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Cuban architecture

Meeting with the Biggest Fish in the Ocean

noel lopez

Noel Lopez

The sun is setting and the sea is calm; any movement in the water can be seen hundreds of yards away. Three nights ago there was a full moon. We are all waiting for a signal from nature which would reveal its splendor and charisma to us.


We are anchored south of Caballones Key, an island belonging to the Jardines de la Reina, south of Cuba. This is a special afternoon in December, when northern winds usually blow.

In the horizon we see seagulls flying south. They are flying low, which is a good signal: they are looking for a shoal of fish to eat.

We start the motorboat and decide to follow the seagulls. They seem to have seen something two or three miles away. Some minutes later we sight movement on the water surface at some distance. It is as if the water were boiling. We know what it is: just what we were looking for.

Slowly, we approach the bonito shoal, with the sun behind us to be able to scrutinize the depth, helped by the wind. We stop the engine so as not to disturb the scene. There are hundreds of small tuna, frequently called bonitos, jumping out of the water. The seagulls dive into the water and capture the small fish called Cuban anchovies, which are the main cause of this feeding frenzy. Very soon we see some triangular fins zigzagging on the surface. These are silky sharks, or great white sharks, some more than two meters long. They are trying to capture some bonito and, the smallest, are also feeding on anchovies.


Suddenly, someone cries, “WHALE SHARK! WHALE SHARK!” We see a dark shadow with white squares and dots approaching our launch, swimming very close to the surface. It is the size of our boat, perhaps more than eight meters.

We put on the flippers, the mask and, carrying our snorkel and camera, we jump into the water. The Whale Shark comes to us, head on. Its mouth is one meter wide, but we have nothing to worry about: it is a filtering shark that eats only plankton. It draws near little by little and almost touches the lens of my camera. In spite of my wide angle lens, I have to draw back for its head to fit in the frame. The whale shark is really impressive although we know it is not dangerous: we are swimming with the largest fish in the ocean. Species eighteen meters long have been reported. He lets us enjoy its company for only a few seconds and then disappears little by little in the dark blue depth of the Caribbean Sea.

We quickly go up the craft. We hope to see the shark again, even if for an instant. There is no frenzy now. We wait for some minutes with the launch heaving and, very soon, the orgy starts just a hundred meters from us. We decide to wait some minutes to be able to focus on the show in its moment of highest splendor. We approach the shoal with the motor as quiet as possible and soon we see the head of the Whale Shark, which is almost out of the water. We jump into the ocean and approach the shoal.

The Whale Shark is in a vertical position, its head up and its lips almost out of the sea, taking in all the water it can and the available plankton with it. Thousands of anchovies swim around its body seeking shelter. The bonitos, which look like torpedoes, queue to attack the anchovies. They shoot off from down to up and almost scratch the barely moving Wale Shark´s body. This way they can bolt down some anchovies, or at least hit them thus making them more vulnerable to their attack. The silky sharks use every opportunity to go against the bonitos and, falling from the sky, the seagulls attack. It is quite a show that is repeated many times a day, while there is food available. We notice blue fluorescent particles slowly falling into the depth. These are the scales of the Cuban anchovies which have been hit by the bonitos with actual fury.

The sun is about to set and we decide to leave the water, since this is not the best moment or the best place to bathe in the open sea. It has been an experience we will never erase from our memory.

Jardines de la Reina

Noel Lopez Fernandez

Underwater cameraman

Mundo Latino TV Producing Company

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One comment about “ Meeting with the Biggest Fish in the Ocean ”

  1. Yunny said... :

    I went back there the 16th and 17th of Dec 2009 the mountain was light up like a Christmas tree!reply on lleony planet:It was kind of a weird trip for me I was watching the news and impulsively drove up there from Ormoc.Arrived at 2 am after 14 hrs on the road and just camped out all night watching the volcano. Very very cool. In the morning I went to Jolibees for breakfast and then checked into a 250 peso pension for the night.I just couldn’t get comfortable in that pension because there was a slight rumbling and the stuff on the table was vibrating steadily. I remember the blast at Mt St Helens and didn’t like the boxed in feeling I got at Daraga.It just wasn’t the right combination for a good rest so I drove the 46 kilometers to Donsol and checked in at the Santiago. After a good sleep I went back to Cagsawa the farmers there are still working and the gift shops are still open while the volcano smokes and burps lava.In fact the girl selling postcards of prior eruptions already had printed out some pictures of the lava from the previous night. She has been selling postcards there 10 years already so i was inclined to buy one just because I admire her guts.cheersdp

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