Are we on course for another great manta and whale shark season?

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Last year saw some spectacular activity from whale sharks. The now famous 'bait ball' dive occurred at the end of July and signs are already auguring well for similar 'big fish' encounters. Anticipation is growing of another impressive pelagic year in the Red Sea after a sighting by Emperor Divers' guides and guests of a manta in mid-January in Sharm El Sheikh and a 7-metre whale shark this month in Hurghada.
Not only was the manta ahead of schedule but it was also seen 'dancing' during a night dive. Manta sightings in previous years have started around March/April, which coincides with the coral spawning and an increase in the manta's food supply. Sightings then tend to increase steadily through to May.

This early sighting has reminded staff and guests of the splendid sights witnessed last year when whale sharks and mantas were seen in far greater numbers right through to September.

An unseasonably warm winter, by far the warmest in the last 10 years, has kept water temperatures at 23°C in many places and not the usual 20-21°C. Marine biologist and Emperor Sharm dive instructor, Daniele Zanoni, says "When it gets warmer earlier in the year, it can lead to an upswelling of nutrients from deep water. Since manta rays and whale sharks feed on plankton they will thrive in conditions like this."

Sharm certainly had the lion's share but Marsa Alam also had some memorable encounters and due to the photographic deftness of one guest, Jennifer Edwards, a previously unidentified whale shark is now known as R-012 - the 12th whale shark to be photo 'tagged' in the Red Sea.

Emperor Divers, as one of the first centres to support the Whale Shark Awareness RED SEA project, submitted the photos of the left and right side flanks to ECOCEAN. Their Whale Shark Photo Identification Library is a visual database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounters and used by marine biologists to analyse experiences in order to learn more about these amazing creatures.

By photographing a whale shark you can directly contribute to a global effort to better understand and protect them. The whale shark is listed as vulnerable to extinction in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The most important thing when attempting to photograph a whale shark is to remain at least 3 metres (10 feet) away as touching or blocking its path may negatively influence its behaviour.

Last year, the sightings were acclaimed as a 'once in a lifetime' chance. But could this year prove to be Chance Number Two? Are we in for the same treat as last year when whale sharks were seen in multiples of up to five every single day for nearly two months and more? If anyone has there own theories or experiences, we would love to hear from you.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Bryony published on March 12, 2009 3:36 PM.

Those brave yellow defenders - the anemone fish was the previous entry in this blog.

How 'popcorn' demolished Sharm's 'Blue Wall' is the next entry in this blog.

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