Local tourists are flocking to the north coast of East Java, to have a close up look at a natural phenomenon that occurs during monsoon season.
Every year during January to March, a group of migrant whale sharks swim into Bentar Beach to feed in the warmer waters. The sight of around 20 whale sharks, each weighing over a thousand pounds has become a tourist attraction.
Local tourists have been coming here since the end of January to see the group of rare giant whale sharks close up. And they are willing to pay up to 5,000 Indonesian rupiah (53 U.S. cents) for a boat ticket that will take them closer to where the whale sharks swim.
Many tourists are curious to see these giant fish up close, despite feeling somewhat scared.
[Yofa Fitri, Tourist]:
"When leaving the port, I felt curious as I've never seen a shark before, but when we arrived at sea, I felt afraid, especially when I was close to the shark."
Whale sharks are found in tropical, warm oceans, and have a lifespan of about 70 years. In spite of their huge mouths, they feed mainly on plankton, microscopic plants and animals.
The Javanese have a local term for the whale sharks, "Geger Lintang," meaning "Stars on the back," which refers to the white star-like spots on the sharks’ backs.
The group of whale sharks migrated to Indonesia from Australian waters, due to the warmer sea temperatures and the availability of food.
[Dian Cahyo Prabowo, Culture and Tourism Officer]:
"They come in a colony, in big numbers and they are friendly fish."
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the whale shark species is considered "vulnerable."