It was supposed to be a routine lionfish dive for Alex Fogg, Coastal Resource Manager for Okaloosa County, on Sunday. However, the opportunity to witness not only two whale sharks, but also a manta ray at the same time, made it an epic day for diving.
According to Fogg, he went out on the Sea Cobra with the team at ScubaTech and a team from Reef Smart Guides. The plan was for him to collect some lionfish while Reef Smart Guides did some mapping updates to their 3d renderings of dive sites.
The charter made their stop at the Thomas Heyward Liberty Ship just 8 miles off the coast of Destin, FL.
“We were there for about 30 minutes,” said Fogg. “They showed up almost immediately and were there the entire time we were diving.”
Fogg told Get The Coast on Sunday that of the two whale sharks, they could confirm that one was a 25-30ft female. The other was estimated between 15-18ft, but could not confirm if it was male or female.
As for the manta ray, Fogg estimates that it was 10-12ft across, from wing tip to wing tip.
The conditions were great for the dive charter with 50-60ft visibility.
According to Fogg, the whale sharks and manta ray were at the Liberty Ship well after they headed back in.
“We told some friends what we saw and they went to the wreck about 2 hours later,” said Fogg. “The whale sharks and manta ray were still there.”
“Whale sharks have spots on them which is basically like a thumbprint,” said Fogg. “There is a database that helps track these whale sharks using photographs to identify their unique pattern. I plan to submit some of the photos that we took today to the database to see if they have been seen somewhere else.”
To view a list of all of Destin-Fort Walton Beach’s artificial reefs, click here.