Extreme Whale Sharking

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Story By Holtzy Photos by Ron the legend photographer

What does a photographer/videographer do when he's not recording the craziest FMX riders and surfers on film? Do a little crazy filming of his own just to keep the blood flowing is the answer.

This year is my third year filming tourists swimming with whale sharks 6-7 days a week for 4 months of the year and I'm still not sick of it. You just never know what you are going to see on any given day as every time you think you have seen everything the ocean serves up something new and exciting to see.

This year I had a super close encounter with the most venomous creature on the planet- the banded sea snake and got rushed by a very angry, very hungry 8ft Bronze whaler shark amongst many other awesome experiences.The sea snake was in the middle of trying to eat an eel it had caught and so with a mouth full of food it was possible to approach it within a distance of centimetres to film and just hope it didn't want to drop it's meal to try and bite me.

The bronze whaler shark was a whole different affair. Myself, Ron (an American photographer) and our two dive masters- Hamish and Katie left the customers on board to jump into a big bait ball full of tiny fish that was getting smashed by Tuna and Manta Rays. We kind of knew that there was a chance a shark would be in there somewhere but none of us were quite prepared for what happened next.

First a wall of tuna came through gorging themselves on the baitfish. I had the camera running filming the tuna when out of nowhere the big bronzy came charging at us and stopped less than a metre from my camera as I lunged at it to fend it off. Then it circled all of us about four or five times before we got safely back on the boat. We were buzzing from the adrenalin rush for days afterward.

The footage is all time. The shark goes from a far away dot to right in your face in milliseconds and when played back in slow motion you can see the pectoral fins are pointing straight down- a sure sign the shark was angry and hungry.

This year we have also seen about 5 tiger sharks but never while we have been in the water. A couple of us have wanted to jump in with them but the skipper has said no. We are just waiting for one around 6 foot long and then we are straight in there as most have been in the 8-12 foot range. I also had a quick swim with a 6ft Hammerhead Shark but it wouldn't let me get too close. Give it a couple of years and it wont be so scared.

On a safer note we have seen some really cool stuff. We have seen 6 Blue Whales (The largest animal on the planet) including a pod of four where the biggest was around 25 metres long. We have seen a couple of pods of 1000+ spinner dolphins that have put on a show that has to be seen to be believed and recently came across a pod of 300+ Pilot whales that swum around the boat for ages.

Of course all this isn't counting all the cool swims we have had with Whale Sharks up to 30ft long. I get a real buzz from guiding people onto a whale shark sometimes in water as deep as 240 metres. Many haven't done much more than a couple of little snorkel trips in 6ft of water so it's a real challenge to help them overcome their fear and make them jump into incredibly deep water for that golden experience of swimming with the biggest fish in the ocean. For many it is the best experience of their life and that makes it all the more special for the dive masters- Hamish, Katie and Mel and myself plus our legend skipper Brad and deckie Travis who do it everyday.

We just had Channel 9 on the boat filming for a new show called "Things To Try Before You Die" Apparently swimming with Whale Sharks is one of those and I'd have to agree. I was the Whale Shark guide for the presenter- Jules- so keep an eye out for the show as I will be on there somewhere along with some of my footage.

If the idea of swimming with Whale Sharks appeals I can definitely recommend our company - Ningaloo Blue www.ningalooblue.com.au to go with. We are the best (I only work with the best haha) and don't be put off by all my talk of sharks with teeth. Swimming with whale sharks is safer than crossing a road and heaps more fun.

Pic Above: A Whale Shark. Pic Below: Holtzy films the deadly
banded sea snake

More photos can be seen here

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