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TAT News Online - SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS
Breathtaking Whale Sharks
The Whale Shark, or Rhincodon typus, is a fish that breathes through gills. It is the largest of the shark species, reaching up to 20 metres in length and 34 tonnes in weight. It can live up to 150 years, and has a broad head with about 3,000 teeth in each jaw that are not used for feeding.

Whale sharks feed on krill, shrimp and small fish which they suction filter through their gills. They do this by swimming vertically in the water column gulping water. They are found where these prey occur in large concentrations, and must feed constantly to survive.

Up to 300 young are born at a time. Although they are normally seen in shallow water, they can dive to depths of up to 2,000 metres, possibly to evade predators. Whale sharks sometimes swim long distances between spawning and feeding grounds. Those seen off the west coast of Thailand may travel several thousand kilometres, as far afield as the Seychelles and Kenya during the year.

Marine biologist Jackie Ziegler has been studying whale sharks in Thailand as part of a collaborative project undertaken by the Marine Protected Areas Research Group, Victoria University, ECOOCEAN and Curtin University of Western Australia. Jackie explains why it is an experience of a lifetime to be swimming alongside a whale shark.

“Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean so swimming next to this behemoth is special purely because they are so big. Many people think that the experience will be scary because of the sheer size of the animal and because some people are put off by the word 'shark'. And it is a rush at first, when you see this huge mouth approaching you from seemingly nowhere. But once you are swimming next to them, it is like time slows and everything is peaceful. It feels as though you are being drawn into the shark's bubble, like a magnet. Very serene.

“Being able to interact with a whale shark in the wild is special because they are so rare. They are typically a solitary species that spends extended periods at depth between 100 and 200 metres making it difficult to find them, let alone interact with them. Encountering them is therefore very special.

“It is every diver’s dream to have a close encounter with a whale shark because they are so big and so beautiful. Completely unique, gentle, at times curious. And rare.”

Hotspots for Close Encounters with Whale Sharks in Thai Waters
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관리자  kotrin@chookjnews.com

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