A Guest contribution by Volker Bassen
Volker Bassen December 21, 2019
“Always follow your passion and success shall be yours”
I shall never forget the first day I arrived on Diani Beach, I thought I was the luckiest man on the planet!
I remember walking on the (now world famous) beach that evening, feeling the crispy snow-white sand between my toes, a starlit sky that beats definition, the roaring sound of the waves hitting the reef, it was absolutely magic.
The people, despite their obvious hardships, were the friendliest I had ever come across. Wherever I went I was met by “JAMBO, KARIBU KENYA!” which means; greetings, welcome to Kenya!
I had come here for one reason.
Not for the incredible terrestrial wildlife roaming the East African plains, nor the safaris to see the stunning Maasai Mara, Tsavo or Mt Kenya, that would come later.
I was here because I had read that here was a chance to see and dive with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark!
I had dreamt about swimming with one of these gentle giants ever since I watched the famous Australian couple Ron & Valerie Taylor snorkeling with one a decade earlier. At the age of 11 I told my mum; “That’s what I am going to do when I grow up!” Then Jacque Cousteau encountered 2 while exploring the ocean off Australia, that was before we discovered the hotspots around the world. Before the internet..
My mother supported my dream and by the age of 12 signed me up for my first scuba experience. That was it, I was hooked!
Aged 22 I had just finished my VIP scuba diving instructor course at the PADI European College and landed myself a job in Diani, Kenya. I was actually going to get paid for doing what I loved, scuba diving, my greatest passion in life. Once again I couldn’t believe my luck!
Little did I know what lay in wait for me. Up till now I had only dived in the cold, murky waters off Sweden and the Mediterranean Sea, the closest I had come to tropical waters.
I will never forget my first dive off Diani, the colors of the corals, the colors of the fish, the crystal clear warm water, this was indeed paradise. Towards the end of the dive (I wish I could have stayed down there forever) I suddenly hear a shaker going off (an underwater signaling devise) and as I turned around I saw a huge shape coming straight towards me. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a huge whale shark the size of a bus!
Next thing I saw was Fritz, a Swiss instructor slowly swimming by his side (it was a male) dwarfed by the immense shark. I followed suit and we dived with him until we almost finished our air. It was love at first sight.
That was 3 decades ago and not much has changed, except that I now run annual whale shark expeditions, following my passion from February until mid of March when they suddenly leave Diani.
I can honestly say that swimming next to one of these ancient gentle giants is the number ONE wildlife experience in the world. They roamed our oceans 200 million years before the dinosaurs, it’s like being thrown back millions of years in time, a true Jurassic park experience!
Since that first time 30 years ago I have snorkeled and dived with 978 whale sharks, tagged 22 with PAT tags (a world record) and spent huge amounts of time, money and effort on research, conservation and organizing whale shark expeditions for the public.
I strongly believe that the whale shark is the perfect icon to turn peoples misconceptions about sharks around. To learn to love them as I do.
There is a beautiful legend among the coastal Digo tribe that God was so pleased with his creation of the biggest fish that he sent his angels to sprinkle silver coins on its back.
In Swahili the whale shark is called Papa Shillingi which means “shark covered in silver coins”
I spent 4 years traveling the world while filming “The World’s Best Dive Destinations” the world’s first visual dive guide, focusing on places off the beaten track. I dived French Polynesia, Tonga, Komodo, Cozumel, cenotes in Mexico, Raja Ampat and filmed the best dive sites each destination offered. Another dream come true.
East Africa, especially Kenya is amazing. I think Kenya has something unique to offer compared to all other whale shark destinations. Where else can you swim with the biggest fish in the world in the morning and track the largest land animal, the elephant, in the afternoon? Just a 40 minute drive from Diani. An unbeatable combination!
I often tell visitors; “One time Kenya, always Kenya” You have been warned.
- Volker Bassen
- Bio: Travel has always been one of my passions. It goes hand in hand with my other passion, scuba diving. I travel the world in search of the worlds best dive destination which I film. That gives me the opportunity to share the wonders of the underwater world with others. I am an avid marine conservationist and philanthropist. I donate menstrual cups to poor adolescent schoolgirls in developing nations so they can stay in school. Otherwise they would stay at home during their period as they can’t afford pads. I also support an orphanage. Every weekend we do beach cleanups together.
- Site URL: http://www.whalesharkadventures.org/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whalesharktrips/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/volkerbassen/
- Why should someone visit your site?: People interested in whale sharks should visit our FB page: whale shark adventures kenya. There they can find a myriad of information about what we do. Did you know that a new whale shark hotspot has been discovered? Check it out! I also update people on a daily basis when we do the annual whale shark expeditions 1/2-15/3 every year.
- Checkbox: adult_(19_and_over_as_of_31st_december_2019)
- Acknowledgement of prior publication: This is the first time this story has been published.