My mind was blown…
So I booked these flights in April of last year knowing only one thing; whale sharks. I had no other information about the Philippines and no idea if I’d even like it, but I knew there were sharks and I knew that I wanted to have that experience.
Now when I do get the pictures up, they will do no justice to the experience. Just like a picture of a beautiful mountain or sunset cannot truly capture the enormity of it, so I’ll add my words and try to help out the pictures.
We were in Donsol for 4 days and had the intention of swimming as often as possible because it only cost $15 each per day, compared to over $150 in Aus. There had been a storm come through a week earlier so we were warned that the visibility would not be fantastic (as per the pics), but that the sharks were there. We were raring to go.
After about 2 hours on the boat with no sightings we were beginning to lose hope, when our spotter yelled “butanding” (filipino for whale shark) and pointed to our left hand side. The procedure went into action where we threw on our gear and readied ourselves at the edge of the boat waiting for our guide to say go. “Go!” and I’m in this murky green water with 6 other people looking underwater for the shark. Our guide is right above it and swimming towards me and pointing down, again I stick my head under the water. Visibility is about 3 m so I can’t really see much and then bang, right in front of my face, 2 m away is this massive beast, with a mouth over a meter and the body of a stretch limo. Now I’m a competent snorkeler and let’s just say the expletive that came out of my mouth caused the snorkel to come out and me to choke on a liter of sea water, and it was gone. I surfaced and looked at Ally with the biggest smile on my face.
Now, for anyone who doesn’t know, a whale shark is completely harmless; it feeds on plankton and it’s mouth though long, doesn’t open very wide. They are also extremely gentle and generally fearful of us. However, your mind can TELL you one thing but your eyes and instincts are going to DO something else entirely. Like I said, seeing a giant fish emerge out of the murkiness and float by you is intimidating to say the least. This feeling stayed with me throughout the week every single time I entered the water.
So we ended up going 3 times, one time we did not see any sharks, but one day we saw 3 and swam with them and the other day saw between 2 and 5 and swam 10 times for extended periods of time. I can honestly say that if I did it every day, one hundred times, I wouldn’t get sick of it ever. These creatures are extremely humbling and I must say, stir your emotions. We were also extremely lucky as there was a guy there from WWF who was doing research into the whales as they are virtually unknown in the scientific community. Having had marine biologist aspirations in university, it was amazing to talk to Darren. We even had the luxury of seeing him at a restaurant and ended up sharing Tanduay and cokes until we shut the place down. I must say it was awesome talking to someone who has so much passion for our underwater environment and to my own credit, I was able to keep up and even add my own underwater knowledge (thank-you Discovery Channel). We about everything from stopping shark finning to ecotourism to what Ally and I could do to help.
Overall, this experience was nearly indescribable and completely mind-blowing. I would suggest to anyone to find where these creatures congregate (just north of Cancun is the closest) and do everything in your power to have this experience.
What a happy way to say goodbye to the Philippines…