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All of us woke up early, had a quick breakfast, and headed for the beach. This was an exciting morning. Mr. Pak Marten was already there with the boat, so we jumped in and headed out across the glassy water. Unfortunately it didn't stay nice for long; dark clouds started to form, and we were heading into a shower. One positive aspect of the rain was that it beat down the waves and allowed us to go a bit faster.
It took two hours for us to get to the first bagan (a fishing platform). Pak Marten called out to the people aboard the bagan and asked if there were any sharks in the area, but they said no, so we continued on to the next fishing platform. It took awhile to find the right bagan, but when we did, Pak Marten pulled up alongside and we prepared our snorkeling gear. The men on the bagan got out a net on a long poll and plunged it vigorously up and down into the water in order to attract the shark. What we were looking for was no ordinary shark though.
Suddenly out from under our boat swam a small whale shark. It came up to the side of the bagan and rested vertically in the water with its mouth protruding just above the waves so that the fishermen could throw bait fish into its mouth. This was the awesome creature we came to see.
In the excitement, we practically jumped on top of each other to get into the water. We all wanted to be the first to swim with the whale shark. After the cold rainy trip on the boat, the warm tropical water felt good. It was amazing to see the shark under water. It looked a lot bigger than when we were watching it from the boat. This whale shark was probably 20 feet long but had the potential to grow up to 40 feet in length. We were all cautious at first and gave the shark a wide berth so that it wouldn't get spooked. After a while, though, we realized it wasn't afraid of anything and enjoyed swimming a bit closer.
Every few minutes the shark would leave its position by the boat to swim around a little. The whale shark looked like a very slow and mellow fish because of its effortless movements and calm behavior, but no matter how hard we swam none of us could keep up with it. The shark would often disappear into the murky blue and then appear again to get another mouth full of fish.
Whale sharks are not the only creatures that hang around the bagans. Whatever bait fish that didn't fall into the sharks mouth slowly sank down into the abyss. A beautiful squid came out from under the bagan and ate many of these bait fish, and often times sharks (the ones with teeth) are close by to eat any fish carcasses the fishermen throw overboard.
Eventually the whale shark swam off and didn't come back, so we packed up and headed home. Over all it was a great day. Swimming with the largest fish in God’s creation was an awesome experience. The Lord granted good weather and calm seas, and we were very thankful for it.
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