I wriggled my way into a grey and slightly damp wetsuit. The air was hot and muggy, and the sky was a brilliant blue. I stood in the slight shade of the building on the docks in Cancun. I was here with my cousin, Maddie, and we were about to embark on the experience of a lifetime. It was her dream to swim with whale sharks, not mine. She was immensely excited. I was too, but I also was somewhat nervous.
The tour guides called us over with their overly smiling faces and cheerful voices. They led us to the end of the dock and into a little twelve person boat. With uneasy steps, we made it into our seats. Finally we were on the last leg of a long adventure that started in our hotel room earlier that morning. The ninety minute boat ride was long and bumpy, but we finally reached our destination, a special stretch of ocean in the middle of nowhere.
When the captain slowed the boat, I whipped my head around expecting to see something. There wasn’t anything but water for miles, but this spot was special. You could feel the magic of the water below your feet. When you looked out from the boat, you could see giant masses moving under the surface. This place was the location of the whale sharks’ migration; it was their personal playground.
Maddie looked at me with a huge grin on her face; you could see the excitement bubbling underneath. I gave her a timid yet excited smile in return.
We sat at the side of the boat with our flippered feet dangling over the edge. I struggled to get my mask and snorkel to sit on my head comfortably, but I finally made it work. I felt the excitement growing as our guide pointed us in the direction of the whale shark. With a splash, we landed in the bobbing water. I started kicking my feet, the urging of the guide in my ear. We swam fiercely against the waves. Within thirty seconds of jumping in, I was within an arm’s length away of the world’s biggest fish.
The inky skin shimmered and the white spots glowed in the sunlit water. Its fins sliced through the waves. Its tail swung back and forth with severe force. It didn’t notice Maddie and I swimming next to it; we were completely insignificant. The whale shark was beautiful, graceful, and almost mysterious as it glided through the water.
I came up from the waves. Maddie was beside me as we swam toward the boat. We pulled ourselves aboard and I turned to Maddie, breaking out in a huge smile. “Oh my God!” I said. “We just swam with a whale shark!”
The feelings you experience next to these enigmatic creatures makes swimming with a whale shark is an adventure I never will forget. The ocean is calm and you feel weightless as a whale shark skims just below you. Before I went on this adventure, I never imagined the awe I would feel as I floated in the open ocean, gawking at an animal that could swallow me whole with its large gapping mouth. The whole day was surreal; one minute I was sitting on a swaying boat, feeling a little sea-sick, and the next I was swimming with a whale shark! Swimming with these gentle giants had always been one of Maddie’s dreams, but I never expected it to become a memory I would always treasure. I never knew it was something I wanted to do.
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