Pictured: A majestic rare albino whale shark graces the ocean
Sometimes, Nature puts on a show that leaves Man awestruck.
And these spectacular displays by two denizens of the deep left all who saw them beguiled by their grace and beauty.
Divers were stunned by the sight of a 33ft albino whale shark as it glided through the waters off the coast of Darwin, an island in the Galapagos group.
Close and personal: The rare creatures are known to be very placid
Half a world away, a rare snow-white albino whale calf held spectators spellbound as it swam off western Australia – so white, in fact that one observer described it as ‘sticking out like a neon lollipop’.
Both creatures are believed to be white because of a lack of pigmentation in the skin but they are expected to gradually turn to a darker colour as the years go by.
The female whale shark, believed to be the only one of its kind, was first spotted by diver and naturalist Antonio Moreano in the Galapagos islands when he took a group of tourists on a nature cruise.
Antonio knew he had to get up close and personal with the placid creature and see the whale shark in its own domain.
‘It was 4:30pm and I and six guests were at Darwin’s Island, set to make the fourth dive of the day,’ said Mr Moreano, who hails from the Puerto Ayora-Galapagos.
‘As we were on the boat checking our equipment I saw a big white thing by the surface of the water.
‘At the beginning I could not tell what it was – i had never seen anything like it before.
‘So I decided to put my mask on and put my face over into the water.
‘Right after this I explained to my guests that it looked like a white whale shark and we were going to all jump in the water and try to follow it.
Rare: The whale shark has not been seen since it was spotted last August
‘I told everyone to keep a distance and not disturb it so we all jumped in the water and followed it for five minutes.’
Mr Moreano dived to around 50 feet as he attempted to catch up with the whale shark.
‘I free dove 50ft down and is when I finally managed to get some pictures of it,’ he explained.
‘It was difficult because I did not want to frighten it away so I stayed a few metres away.
‘After a few minutes the albino disappeared and nobody has ever seen it again!
‘The whole experience from the moment I first saw it to the time it swam away lasted around 30 minutes.
‘I was very excited but it was not until we came back to the boat that I finally realised and understood how special this sighting was.
‘I realised it was a unique experience and was maybe the best gift that my beautiful islands could”ve ever given to me.
‘I kept up swimming with it and I got very close – even the eye was white.
From the size and shape of its fins, Mr Moreano identified the albino animal as a female.
‘All whale sharks found in Darwin’s Arch are big fat females, we have never seen a male or at least I haven’t,’ he said.
‘There is big mystery about our whale shakes: they all show up at Darwin and Wolf from June until November and they all go in circles around the arch dive sites.
‘Sometimes we have seen like five of them together but never seen one with mouth wide open neither males and the smallest whale shark we have seen is probably nine to 12ft.
‘But no-one has seen this albino whale shark since.’
Beautiful: A rare albino Southern Right Whale calf at West Australia’s Flinder’s Bay, is becoming a big tourist attraction
Antonio works for M/V Deep Blue is a licensed Tour operating Company and yacht agency authorised by the Ecuadorian Navy, to guide private yachts around the protected areas of the Galapagos.
‘Our job is to arrange everything for Captain, owners and crew,’ he explains.
‘Some of our clients are among the richest people in the world. We are also arranging trips for these type of yachts for Cocos Island, Malpel Island from Colombia.
‘I am now organising dive and naturalist trips to the Galapagos but trips with a special interest.
‘I know my islands quite well and want to make completely different trips as well as now organise trips for private yachts that would like to visit Galapagos Cocos, Mlapelo as well as in the future Antarctica.’
The whale shark is the largest known fish and can measure between 50 to 60ft in length and up to 10 tons in weight.
Usually a blend of blue sprinkled with white spots, the whale shark ranges all tropical waters, it is considered to be harmless to humans.
Scuba divers and underwater swimmers have clambered unmolested over its body.
The whale shark feeds chiefly on plankton, but also consumes sardines and anchovies.
Off the west coast of Australia, where whales pass on their migration between northern waters and the Southern Ocean, a two-month-old albino southern right whale, swimming with its mother, has been proving a big attraction for tourists.
Named Wilgi Manung, the Aboriginal for ‘white whale’, it is believed to be one of only ten in the world.
Senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran described Wilgi Manung, which will grow 50ft long and weigh 50 tons, as ‘ultra-white.’