Dozens of divers get rare opportunity to swim with whale shark

By Brenton Awa
Published On: Jan 07 2014 10:20:00 PM HST

Getting the chance to see a whale shark doesn't come around often.

Click here to read Brenton Awa's article.

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii -

Getting the chance to see a whale shark doesn't come around often, but when it does one can only hope the encounter turns out like the one in this story.

Click here to watch Brenton Awa's report.

A 25-foot whale shark was spotted just off the Kona coast last Thursday. Master Diver Keller Laros was on board a boat with others getting ready for a dive when he noticed over a dozen other boats parked in a crowd. The crew from Jack's Diving Locker saw nearly 70 snorkelers in the water and that's when they knew it must be because of the largest known fish in the sea.

"The dorsal fin was maybe a foot, foot and a half high out of the water and you could see the tail on the surface swishing back and forth a little bit and the people were following above and the whale shark went down," said Laros.

Laros says he sees about one whale shark per year but sometimes the meetings last only seconds, this time it was different.

"The whale shark was there for up to two hours and the boats came and left and came and left and there was probably 150 to 200 people that got in the water with the whale shark during the course of that time," said Laros.

Laros says the shark seemed curious and wasn't bothered by all the attention.

"He would sort of interact with people a little bit and then he would come right up to you and look at you. A couple of times it opened and closed its mouth, it went right up to the swim step of a couple of different boats," said Laros.

While most swimmers maintained their distance, Laros says one person attempted to grab the sharks tail, but after being yelled at he stopped.

"This isn't an amusement park, it's not a petting zoo, these are wild animals in their natural environment and it's really best to treat them with respect," said Laros.

Following the warning everything returned to normal and everyone was able to start the new year with a big splash.

"I think if you're living out in the ocean all by yourself and all of a sudden you get friendly interaction from divers and snorkelers that aren't trying to poke you or ride you or anything like that, it just seemed like the whale shark kind of enjoyed the company," said Laros.

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