Whale Sharks

Residing in a world apart from our own, marine life has always been quite intriguing to us land-dwellers. All of the many sizes, shapes and colors of the different species of fish have been of great interest to us from the beginning of time. Whale Sharks are the largest existing fish and have been the object of fascination to thousands of divers all over the world, though many divers spend their entire lives trying to find one.

Whale Sharks are majestic creatures. These gentle giants swim with their enormous mouths open, gulping down plankton, small fish, squid and crustaceans along their way. They can open their mouths to up to five feet wide. They are the largest fish in the oceans and only a few whales are larger than them. They are cold blooded creatures and they breathe through their gills. Whale sharks can weigh over nine tons and grow up to 40 feet long. Amazingly, their skin can be over 4 inches thick! These fish have a two colored pattern of light spots and lines on a dark brown dorsal surface.
Whale Sharks
Whale sharks can be found all over the world. Popular destinations for travelers to dive with whale Sharks can be found in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, and Western Australia are a few countries divers go to find them. But they are easily spotted all over Central America. Cancun, Mexico, Belize and Honduras are just a few of the hot spots for spotting whale sharks.

Utila Island, off of Honduras, has been called the whale shark capital of the Carribean. Whale sharks have been seen there all year long. Though they can be spotted throughout the year, the best times to try to find them are March through April and August through September. A whale shark sighting usually involves finding just one, but it is possible to see five or more whale sharks in the waters around Utila.

Belize is one of the most popular spots in the Americas for whale shark sightings. Gladden Spit, located in the Belize Barrier Reef, is located 26 miles off the coast of Placencia. There are lots of whale sharks in this area during April and May, when schools of cubera snapper fish are actively spawning. Gladden Spit is a protected area. Rangers allow only six tour-operated boats at a time, making the experience much more intimate.

An important habitat for the whale shark is in the Gulf of Mexico. The major oil spill that resulted from the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon platform in 2010 in the Gulf still poses a critical threat to the whale sharks that reside in the region.

Whale sharks are harmless to humans. They are quite friendly and will often interact. They are very large creatures but are quite docile and serene. They will even allow swimmers to catch a ride with them, though this is discouraged by scientists, conservationists and researchers. Younger whale sharks can be especially playful.

It's vital for any diver lucky enough to encounter one of these animals to always treat them with respect. Whale sharks are an endangered species and it's imperative to their survival that they not be mishandled or harmed.


Yokohama, Japan

Yokohama: Japan’s Second City

Part of the Greater Tokyo-Yokohama Metropolitan Area, Yokohama is located in Japan’s Kanto region, about 15 miles southwest of Tokyo. Known as Japan’s most cosmopolitan city, Yokohama has a large foreign population, including many Chinese and Korean residents, who give the city its international flair.

Once a minor village, Yokohama first achieved international importance when, in 1854, American naval officer Matthew C. Perry concluded the Convention of Kanagawa with Japan’s military rulers. The result of months of painstaking diplomacy, the Convention allowed American whaling vessels to dock in Japanese ports for the first time, and effectively opened Japan to the outside world.

Perry’s gunboat diplomacy had, at first, convinced the Japanese to open the port of Kanagawa. When that city was deemed too close to Tokyo, Yokohama was chosen instead.

While Yokohama’s history as a port city has played the largest role in shaping its present circumstances, other events have had major impacts of their own. In opening Japan to foreign trade, Commodore Perry forced the country into a rapid program of modernization. In the 20th century, the twin disasters of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and Allied bombing raids in 1945, each reduced the city of Yokohama to a pile of rubble. Destroyed twice within 22 years, Yokohama is now one of the world’s most modern cities.

Of all Yokohama’s modern attractions, the most impressive is the Minato Mirai 21 area. Begun in 1983, Minato Mirai 21 is an 88 acre development that was once a shipyard. Today, the area includes office and residential space, an amusement park and Japan’s tallest building, the Landmark Tower. Yokohama is also notable for its Keihin Industrial Area, its sprawling Chinatown and its busy port, which are among the largest in the country.

The home of the Yokohama BayStars baseball team, Yokohama also has two professional soccer clubs. Yokohama’s climate is exceptionally pleasant year-round, and though it’s classified as humid subtropical, the humidity is not nearly as high as in many western countries that aren’t known for being humid. All in all, Yokohama provides a welcome break from the more claustrophobic Tokyo.


Narita, Japan

Narita is a small, relaxed town that provides authentic Japanese sights and atmosphere. Many travellers arrive in Japan via the New Tokyo International Airport about 15 minutes from Narita. The town is also less than an hour drive or train ride from Tokyo.

The city’s streets and lanes wander through the town’s old wooden buildings and interesting residential alleys. Just outside town, visitors can explore ancient bamboo and pine stands, rice paddies and farmhouses. Several shops offer a variety of wares including unique souvenirs. Narita is home to a number of family-owned eateries serving traditional dishes at an affordable price.

The town’s most visited attraction is the expansive Narita-San temple complex. This temple is over 1,000 years old and is visited by over ten million people every year. This is an important location in the Buddhist Shingon tradition. Festival days at the temple are celebrated on January 1 and February 3 and 4. The complex showcases traditional Buddhist culture and aesthetics with opulent shrines, traditional Japanese gardens, and several temples and meditation halls. Narita-San is easily reached after a short walk from Narita City Station.

Narita is easily explored on foot, with four major districts surrounding the central city area. Central Narita is bordered by the Narita-San Temple, Narita City Station, and Keisei Narita Station. Omotesando, the main road in this area, is lined with hundreds of small shops offering traditional goods and services. Narita New Town, west of Narita City Station, is a residential area that houses the majority of the city’s residents. Many residents commute to Chiba City, Tokyo, and other cities.

South of Narita New Town, Kozunomori is another suburban area that is popular with foreign tourists. The enormous Ito-Yokado store is a main attraction here. To the east of town, Narita International Airport is situated in an agricultural area known as Sanrizuka. While the city’s farming population has dwindled considerably since the airport’s construction, the area is still populated by some farmers. Other land in this area has been used to build golf courses.

Other interesting sights in Narita include the Chiba Prefectural Boso Fudoki-no-oka Museum. The museum houses clay Haniwa figures and the preserved skeleton of prehistoric Nauman elephants excavated in Chiba. Shiseki Park is home to a group of preserved ancient burial mounds, known as kofun.

For more vibrant entertainment options, experience one of the regular festivals that bring the city to life. The Taiko-matsuri Festival each spring brings hundreds of traditional taiko drummers to the largest drum festival in the area. The Gion-matsuri Festival is celebrated in the summer, when scores of floats and traditional musicians parade through the city with objects of worship.