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Divers meet massive and majestic whale sharks up close

Whale sharks are one of the most massive and majestic creatures in the ocean. They are second in size only to a few of the whale species, and they are the largest fish to have ever roamed the oceans. They reach a length of 55 feet and have been estimated to weigh almost 100,000 pounds. To see them in movies or in pictures is a memorable sight, to swim in their presence, close enough to touch one is simply awe inspiring. These divers have traveled from different parts of the world to scuba dive in the waters around Darwin's Arch in the Galapagos Islands. A unique set of conditions cause three major ocean currents to converge and they bring food to the area for plankton, krill, and other small fish, which in turn, attract the larger predators. The Galapagos Islands were formed when underwater volcanoes erupted and sent pillars of rock toward the surface. The islands are now home to an abundance of land and marine life, with some being among the most diverse and unique on our planet. Hostile and beautiful at the same time, these islands attract tourists and nature enthusiasts from across the globe. For scuba divers, this is the Mecca, and the whale sharks are a big part of their reason for venturing to such a remote part of the planet. They are gentle giants, incapable of harming a diver. Their mouths are designed to feed on the smaller creatures that drift on the current. They swim with their wide mouths open so they can filter the krill and plankton. Almost all of the whale sharks that are seen here are pregnant females, yet nobody fully understands why. Little is known about where they go to give birth. Whale sharks have little reason to fear humans, or any other creatures. They can out-swim, or out-dive predators easily. They have also learned that humans will rarely cause them any harm. Fiercely protected by the government and by the tour guides in Galapagos, the whale sharks are safe from harassment and human contact. Swimming beside them in a manner that will not pose a threat is encouraged, but they are never to be touched or harmed in any way. Responsible scuba divers understand the reasons for such strict rules. These divers were extremely moved by their experience with the whale sharks. It is a trip that none of them will ever forget.

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