What Swimming with Whale Sharks Taught Me

Several weeks ago, while vacationing in Baja, Mexico, I had an amazing opportunity to swim with whale sharks. If we were having coffee today, I would recount that experience with you and explain what the experience taught me about my life. I’ve got a lot of coffee and tea, so please don’t be shy!

Close up a a massive whale shark

About Whale Sharks
Whale sharks are sharks, not whales. In other words, they are fish…the largest fish in the ocean.  They can range in size from 18 to 40 feet long and up to 21 tons! They are literally as big as buses. They also do not have teeth, but instead, like many species of whales, are filter-feeders, using baleen which filters plankton and krill into their four-foot-wide mouths. Ironically, whales and whale sharks, the largest creatures on the planet, eat the smallest living organisms in the ocean.

Whale sharks are surrounded by small schools of fish that also feed off the bits of food. Remora are fish that latch onto the shark’s body and feed off the parasites that cling to its hide. Whale sharks live in tropical waters and are considered endangered. See more about these incredible creatures here or here.

Swimming with the Sharks
To see the whale sharks, two friends, my husband and I chartered a small boat on the Bay of La Paz. The charter companies specialize in whale shark sightings and fishing activities.

After a 20-minute ride to the edge of the bay, our captain stopped the motor and pointed out a few feet to starboard. There it was, a gigantic whale shark! My heart was pounding! We took some photos, and quickly threw on our snorkeling gear, and one by one, we quietly slipped into the water. I was the last one in. As I adjusted my mask, the captain stood above me and pointed down. I shrieked into my snorkel with both fear and delight as the huge whale shark serenely swam just two feet below me.

Whale shark was a few feet away from me. A good 20-footer.

In my mind, I knew they were harmless creatures. In fact, they reminded me of giant cows lazily grazing in the pasture. These humongous creatures swim with their mouths near the surface feeding on the plankton-rich waters, with no other care in the world.

We all took turns taking photos of each other swimming alongside the sharks with an underwater camera. At one point as my friend took several of me, as he swam backwards to get a better angle, he bumped into a second one that appeared. It was as if he jumped five feet out of the water in surprise and fright!

I had plenty of faith knowing that my other friend had gone swimming with the sharks before, and therefore knew what she was doing. I have a healthy respect for all members of the animal kingdom due to my outdoor nature. And even after swimming alongside for a while, feeling like a mermaid, most of my fear dissipated, until…

I instantly was surrounded by three of them!

People on a nearby boat giggled at my realization when they heard me shriek into my snorkel again. Curious, but respectful, I cautiously reached out and touched the gentle giant just twelve inches away from my outstretched hand. The skin felt like the texture of wet cement. At that moment the shark loomed before me as if it were my whole world. The shark, unfazed, continued to feed as if I did not exist.

To these magnificent creatures, we puny humans appear as insignificant as a fly on the wall of the world’s ocean. When they finish or grow tired of human interaction, they merely dive and completely disappear in the murky depths and move on to their next meal. I imagine with dread, their huge, powerful tail fins could inadvertently send someone somersaulting through the water.

Seeking Inspiration and Time
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I was uninspired with my blogging before I left on my winter vacation. I felt that I had told all the stories I had to tell. I have been wanting to spend time writing a non-fiction book and was seriously ready to shut down the blog. Blogging and its care and feeding take a lot of time. My part-time work teaching as a university lecturer has taken much more time than I anticipated in developing new curricula and prep-work. Something has to give. I’m supposed to be (semi) retired!

As I struggle with finding time to fit everything in, swimming with the whale sharks has taught me a few things. Their whole lives are about feeding. They swim, feed, produce young, and repeat.

I realize the daily mechanics of writing my book can wait until summer when I am away from classes for three months. Since I will be writing about leisure, participating in summer leisure activities will provide me more content in which to use for the book. There is no hurry to write and publish this project. But it will get done.

Read here about my renewed blogging inspiration.

To help with my renewed zest for blogging, I joined two Facebook groups. Midlife Blogger’s Association  focuses on blogging about midlife issues, while assisting with blog promotion and social networking. Another similar group, Blog, Share, Learn  focuses on blog promotion and improvement. Within these groups are committed bloggers, writers, artists and photographers who take their work seriously, and have fun while doing so.

What Swimming with Whale Sharks Taught Me
Swim slowly through life and enjoy the journey. Things done well take time. There is no hurry for excellence, because it will manifest itself when work is carefully crafted. Patience really is a virtue.

Take time for leisure for continued growth and motivation to succeed. Try new things, have fun and do it with passion and gusto. Be open to new ideas and accept the sense of adventure… and prepare to be exhilarated!

Embrace a healthy fear and respect for the animal kingdom. Our planet is not infinite and neither are our lives. Appreciate the beauty of Earth’s creatures and the environments in which they live. Some may not be there tomorrow.

How small and insignificant my problems really are. Our circles of family and friends hold significance for us as we share our values, passions and love. To each other, we ARE significant. Just like the remora and schools of fish that swim with the sharks, we exist in a helpful community.

The really big things in life are harmless in the grand scheme of things. What may seem like an insurmountable or massive problem can be whittled down to plankton-sized bites to be taken in slowly and dealt with in digestible portions.

What swimming with whale sharks taught me

Have you had adventures that taught you lessons about life? Do tell!


 

I am also including these photos in Jennifer Nicole Wells” Color Your World Challenge “Denim.” 

Winter Weekend Coffee Share

Please consider joining the coffee clatch at Part-Time Monster’s Weekend Coffee Share 

 

 

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50 thoughts on “What Swimming with Whale Sharks Taught Me

  1. Wow! Another thing to add to our list of things to do while in La Paz! That must have been an amazing experience. Just curious: is the water cool enough this time of year to require a wetsuit? I think your timeline readjustment for writing your book makes sense. The beauty of retirement is that you don’t need to do everything NOW!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your new photo. I feel the same about the environment and have seen many changes in my lifetime. I put my self in God’s hands a.d let what happens happen. I don’t know what is plans are for me. That doesn’t mean stress and excitement doesn’t happen. I learn long time that with some are a waste of time. You are not going to change and you will not convince to things your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful experience Terri! The photography is great and I could imagine being there with you. Something like this always helps us face our fears, we also need to learn to co-exist with these beautiful creatures of the sea. Thank you for sharing your inpirational adventure with us at #Overthemoon. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Terri!! Wow!! Thanks for sharing your experience swimming with the whale sharks! I am amazed at what gentle creatures they are despite their size… And my compliments for being so close to them! I think I may have chickened out! Your photos show how close you got and I can almost see their slow action from your pic . I’m glad it was a superb experience and that you learned a lot about life from them:)!!
    Hope all else is well with you! I too find myself so busy lately but I need to get back to writing and reading blogs ! Happy to hear you’re here with us on the journey!!!
    Much love to you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. loved this Terri – and the fact that it gave you some insights into life was an added bonus! Glad you’re not quitting the blogosphere and that you’ve linked up with some midlife groups that I love. thanks for sharing at our #OverTheMoon link up ~ Leanne 🙂

    Like

  6. What a wonderful coffee share. Thank you for sharing such an incredible experience.
    A while back, someone told me “you should go swimming with whale sharks” and I have been thinking along these lines ever since. I don’t know when I will, but hopefully, it will be in the no too distant future.
    Enjoyed reading your post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Terri, I do NOT have the courage you have and rarely have risked my safety knowingly. However, I love love love “swim slowly through life” and “…big things in life are harmless in the grand scheme of things.”

    Thank you so much for not closing up your blog and for telling us about whale sharks. I’d heard of them but didn’t know the details. Now I know some.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That is an amazing experience. I would have been terrified, but then I live in Wisconsin and I’m kind of afraid of cows. It makes sense that we have to experience things if we want anything to write about. I am with you that there is no need to hurry through life- though it has been a long time coming! Today a nurse was preparing me for my upcoming eye surgery and she said after they send me home she wants me to sit around and do nothing for four or five hours. I wanted to laugh- doing nothing does not come naturally to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I saw the title of this post I thought you must have been a bit mad (sharks are scary) but whale sharks are really cool so Im actually quite envious.
    Thanks for sharing with us, Tracey xx #happydiaries

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! I’m soooooo glad I stumbled upon your blog! Last week I had the opportunity to swim with stingrays! But I think whale sharks would scare the crap out of me! More important are the lessons learned and shared. I just made a post on my travel blog, Encore Wanderings,
    about lessons learned on the Camino de Santiago that is very similar to the sentiments you discovered! Kindred spirits, perhaps? Thanks for sharing this experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I swam with dolphins in the Bahamas a few years back, and it was the best experience of my life. I’d really love to swim with whale sharks, as well, as I think they might have a whole new message to share 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Terri! What a great adventure. And doesn’t it make sense that something like that your swimming with the sharks help you get clear about. Life is definitely supposed to be about such exhilaration and I think that helps to shake us up and remind us of the journey. Every trip I’ve taken reminds me of what is important and helps me be more clear about where you go next. And speaking of next, I’m looking forward to meeting you in April at the Bloggers of Midlife Conference. ~Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve always wanted to swim with the whale sharks, but I wasn’t thinking it might help sort out the rest of my life! Maybe I DO need to book that trip. Great insights. By summer you should be more than ready and excitd to get working on that book.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love whale sharks. They are so gentle, quiet, and harmless (their tail could hurt you, yes indeed!). Being in the ocean with creatures surrounding me is as close to bliss as it gets!

    Like

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