We (John and I ) made some memorable and amazing dives on a recent trip aboard the Arenui in Feb 2023. When I first approached Gabe at Ocean Safari about his charter boat trip, it was full, sadly for us. But Gabe said he would look around and find something, and surely he did, the best option for us being on the repositioning trip after his charter, i.e., an 11 day trip from Sorong to Kaimana, so it would have the reverse route, from Kaimana to Sorong. It was a most amazing trip and we are so glad we went!
Near Kaimana, at the beginning of our trip, is Triton Bay, known for the baby whale sharks that would come around, sometimes in droves, to feed on the fish set up in nets by the local fishermen on floating platforms called "bagans". On the day of our Triton Bay dive, we got up at 4:45am, had a light breakfast, and then suited up, ready to dive. Peering into the dark along the horizon we could see two bagans all lit up. But no whale sharks came. So we waited and waited, until just before 7am, the cruise director decided that, to increase our chance of seeing the fish, we should get into the two small dive boats and move closer to one of the bagans. It was already daylight, and we continued to wait for another 15 minutes, all suited up, on the two dive boats. Then suddenly the cruise director shouted "Get ready! One, two, three, go !" Having repeatedly checked our gear, yes, we were ready to go! We all back rolled into the water and immediately I could see a whale shark swimming towards us at about 20 feet deep. Size is relative, and this whale shark, if it is a "baby", still looks pretty big next to us divers.
As I was still adjusting my buoyancy, all of a sudden the whale shark made a big swoop and came charging at me! All I could do was back off as fast as I could as we were told NOT to touch wild life. Chasing me almost to the surface, the giant fish turned around and dove down. Just as I was debating whether to follow the fish, it turned and came right at me again! This happened at least three times. I finally got my camera ready and started shooting; however, I turned the strobe off as I did not want the flash to hurt the eyes of the fish; yes, we were that close. I kept mumbling through the regulator to the fish: "I'm not supposed to touch you! Don't get so close! Open your mouth! I want to see if you have any teeth?" Later, I wondered if the funny noises I made was the attraction.
In the end, every diver enjoyed a great encounter with the whale shark. We were told by the fishermen that the whale shark was not hungry at all, as it spit out all the fish they threw at it, so it was just playing with us.
When the dive trip came to a close, the boat held a photo contest with only one winner. I sent one entry, reluctantly, as my TG6 is no match for other divers' big rigs. I even disabled my strobe! But this trip is full of surprises. The final surprise is that I won !
Judy Ho Orange
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