Whalesharks in Cendrawasih Bay

Person swimming with whaleshark in Raja Ampat in Indonesia

Last month we posted this video of a whaleshark sucking at nets in Cendrawasih Bay. What you couldn’t see from that video is just how big they are, and so we wanted to show you the image above, which our cruise director Leah Sindel photographed in the same area.

Is the size of the whaleshark distorted here? Not much. The largest confirmed length of these docile giants is 12,65 meters, and that specimen weighed 21,5 tons; the average length is 5,5 to 10 metres, and average weight is 20,6 tons.

Whalesharks are filter feeders: their mouths are really wide (they can measure 1,5 meters in width) and they feed mostly on plankton and small fish. Whalesharks have between 300 and 350 rows of small teeth, but these aren’t used for feeding. Usually, they will either open their mouths and swim forward into their food, or else whalesharks will open and close their mouths, and suck in volumes of water. As they do this filter pads, which are sieve-like structures, separate food from the water, and the water is expelled through the gills.

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