Fortunately, the 2020 season will not be remembered just because of the Corononavirus pandemic. The ocean held for us many surprises and among them was a huge number of Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) sightings.
Whale shark and free diver - Photo by Ricardo Ventura
It all started towards the end of August, when the first Whale sharks were sighted in Princess Alice.
Then in September and October, we had many of them much closer to shore, all along the South coast of Pico.
They were generally seen between Guindaste and S. Caetano and, even better for us, most Whale sharks were actually sighted right outside the lighthouse of S. Mateus!
A beautiful Whale shark - Photo by Ricardo Ventura
Our dive guide and scuba instructor Martijn Schouten counted at least 7 different individual Whale sharks, whose length was between 7 and 10 metres.
The best action was seen between the second half of September and the first two weeks of October. After that, there were still a few sightings in the area, but the animals started to move faster and were therefore less approachable.
Whale shark off Pico Island in September 2020 - Photo by Martijn Schouten
The Whale sharks were feeding on Longspine snipefish (Macroramphosus scolopax), sucking down entire bait balls of them!
They were sometimes accompanied by Skipjacks (Katsuwonus pelamis) and Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus).
Bait balls were so frequent that we would often spot the Whale sharks under feeding seagulls and shearwaters. Other times, we would just see their fins out of the water, if they were cruising on the surface.
In conclusion, 2020 was a fantastic year for Whale sharks in Pico. That said, a word of caution is required. It would be foolish to assume the next seasons will be necessarily as successful as this one.
Fingers crossed on next season and, for now, you can join us for some very reliable shark diving in Pico that target different species (the Blue shark and the Mako).
One season at a time, then. What we know for sure, because it always and invariably turned out to be true, is that in the mid-Atlantic you should always expect the unexpected!
Video below by Ricardo Ventura: