California’s warmer ocean waters has attracted a large number of rare and unusual visitors to our waters over the last few months. Hammerhead sharks have been spotted throughout Southern California waters, and millions of red tuna crabs washed ashore Southern California coasts, to name just a few.

Last week, one Emily Callahan managed to see an even more impressive visitor – a female whale shark. Here’s what she shared with us regarding the encounter:
“The encounter occurred around 10:30 on Saturday morning, October 3rd. I work as a dive master for SD Expeditions on the weekends and we were headed out for a mako shark trip, about 4-5 miles into our journey one of the guests spotted what looked like a large rock or piece of trash in the distance, as we got closer we noticed that it was a distinct brown-ish color and was disturbing the surface of the water. When we were about 25 yards away I hopped into the water and swam over to check out what it was.
To be honest we couldn’t even guess from the surface what it might be, we are relatively accurate in identifying dorsal fins from the surface, but this didn’t look like any of the typical local species we had seen. Once I was within about 30 feet of the shark I saw its distinct white spots and I knew immediately that it was a whale shark. She had small school of Sergeant major fish schooling around her, a distinctly tropical species which was pretty interesting.
We then called the other divers into the water to swim around and interact with her. She was extremely gentle and seemed nonplussed by our presence. She never dove down, only hung around the surface, every now and again hovering lower at about 5-7ft. We were able to get quite closer to her and spent about an hour interacting with her, there were a total of 6 of us that got to spend time with her. The water was relatively calm and warm, about 73 degrees at the surface, consistent with the unusually warm temperatures we have had all season.
It was a truly magical experience, I have only swam with whale sharks once before in Utila off of Central America, and even that was nothing like this experience because 1. She stayed around us for so long and 2. I never in a million years would have expected to see a whale shark in San Diego waters. Her size and beauty took my breath away.
I am 26 and graduated with my masters degree from Scripps Inst. of Oceanography and also run my own ocean conservation company, Blue Latitudes, investigating the Rigs to Reefs program. I have been a diver for about 14 years now.”
Thanks for sharing your experience with California Diver, Emily!
Related Links:
SD Expeditions
Blue Latitudes
Blue Latitudes Instagram: @rig2reefexplorers