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Papa Shillingi

Papa Shillingi or Vame means Whale Shark in Swahili, here are a selection of shots showing their different behaviours. Top Left: Followed by remoras, sucker fish, who are often seen with large marine animals catching a lift and lunch, Top Middle: a lucky sight of two together, Top Right: huge schools of Trevally were joining in on the feasts, Bottom Left: whale shark feeding on plankton, Bottom Right: A rare day of great visibility, you can see the pinnacle of Mwamba Kitau below the whale shark.

You have seen some of our exciting whale shark posts before; our first Kiniyka encounter and back in 2020 when Elke encountered 5 in one day! However that doesn’t come near to this years encounters in Lamu. Not only have we managed to see 5 in one day, we have seen them again and again and again. The sightings continued over 2 months, with whale sharks being spotted daily in the same area and only coming to a close when the trade winds changed and with it the water conditions. It was amazing!

We suspect that the late northern trade wind brought nutrient, plankton rich waters longer into the season than normal, causing an influx of bait fish, and when there is plenty of food there will be a feast. Boiling water and bait balls enticed not only the whale sharks but also Cobia, Barracuda, numerous species of Trevally, Spinner Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Sharks and even Bryde Whales!

Jahawi puts the camera aside for a moment to immerse himself in the encounter.

The season was also been an incredible economic boost for the community as visitors and locals a like were excited to see the biggest fish in the sea. It is a life changing experience but should not be entered into lightly, as lack of understanding how to behave around these animals can cause damage to both humans and whale sharks. So along with the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust a big focus of ours before the next season begins is to work on some guidelines on the best way to interact responsibly and safely with these gentle giants.

Through our many excursions out to see them we have been taking ID photo, we feel we have probably seen at least 7 individuals this season. We have also noticed the different behaviours between each of them, some are very curious and others, even though they are shy of the boats, can be spotted if you wait quietly in the water. We uploaded the ID shots we got to the international shark database, as each whale shark has unique spots and markings which can be used to identify individuals. From the analysis of these photos we hope to identify unique individuals and determine how many were actually around and if we have seen them before.

Elke taking ID shots, Jahawi dove deep for this one

They have got back to us saying we have identified new sharks but they haven't had time to compare the sharks over the years yet. We have footage of them since 2019, so can compare 4 seasons of whale sharks!

A calm day with amazing reflections.

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