Djibouti is situated in the north east of Africa between Ethiopia and Somalia. The Gulf of Tadjoura at the southern entrance to the Red Sea is an inlet of the Indian Ocean caused by the fault line of the northerly end of the East African Rift Valley that transects Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.
A few years back, reports from local ecotourism operators suggested that whale sharks occur during the months of October to February in the Arta Bay area, on the southern coast of the western end of the Gulf of Tadjoura.
There are a dozen or so locations in the world where you can reliably see whale sharks at given times of the year, but it’s only been in the past fifteen years or so that these places have been identified. Before then, sighting a whale shark was a rare event indeed, I believe the famous Jacques Cousteau only saw two whale sharks in his entire diving career.
I’ve been lucky enough to film whale sharks in Mexico, Seychelles, and the Maldives. Despite being incredibly charismatic animals, I find whale sharks difficult animals to film. The problem is that they’re generally only seen when they’re either casually swimming along in blue water, or when they’re feeding. To make our Djibouti shoot worthwhile, we have to try and get some ‘never before seen’ footage of whale sharks, including interesting behaviour, or I need to find a new way to shoot an old subject.
Djibouti is a location where I think I have a good chance to get something new; juvenile whale sharks are rarely seen, and getting multiple animals feeding next to each other could look really amazing. There are also reports of whale sharks being attracted to the lights of boats at night, so if we can film the whale sharks gorging themselves on plankton at night, this could also be another interesting behaviour we can document.
To film the whale sharks at night we will place a light on the deck of the boat pointing down into the water, this light will hopefully attract plankton and in turn attract whale sharks that will hang around long enough for us to film. The shafts of light coming from the surface will hopefully look like moonlight penetrating the surface.
To pull this off we’ve invested in a powerful 1000 watt HMI light (see the dodgy pictures taken on my iPhone).