20th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest People
Balking Baby

While scuba diving at Unesco's World Heritage Site underwater in Tubbataha, Philippines, the waters were crystal clear, you could see for miles when along comes this baby whale shark, Rhincodon typus. It made a point of going around to each and every diver as if to say hello or check us out. It was very exciting to connect with this animal slightly larger than a VW Bug. Although it is one of the largest fish in the ocean, and has the label of shark, it is actually a filter feeder. They open their mouth huge to suck in what is close by to filter out planktonic bits-which is what he's doing in this photo. However from my perspective it looked like he was balking at the diver or silently hollering to let her know he was coming. Who knows? Because this is a protected area and only open to divers 3 months a year, I think the animals there feel safe and protected as they aren't hunted here.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 06.2019
Date Uploaded: 11.2022
Photo Location: Tubbataha, Philippines
Camera: NIKON D500
Copyright: © Susan Meldonian