Diving in West Papua has been one of the main attractions for tourists there. If you are so into water sports, you will probably choose that activity too. No wonder Raja Ampat has been mentioned a lot as a diving destination.
Speaking of diving, how about doing it with the whale sharks of West Papua? Dare to give this a try?
About The Whale Sharks of West Papua
Their Latin name is Rhincodon typus. This megafuana is a favourite marine animal for adventurers and divers to look at. Because of this, whale sharks have been overexposed to tourism, that they are now endangered. Despite being the largest fish species on earth, whale sharks are most vulnerable for two (2) reasons:
Their slow growth.
A whale shark becomes an adult when it turns 30 years old. It can live up to 60 until 100 years old.
Their slow reproduction.
It takes a long time for them to reproduce. As water mammals, a whale shark needs a long span between their pregnancies.
Where You Can Find Them In West Papua
If you would like to see whale sharks while you are in West Papua, you can go to Teluk Cendrawasih. There is the Teluk Cendrawasih National Park. That is where the whale sharks live under protection. In India and Taiwan, whale sharks have been captured for commodities and consumption since the 1980s. It was why the number of their population had been dangerously reduced in the 2000s.
Teluk Cendrawasih National Park is a safe space for whale sharks and other 150+ coral species to live and grow. This National Park has also been considered as one of the World Heritage sites.
There are also numerous researches done on whale sharks. One of them is Papua Paradise Eco Resort.
How To Safely Swim with Whale Sharks In West Papua
Now you know about whale sharks in West Papua, you need not worry. Sharks are dangerous, while whale sharks are known to be gentler giants. Still, it would be best to be mindful when you decide to dive in and swim with them. If you know how to position yourself without scaring them, you will be safe.
There have been numerous travel bloggers who documented their experiences in swimming with whale sharks. Some are good, while there are other bad experiences. Remember, these whale sharks are gigantic. You can learn from other bloggers who have swum with them but be prepared for unpredictable outcomes.
In short, pay more attention to some blogger’s bad experiences to be on the safe side. You can learn from their past mistakes too.
Safe Tips On Swimming with Whale Sharks In West Papua:
Besides relying on a more professional guide for your first-time, here are some safety tips on swimming with whale sharks in West Papua:
Choose a suitable packaged tour.
Choose a packaged tour that is close to the site. It is even better if a guide is also provided for the dive.
It is best to do so in the early morning.
Whale sharks are early morning creatures. The locals and tourists usually show up to feed them with smaller fish – which they accept happily. These fish suck their food in by opening their gaping mouths wide.
Do not swim too close to them.
Yes, whale sharks are generally gentle giants. They will not treat divers like snacks. However, they are still giants. Although they may not deliberately attack you, bumping into their majestic frame is no fun underwater. It might be even worse if you accidentally surprise them that they get scared.
In some other cases, you might not want to position yourself directly face-to-face with them. It especially applies if they are hungry and there are some small fish near you. They may open their gaping mouths wide to suck their foods in with you by accident.
Do not alarm them as well by touching them.
Respect the local cultures and environment.
If you are not diving but would still like to see whale sharks, you can stand by the water’s edge and feed them. Do not litter the water since litters can choke whale sharks if swallowed by accident.
As a first-time diver, it is best to respect the local cultures as well. Do not forget to pay respect to the local elders before you dive in.
Please have patience since they are slow creatures.
You cannot expect whale sharks to swim fast like other fish species. Just like their growth and reproduction, they tend to swim slowly as well. You can enjoy the beautiful view of them underwater. They will not acknowledge you, which is safe. You can watch them and take photos of them for free.
Diving has been one of the main favourite activities in West Papua. It is an alternative idea for diving in West Papua. After reading this, will you give swimming with whale sharks a try?