Whale Shark Encounter, FloridaPompano Beach, Florida, diving often offers big-animal encounters with sharks and rays, but whale sharks are not a common occurrence. Photo by Craig Dietrich.
One of the things I love about scuba diving is the fact you never know what you are going to see when jump in. The ocean is an ever-changing environment, and while you can dive the same areas for years, you're never guaranteed that you'll see the same things. Well, one Sunday in late November 2012, while aboard The Sea Dog Diver out of Pompano Dive Center, we could never have imagined what we were about to experience. After just coming out of the water from our first dive, there was chatter on the CB radio about sightings of a whale shark. We didn't believe it and joked about them seeing mermaids too.
About a half hour later, we received a call from the dive boat Miss Conduct saying they have snorkelers in the water just outside of Hillsboro Inlet, swimming alongside a whale shark: "We don't have a camera and nobody is going to believe us!"
Without hesitation, we headed to their location. Everyone on board was overwhelmed with excitement. Could it really be a whale shark off Pompano Beach? When we arrived, all we saw was a fin in the water, and the captain yelled, "Go! go! go!" and we all jumped in. As we put our masks on in the water, there in front of us was the most massive gentle creature we had ever seen! Just swimming along with his entourage of remora fish that followed him wherever he went.
The funny thing was that after the first pass we were all hooting and hollering about how amazing it was to get to see a whale shark, never, ever imagining he would come back to us over and over again.
After an hour, he finally had had his fun with us and moved out into the vast ocean he calls home. Needless to say, the trip back to the dock was filled with chatter about this once-in-a-lifetime experience.