Whale sharks a boon to diving centres during season

Muscat - 

The world’s biggest fish, the gentle and curious whale shark tops many divers’ bucket list and is a boon for the local diving industry during the summer months. The migratory fish are on International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) endangered list.

Typically, the season when whale sharks are seen in Omani waters is from July to September, but sometimes sightings are made as early as June, according to Ahmed al Baloushi, diving instructor at Oxygen Diving and Adventure. “Whale sharks are often found in the waters around Damaniyat Islands, Fahal Island and Bandar Khairan. Oman is a well-known destination for whale shark spotting. Last year, we sighted a group of ten whale sharks in one location,” Baloushi said.

Euro–Divers Oman is seeing an increasing number of divers coming from neighbouring countries during public holidays. “While we get a lot of whale shark-related queries from customers, our policy is not to create overexpectation by guaranteeing sightings. In some countries, whale sharks are fed regularly in order to guarantee sightings, but thankfully this is not the practice in Oman,” said Barbara Alessi, diving instructor at Euro–Divers Oman.

But there are other operators that take guests out to sea who guarantee sightings at this time of year. “A spotter is sent early in order to locate the whale sharks,” another operator said.
Keith Holt, owner of Global Scuba, informed that typically the most sightings are between July and August. “We see less of them now as the water temperature begins to cool. Whale sharks mate in late April off the coast of Djibouti before following the currents to the Gulf of Oman.”

How to approach a whale shark

Keep noise to a minimum: Enter the water by sliding in slowly from the boat feet-first (do not jump). Keep your fins under the surface of the water while you are kicking to reduce splash.
Look but don’t touch: If whale sharks are touched, they will normally dive instantly. That spoils the encounter for everyone else and stresses the shark.

Keep your distance: Stay at least 3m away from the head and 4m from the tail. If a whale shark comes directly towards you, simply remain calm and split into two groups so that the shark can swim between you.

Snorkel calmly and slowly: Do not chase whale sharks or block their path. Approach the whale shark from the side and for the best view, swim alongside the shark near its pectoral fins. If a shark banks (rolls over and presents its back), back away and stop free diving or duck-diving. It’s important not to restrict their natural behaviour and movements. Let the shark control the encounter.

Photographs: Avoid excessive flash photography when photographing whale sharks. Do not point your flash directly into their eyes.
Source: Padi.com

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