Gary Swims With The Fishes (Big Fishes)

I saw some pretty cool things the last two days: sea snakes, sand sharks, humpback whales, and the grand whale shark.

On Tuesday I did a dive on the navy pier. The pier is supposed to be one of the “Top 10 dives in the world”, a title which probably 100 different places on Earth can claim. The pier is where fuel ships dock at the local navy base. The navy base was originally built by the Americans back in the 1960’s as a ELF submarine communication station. It is now operated by the Australian Navy, it is the reason the town of Exmouth was built in the 1960’s.

The pier is normally off limits, but the company I dove with has exclusive rights to dive off of it. It was different from any of the other dives I’ve done if for no other reason than there was no coral. The pier blocks out the sun in the water below it.

I can say with authority that it is not one of the top 10 dives in the world, as it is not one of the top 10 dives on my trip. It was interesting in its own way, and I don’t regret doing it, but I can’t see it being one of the top dives in the world.

The water there was much colder than I had experienced before. I had to wear a 5 mil wet suit. We also had to jump into the water from a platform about 6ft (2m) above the water. There was a surprisingly large number of fish below the pier. I saw several sharks, large cods, large schools, and a sea snake, which surprised the hell out of me. It was very long and very light colored.

Today I went to swim with the whale sharks.

You don’t “dive” with the whale sharks. You technically can’t use SCUBA gear around them. You have to snorkel. They spent a lot of time near the surface feeding on plankton, so that isn’t a problem. The biggest problem is finding the fish. There are several boats which go out to see the whale sharks. They way they find them is from spotter aircraft which look for them near the surface. The company I went with (and I didn’t know this at the time) has their own aircraft, where all the other companies share the same aircraft.
You spend a lot of time on the boat waiting for the plane to spot a whale shark. While we were waiting we saw several humpback whales which were some of the first humpbacks in the area for the season. They were the first whales I’ve seen on my trip. I got some photos of them diving, spouting and a few of them with their tails up on the air.

Snorkeling is normally a pretty relaxed activity. It is more floating than swimming. Snorkeling to see the whale sharks is closer to sprinting than anything else.

When a whale shark is spotted by the plane, the boat moves as fast as possible to the location. One of the staff jumps in the water to spot the shark and everyone else is waiting on board with fins and gear ready to jump in.

The whole exercise is like a fire drill. Once you are in the water, you are have to swim, usually pretty fast, to keep up with the shark. They don’t sit still as they are filter feeders. The first time I jumped it, the shark was heading right towards me so I got to see it head on. If I had to rank the times on my trip where I wish I had a camera but didn’t have one, I think that would have be #1 on the list.

These are BIG fish. The ones we saw were 6-7m in length (19.5-23ft). They have other fish that swim around it as if the fish were a moving reef. I assume they cleaner fish which pick parasites and barnacles off the shark.

When you get to a shark, it is all sort of chaos. Everyone is getting the water, people bump into each other, you often only see bubbles from the fins of the person in front of you, you are trying to follow the guide on the surface while looking under the water for the shark. Sometimes the shark is so deep is it just a shadow. The boat is moving the entire time. Sometimes I figured I was 200 yards from the boat.

You are also in open ocean, in water about 100m deep. As you aren’t diving, you are subject to the waves ands swells on the surface.

We saw two sharks during the whole day. They claimed we were near sharks for 60 minutes, but that seems wildly optimistic. At best, you can see them only for a few minutes at a time, if for no reason that it is hard to keep up swimming at that pace for a long period of time.

It is a unique experience, but your day seeing whale sharks can be hit or miss. I heard stories of when they saw five together at the same time. Other days, you might not see a single one. They also aren’t like whales. You wont see them breaching the water and showing their tails. You are going to have to work to see what amounts for only a handful of minutes near the shark.

Tomorrow I’m off to Shark Bay. I’m about 2/3 of the way to Perth and still have 9 days left on my camper. I shouldn’t have any more death drives ahead of me. In theory, I’m 11 hours from Perth.

Shark Bay has something that I’ve been waiting to see during my entire time in Australia: Stromatolites! Probably the complete opposite experience of going to see whales and sharks.

*Image by Zac Wolf via WikiCommons

What do you get when you cross a whale and a shark?

I’ve seldom been in the right place at the right time on my trip. I wasn’t in Tonga to see whales, I wasn’t in Hawaii when lava was flowing, and I wasn’t in Japan to see the cherry blossoms.

I finally lucked out and the whalesharks are currently in Exmouth! I honestly had no idea they had whalesharks here. Whalesharks are the largest fish in the world. Despite the name, it is not a whale and it it only feeds on small fish. They are in no way dangerous.

I don’t know if I’ll get any photos, unless we see some near the surface.

I’m going diving near the navy pier here. There is an American Navy base here which is used for submarine communications. You technically can’t go on the pier, but the diving around it is supposed to be some of the “best in the world”. (So many places claim to be on of the top 10 dive sites in the world, it becomes rather silly after a while)

As a follow up to Wells Fargo, I got everything resolved, but the guy I talked to (Erick) was a total asshole. I’ve never experienced customer service like that before. It only made me more furious. Wells Fargo still sucks.

Wells Fargo Sucks

I tried to think of another way to title this post other than Wells Fargo Sucks, but I couldn’t think of one that did it justice.

This post is really only going to be for the American readers. The bank I use is Wells Fargo….and they suck. I encourage everyone to take their banking somewhere other than Wellso Fargo, because they suck and are are horrible for traveling.

This is what happened to me today….

I was driving from Kurrunth or something in Western Australia to Exmouth. In the morning I paid for my motel and filled up my camper with my debit card. There were no issues. I was going to get cash out but I didn’t find an ATM machine, so I figured I’d just do it later on when I could find one. I left Kurrunth at about 8:30am and stopped at the Nanutarra Roadhouse at about 11:30 to get more fuel. I had about half a tank.

I fill up, go to pay and my card is declined. This is the fifth time on my trip this has happened. Every time it is my bank trying to protect me from fraud by denying me access to all my money. Every other time I’ve been able to call the bank and get it straightened out. When I arrived in Australia back in February, I even took the time to call the bank to tell them I was going to be in Australia and NOT to put my card on hold if some sort of fraud is flagged. Even if something is stolen, I’m better off having access to my funds till I can deal with it than having everything cut off.

Well, the number given to me by Wells Fargo to call collect from overseas didn’t work. I didn’t have a credit card to make a credit card call. I ended up having to make a collect call to my parents to get their credit card number just to make a god damn phone call to my bank because the number they gave, which was supposed to accept collect calls, didn’t accept collect calls.

They tell me that the fraud flag wasn’t just put up, but that the card was flagged as stolen and that there was nothing they could do to help me until the start of business hours, when I could talk to a supervisor. They caused the problem and now I’m supposed to wait for their office to open to get access to my money. Jesus H Christ.

Then they tell me that there is a special number for Australia where I can call them. I was never told about this when I went out of the way to contact them back in February. I was just told to call the number on the back of my card collect (which can’t be done it seems from Australia, even though it says “international”). Also, when I asked about my request for my card not to be suspended to protect me from fraud, I was told that the operators and fraud protection people really don’t have any authority to do that and I have to talk to someone more senior. I’m sooo glad they told me about this when I made the request.

Also, why would my card be flagged as stoled if I didn’t notify them that it was stolen? Unless I’m telling them it is stolen (which I’d do immediately if it was) I don’t know how they get off flagging it as stolen.

Every time I use my card on my trip I feel like I’m playing Russian Roulette. Today it struck in one of the wost possible places. I felt stupid trying to explain myself to the owner. In the end, he took an old fashioned imprint of my card and I told him to just process it in a day or two.

I very much want to get a new bank, but they wont let me do a wire transfer to another bank unless I show up in person. They also will not give me another card to have as a back up incase this happens again or if my card is really stolen. Basically, they are holding my money hostage. As of this moment, they wont let me access it, they wont give me a back up, and they wont let me go to another bank.

I realise that I should probably have had some cash or a travelers check or something else just in case of emergency. I know that, and to that extent it was my bad.

However, when I explicitly go out of my way to tell my bank not to do this, and they do it, there is no excuse. When they proctect me like this, it is as if they are stealing everything I have. The fraud protection is worse than the fraud when you are traveling overseas.

I did make it to Exmouth where there is an ATM that worked, so I’m not totally screwed, but I still have to wait 8 hours for their offices to open to get this resolved. I am going to investigate every avenue possible to break all ties with Wells Fargo and open up a bank account in Singapore.

In summary Wells Fargo Sucks . I cannot stress this enough. If anyone wants to link to this article, please link it with the phrase “Wells Fargo Sucks” so it will rank high in Google when people search for “Wells Fargo Sucks”.

Wells Fargo Sucks