Highlights of the 2006 Whale Shark Season

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Story and Photos by Holtzy

Well the Whale Shark season finished a bit earlier than everyone expected but thats the problem with working with wild animals-
They set their own agenda. The whole idea to give up the FMX
and leave this website relatively untouched was to save enough
money to do a USA and Brazil FMX trip before my next movie
Homegrown 4: The Curves Of Mother Nature came out. To that
end I was successful although I could definatly have done with
those bloody fish hanging around a bit longer so I could fleece a
few more tourists. Still a good road trip is one done on the bones
of your arse right??

Anyway it was an awesome season and here's a few highlights
from spending around 70 days diving the Ningaloo Reef in
Exmouth, North West Australia.

* Spinner Dolphins. Didn't see one last year. This year on at least
6 occasions we were lucky enough to be surrounded by a whole
ocean of them. It's hard to know how many there were but a
reasonable guess was in the 1000-2000 mark. All surfing the
boats bow wave, leaping and spinning and generally playing
around. Everywhere you look they were going off. Bloody
awesome. We even had a humpback whale turn up while we were
in amongst them one day and I have footage of the whale
deliberatly pushing his head out of the water to create a bow
wave for the dolphins to surf right in front of the whales head.
They were fully playing with each other. Check the photos in the
gallery for proof.

* Blue Whales: We get plenty of Humpback's and the smaller
Minke Whales but when a 80 foot long Blue Whale turns up you
really know just how small and insignificant you are.

* Demelza's Curse!: Hadn't been a cloud in the sky for 6 weeks
until my girlfriend Demelza arrived when it promptly rained for a
week and the Whale Sharks disappeared. Everyone started
pointing the finger of blame at Demelza and she even started to
beleive it. That was until we had two massive humpbacks breach
just metres away right in front of us (one kept jumping and you
can see the photos from that sequence in the photo gallery). The
next time she came out she was swimming right next to me
when a 30 foot Whale Shark did a full 360 degree corkscrew
barrel roll which no one on any of the whale shark boats had ever
seen before. I got it all on film and to this day is the most
impressive bit of footage I have shot. Demelza's Curse? More like
good luck charm.

* Manta Rays: The most graceful creature in the ocean. I love
these guys. You just sit in the water quietly and they will dance
around you if they are in the mood doing barrel rolls, loop the
loops, spinning dives, you name it these beautiful creatures do it
in style. More fun than Whale Sharks sometimes. I even had one
swim under a Whale Shark while I was filming it a bank right past
me. A Manta and a Whale Shark in the one swim. Epic

* The Ningaloo Reef: Every day was different. Every time you
think you have seen everything something else whould pop up to
surprise you. Like the Blue Whales or when two Killer Whales
bailed up a dolphin and ate it right in front of us, or the bright
orange Manta Ray (Never, ever heard of that!!!) then there was all
the other sharks, Marlin, Sailfish, Turtles, Sea Snakes etc etc not
to mention all the epic snorkels we had in crystal clear warm
water.

* Whale Sharks: These are what the tours are all about. Whether it
be inquisitive 10 footers that will swim around you in circles
wondering what the hell you are and trying to eat the bubbles
you create with your fins or the 30 footers that totally ignore you
but blow you away with their sheer size they really are a special
creature to swim with. Do yourself a favour and put this on your
list of things to do. The reward of seeing the looks on peoples
faces after they have got out of the water after being in with a
big Whale Shark is what makes it really worthwhile for those of
us who do it every day.

* Adrenalin: The spotter plane has called in a shark, we are the
fastest boat so we get there first. The divemasters or myself have
to jump in first into 300ft of water to determine whether the
shark has spots (a Whale Shark) or stripes (a big Tiger Shark)
before we let the tourists go in. I tell ya the heart beats pretty
fast until you have made a positive ID. One day the skipper and I
accidently jumped in for a snorkel with a 10-12 foot tiger shark.
I was buzzing for the rest of the day.

* The Crew: I was blessed with working with a really cool bunch
of people every day. Where last year one of the Divemasters had
an uncanny knack of rubbing everone up the wrong way this year
was full of laughter and good times. Made a great job even
better. Thanks guys!

Pic Above: Skipper Neil, Divemasters Hamish, Helen and Sonia,
Holtzy and Deckie Brad. The best whale shark crew in the
business
Pic Below: The customers snorkel with a big whale shark

More Photos can be found here

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