The mystery of the missing whalesharks

Diving with whaleshark in Indonesia

When Dunia Baru sailed through Whaleshark Bay recently our guests encountered – surprise! – whalesharks.

One of the things that makes this area so special is that you can often snorkel or dive with these gentle giants, and so that’s exactly what our guests did. Most of the whalesharks they encountered were males that measured between four and seven meters; not so big, in whaleshark terms (they can grow to more than 12 meters), but large enough to make you feel rather small.

While in the bay our guests and crew met researchers from WWF who were observing the behaviour of whalesharks in the region. Some of these majestic creatures were tagged with GPS radio senders so that the researchers could track their migration.

Whalesharks, the biggest fish on earth, can swim up to 7200 kilometres as they migrate. They go in search of food, and gather in various locations around the world, from here in Indonesia to Australia, Mexico and Belize. But although these creatures are the largest fish on the planet, they disappear. For six months of the year, according to this National Geographic story, researchers have no idea where whalesharks go.

Where whalesharks have been recorded around the world, the populations have been mostly males. And very few young whalesharks have ever been seen. Scientists have no idea – none at all – where the females go, and where they give birth. They suspect the pregnant females might undergo long migrations to the middle of the ocean, away from coastal zones where a lot of feeding happens, where they give birth to their young which measure just over half a meter at birth.

Journalist Brian Handwork has written a fascinating story for National Geographic on research that has revealed a few secrets of the whalesharks. Order yourself a cappuccino, take a few minutes off work, and read through that piece, here.

Diver and whaleshark

PS Wish this was you? Dunia Baru will be back around Whaleshark Bay later this year. If you’d like to charter the yacht, please speak with your broker.

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