Curious whale shark swims to humans in Kealakekua Bay

Published On: Mar 27 2013 07:27:19 AM HST

It's whale season in the islands. Lots of lucky folks have spotted those gentle giants off our shores.

There was a sighting of a different kind -- one much rarer in waters off the Big Island.

Imagine being a half-mile offshore in the waters of Kealakekua Bay and coming face to face with a whale shark!

"He just cruises around around in big long circles and kinda comes up to everybody and everybody's boat, and it's like a real friendly puppy dog," said boat captain Tony Roensch.

That so-called puppy dog is a 35-foot-long whale shark who, for nearly an hour on Sunday, swam with Roensch and a group and six very lucky visitors on a SeaQuest snorkeling tour.

"The animal is just amazingly friendly, and a lot of the guys I have done this with before, they all said that's probably the nicest most friendly whale shark they ever saw," said Roensch.

Despite their enormous size, whale sharks are not a threat to humans.

"They are very docile, and they just eat plankton.  They don't even have teeth, even though they look like a humongous shark," said Roensch.  "They're so beautiful and they're so big and there's no fear involved."

No fear, but lots of curiosity from both the swimmers and the whale shark itself.

Roensch said, "He checked out every boat and every person and it was amazing how docile he was.  It was a great experience."

The captain tells us that in three decades of being out in those waters, he's only seen a whale shark a handful of times.  And he's never seen one stick around and interact in that way.


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