Each spring between March and May, the staff, faculty and students of KAUST frolic around the professors of the Red Sea Research Center for the chance to go on a Whale Shark diving expedition. Sadly, I was not one of them – or rather I “tried” to be one them, but by the time I heard about this amazing adventure, they were already booked up.
Whale Sharks in the Red Sea from KAUST Red Sea Research Center on Vimeo.
Here’s why the trips are so popular:
- Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the sea and get up to 40 feet long.
- Even though they have the word “shark” in their name, they prefer to eat plankton and not people.
- They have super big mouths which are amazing to see. Okay, this is my own strange fascination, but really they are like the Cookie Monster of the sea.
- They are currently listed as a vulnerable species so if you get the chance to see them in peaceful way, then take it.
|Whale Shark photo taken by another person on the boat.|
But as I mentioned, I was too late to get in on the KAUST weekend expeditions so I had to come up with Plan B, which was to find a third party company that would do it. In other words, it was Facebook to the rescue.
I was also hoping to convince a couple friends to go with me because I’m still not confident in all the Saudi etiquette and didn’t want to be the only Western woman on the boat.
|Me looking a little tired and sun burnt|
|Red Sea Coral|
And to make the adventure perfect, I was able to convince two newbies from Ireland who just got their diving license and couldn’t wait to dive on their own. Also, because they are new like me, they missed out on signing up for the KAUST trips too. They also showed me where to buy my snorkel, mask and fins.
So did we see a Whale Shark? Yes!!! We spotted one just as it came to the surface and instantly everyone hopped off the boat to try to touch it. It tried to be patient with us and then I think it just gave up and swam away. Frankly, I would too if 10 splashing humans were trying to catch me.
|Dawn on the Red Sea|
The other thing that was interesting was that all 9 people on the trip were ex-pats like us. They had come from Australia, Portugal and Poland. It was my first time meeting other Westerners who weren’t from KAUST and it was kind of nice. Made me feel like the world is less small knowing others were living just an hour away and adjusting to Saudi life just like me.
One of women even had her own Jeddah blog: LivinginJeddah.com