whale sharks are magnificent creatures that top many bucket lists for animals to see in their natural environment. They are as beautiful as they are mysterious, and there is a great deal that we do not know or understand about these gentle giants. They can reach a length of nearly 30m (55 feet), and when fully grown, they are almost as immense as school bus. Whale sharks are actually sharks, not whales, and they are the largest of the species. They are one of the largest animals in the ocean, with only a few species of whale being larger. But despite this, they are also one of the most gentle animals in the ocean. They are almost incapable of hurting a human. They have no teeth and their throats are small. They could not bit or swallow people, even if they wanted to. There have been no recorded attacks on people and no recorded injuries caused by whale sharks. Whale sharks cruise through the water with their gaping mouths open, feeding on krill, plankton, and very small fish. They are filter feeders and they have combs to collect food, instead of teeth to chew it. They have no means of fighting predators and when they face a threat, they will outswim it or dive deep to avoid it. They are capable of extreme descents that take them out of the range of most sharks that would try to eat them. This whale shark is a young one, having not reached full size. It has approached a scuba diving boat in the Galapagos Islands at a remote spot near Darwin's arch and Darwin's Island. The arch has recently collapsed, but the site is still the perfect spot for underwater nature enthusiasts to observe these giants in their own world. The sharks congregate here due to the convergence of three ocean currents that bring food and an abundance of marine life. Scientists are not sure exactly what brings the whale sharks to these waters because they do not seem to feed here. Almost all of the sharks are large, pregnant females and it is believed that they may come here to give birth. There are few sightings of baby whale sharks on record anywhere in the world and little is known about their early years. This shark would be considered medium size. It has taken an extreme interest on the people on board the boat. It surfaced to stare and it spent several minutes swimming against the gentle current to maintain a position at the back where a few guides were cleaning dive gear. The guests on the boat were delighted to see this beautiful animal for such a prolonged and unusual encounter. As one of the guides bends down to get some water, we are able to fully appreciate the size of this shark. Having such a personal experience with a rare and wonderful creature like this is something these divers will never forget!