Snorklers Encounter Large Whale Shark off Kona Coast

OFF KONA COAST (KHNL) -- It was a thrilling Easter Sunday for a group of snorklers off the Big Island's Kona coast. They encountered a large whale shark; the biggest fish in the ocean.

Observers estimated the shark at 40-feet long, which would put him up there with the longest on record.

Whale sharks are gentle so guests on the Hula Kai were able to swim with him and get up close and personal.

"I saw the eyes and it was looking at me and my mom," one young girl said.  "It started coming straight toward me."

"It was amazing, I was looking down and I see this mouth come up, it was so cool," said one boy who snorked with the shark.

"Oh my gosh, it was so cool," another snorkler said.  "It was just coming up and it dove down and it went under and I saw these two lips coming at me; it was so cool."

There are unconfirmed reports of whale sharks actually lying upside down and letting divers scrape parasites off their bellies.

Our partners in the Earth and Sea Project at NOAA tell us whale shark sitings in Hawaiian waters are pretty rare so this was a real treat for the snorklers.

Video courtesy of Barry Cutler