism Industry
The bay’s tourism grew over the years, but it takes great care to protect the ecosystem too. Tourists can go on ecologically friendly adventures and dive with the sharks, while also providing an income to the local people.
3. A Lucky Charm Indeed
The attraction of the whale sharks has proved once again that these creatures are indeed lucky talismans for the people living in Cenderawasih Bay. The communities benefit from the fees they gather from divers.
2. A Unique Experience
The locals in the bay allow small groups of tourists to get on the fishing boats and spend many hours among the massive fish. It is a great experience to dive and swim with the whale sharks.
1. Changing the Way We View Tourism
The ecotourism industry should grow and shed a new light on how we should experience new adventures while also protecting the lands and waters we visit. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of why we should protect our environment. Only this way we can still see amazing creatures like these whale sharks.