Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Would You Ever Swim With A Whale Shark?

I can recall how my heart beat so wild, how I wanted the spotter to just say, sorry no whale shark today, how I just wanted to get it over and done with.

I was sitting at the edge of the small boat running in the middle of the ocean waiting for the spotter to give the signal so we all, my uncle, sister and myself (first batch; second batch being my mom, dad and my brother) jump off the slow-running boat to meet this gentle giant of the ocean locally known as Butanding - the biggest fish in the world.


Waiting for a Butanding. *lub dub* lub dub*lub dub* 

I could very well remember how my sister, Gianine, was throwing tantrums because our mom won’t let her take off her life vest.  Being a better swimmer (and braver) than I am, my sister hates life vests and floaters as it prevents her from totally enjoying the ocean and the creatures.  But of course, no matter how much tantrums she throws, she could never prevail over my mom.

There she goes, throwing tantrums into the ocean.
Few minutes more and still there was no whale shark.  Butandings do not usually surface when it is rainy.  I was beginning to feel relieved.  Yeah I was nervous, but there’s a part of me that still wanted to do it.  I was hesitant, and yet I was not telling anyone.  The gloomy weather added to the already suspenseful atmosphere that I was feeling. 

Then the sky became a bit brighter and several boats gathered in one area, which is not ideal as one boat per Butanding is the policy.

And the moment that everyone had been waiting for… a Butanding surfaced.

It was time. The spotter asked us to jump, and we swam towards the whale shark.  Imagine how nervous I was.  But when I saw with my own eyes how gentle this big creature really is, all of my fears vanished into the clear blue waters.  This Butanding is really big as what they say. The average size is 18 meters (approximately 60 feet) long and 40 tons heavy.  Luckily, it did not mind all of us tourists trying to get close to it and having the experience of a lifetime.  Before the dive, all tourists per batch, will be briefed with the safety precautions.  And one of the precautions tells us that there should always be a distance between you and the Butanding and you cannot stay in front of it. 

 Here are some of the guidelines from Philippines-travel-guide.com:
  • Do not touch or ride the Whale Shark.
  • Do not restrict the movement of the Whale Shark, or impede its natural path.
  • Maintain a distance of 3 metres from the head or body of the Whale Shark and 4 metres from its tail.
  • Do not use flash photography.
  • Do not use scuba gear, scooters, jet skis or any other motorised underwater propulsion machine.
  • A maximum of six (6) swimmers per Whale Shark is allowed and only one (1) boat per Whale Shark.
But many tourists did not follow most of the rules.  Some kept touching the whale shark.  I, accidentally, came in front of its mouth area and I felt a vacuum.  When it opened its mouth there was a vacuum the pulled water inside so planktons floating around can be eaten by this fish.   And guess what?  It’s my lucky day; the guide pulled me from being eaten by this whale shark.  Though I know that it only eats planktons, I still believe up to this day that you could get eaten by this fish, without its knowledge, if you are ultra thin and you sadly fit in its mouth.



The Butandings can be found in Donsol, Sorsogon which is a 2-hour drive from Albay, Bicol where we came from at the time.  From Manila it is a 10 to11-hour drive.  No matter how far, the Butanding experience is a must!  Too bad I do not have an underwater camera yet at that time.   It is truly an experience of a lifetime.

The package costs PHP 3,500 for 6 personsThat includes the boat (7 max per boat), the spotter (the one who spots the Butanding) and two guides (and of course the driver of the boat).  Don’t worry; you do not have to meet the Butanding alone.  You will be diving with the manong guides, one guide per 3 persons.  The boat can stay out for around 3 hours.  Butandings find refuge in the waters of Donsol from December to May.


It was, I could say, one of the best encounters I ever had with marine life, as I haven’t taken a kick on scuba diving yet (soon).  Scuba diving, by the way, is not allowed for whale shark encounter in Donsol.  Only snorkelling and skin diving are permitted.


So would you ever swim with a whale shark? Of course…because you can. ♥





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4 comments:

  1. yes, i would swim with a whale shark.
    great share! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. nice!! had the same experience about 7 years ago.. haha! If people suggests that i'm thin right now, then just imagine how skinny I was way back when I first met this mr. biggie-fish. It probably won't even feel me when swallowed. lol

    but ey, though skinny, i was one of the brave and disobedient from the group.. ^_^ had a blast and will do it all over again. hehehe.

    keep posting, nique! ^_^

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