Merida, Yucatan, (September 20, 2021).- Yes, the whale shark of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Rhincodon typuses by its scientific name, is the Gulliver of our land: the most imposing colossus for which – irremediably – we must seem simple Lilliputians. Of course, as citizens of Lilliput we cannot stop bothering him and – simultaneously – admire this marine inhabitant who periodically visits us from his distant Brobdingnag. A country of enormous creatures that is becoming more and more distant to us.
Let’s start with the obvious, the accounts don’t look good. A couple of decades ago we had a small group of motorboats and tourists watching hundreds of these majestic creatures in their habitat. Today the equation has been reversed, we find a handful of sharks being admired – and sometimes disturbed – by dozens of boats and hundreds of tourists. It is the equation of overexploitation, economic necessity, climate change and a natural wealth that calls us to do something so that we do not lose it, not for the next few years or for our children, but in this same generation.
Some years ago, not many, a few minutes of crossing by boat from Holbox were enough to be able to swim with them, now it takes more hours than those that Lemuel Gulliver dedicated to traveling and narrating. The same thing happens in Cancun, before a few moments were enough to find them in Islas Mujeres; still one or another confused animal continues to appear in those directions, but the reality is that today you have to navigate up to 45 miles from the main beach destination in the country to be able to observe them.
You no longer need a sharp look to know where the sharks and their companions the giant mantas ( Manta birostris ) are, now where one sees the agglomeration of boats in the middle of nowhere, there will surely be these nautical giants feeding. More than an almost mystical contemplation exercise, it is now an experience that is rented online and that requires tons of patience, rather than sharks tonnage.
We must be honest and fair, almost all tour operators respect the rules to observe these animals, but a few are enough so that sharks and mantas cannot feed, be in peace and, therefore, every time they look for places more remote. Thus, one can see boats that basically cross the shark on the way and force him to change course, tourists fearful of the sea who demand that their guide basically jump in front of and on top of the shark because they do not want to swim, boats that encapsulate them. in some salty and liquid “travel boxes”.
And of course, the reckless person who touches them is not lacking. From the surface the spectacle is not beautiful, it is chaotic, and one can even witness the conflicts between the tourist who demands that the rules be respected and the “yahoo”, to use another term from Jonathan Swift, who believes that he can do what he wants and for which there is no authority to indicate certain minimum patterns of behavior.
However, once you jump into the water, everything changes. The state of matter and the state of mind. There, the sharks appear incredible in their colors, in their hydrodynamic design, in dozens of qualities beyond their simple size. They are reflected, from below, in the glass ceiling that is the surface and they look like two sharks swimming on top of each other.
These colossi basically do not make body movements and when their huge propeller fin is barely flapping it is impossible, even for the most experienced swimmer and diver, to keep up for more than two or three seconds. Our efforts are alien to them as they move forward across the Atlantic.
All this occurs with a beautiful blue sea as a frame, Caribbean blue, transparent water blue and a background that starts from the lightest tone to reach an imposing dark shadow.
After the frenzy of tourists who arrive with pre-established schedules and once most of the boats have returned to their bases of operations, one can greatly enjoy these animals. Time returns and the equation returns to how it should be, a handful of tourists and dozens of sharks.
In the calm, the stingrays appear swimming next to them, rather than flying, actually swimming is a description that does not necessarily apply to these gentle giants.
We are going to need new rules and new ways so that thousands of families can continue to live prosperous and proud of the resources and amazing creatures and things that live on this peninsula, on the surface, in the ground and underwater.
Recall that Gulliver eventually left and left the Lilliputians alone with their little squabbles. That does not happen to us. Let’s be those fools who conspire to take care of the majestic, the colossal, what is worthwhile.
Source: La Jornada Maya
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