October – Mexico

Bruce, Susan, Patti and I traveled down to Puerto Penasco and stopped for an early dinner at Chicken Shack before reaching Casa Caracol. The weather is beautiful, and we’ll definitely be in the water, no wet suits this trip!

The next day, after a day on the beach, snorkling with the fish, and walking the shore, we met Julie and Larry to celebrate in town at their suggested Tekila Bar.  

We arrived just before Halloween, and given their Dia de los Muertos tradtions, the Mexicans have the face painting down pat – lots of walking skeletons. It was a night of tacos, beer, great conversation and a good local band, followed by a mandatory trip to the Thrifty Ice Cream store for a treat.

After watching some Saturday football we decided a snorkeling trip was in order, so Patti and I took out the two man kayak at high tide to see what we’d find. First order of business was to check out a dolphin swimming lazily in shallow water, about three houses down the beach.

As we approached, it didn’t look right… dolphins don’t make that sort of wave, and it was too slow.  As we circled about 5 yards away I thought some creature was caught in a net, something with a wide undefined front, like a manta ray… a little bow wave rippling out as it moved along.  Patti, sitting in front, was more definite… with better eyesight she knew it was something altogether different… a shark?… SOMETHING.  NO need to get closer, and no WAY were we snorkeling.  Time for shore!

Back in to get Bruce, then he and I paddled back out for a closer look… huge horizontal mouth, skimming the water surface, bigger than the boat, definitely not a dolphin, and no net entanglement… simply swimming lazily, making slow turns and combing through the water.  Up close, a shark for sure, with a softly rounded dorsal and triangular tail tip, the whole of it covered with spectacular white circles on its topside.

A panga came alongside with two men who had travelled the shoreline looking for banana boat customers, and confirmed it was a shark… a tiburon ballena…. Whale Shark.

credit: Maldives Learning Center

Massive head, flat and broad… no snout whatsoever.  As it sucked in water, its mouth looked like a vacuum cleaner, as wide as our kayak.  All told, we spent over an hour watching it feed, back paddling out of its path, having it pass under the boat, and touching the tip of its tail on our bow.  Big enough and powerful enough to flip us, the shark took mild interest in the bright yellow kayak, turning several times to head straight for us, moving no faster than a casual canoe.

We had no cameras with us (next time!), and had to wait for shore to call CEDO, the oceanographic station in the Gulf, and spend some time on Google.  What a delight to see this fish in its native habitat, feeding in warm shallow water, undisturbed by us.

The view of this creature surfacing and approaching the kayak with slurping sounds and soft turns, is a memory that will stick with me.  What grace in the water, and a treat to have encountered today.

All is right in the world… Michigan won their football game, we encounter a Whale Shark, watch a great sunset and dine at Casa del Capitan!

Oh… yeah… ouch… the Cubs go down tonight, the series dropping to 1-3.  Come on Cubs, we’re rooting for you!