One of my first real travel experience involved jumping into open sea and chasing sharks.
If you don’t believe then check the photo of the big shark scar that I have on my knee. 😉 Still don’t believe me?!
Well, I maybe joking on the scar on my knee, but the swimming with sharks part was actually the real deal. 🙂 Though, the catch is that it’s not sharks a la Jaws – but are calmer and less prone to eating humans.
Ladies and gents, I present you the whale sharks or butanding as we call them in the Philippines!
Unline the sharks that we commonly know about – they only eat plankton and krills.
They are the largest fish species in the world measuring up to 12 meters in length (almost the size of a big bus). Their mouth alone, at 1.5 meters in width, is big enough to swallow a human being whole.
They are commonly found on the world’s warm and tropical waters and luckily the Philippines have lots of them.:)
The coastal town of Donsol is the hotspot in the Philippines if you want to experience swimming with them. The whale shark season is between January and May of each year.
Donsol’s is a prime example of sustainable tourism – mixing tourism development, bringing livelihood to its people and at the same time increasing awareness about these awesome creatures.
I did the whale shark interaction back in 2008 and it remains as one of my most unforgettable experience to date. We came late in the season but luckily still had a chance to see a couple of whale sharks.
All the sightings can only be arranged from the main tourist office. You have towatch a video first about whale sharks and the rules you have to follow. Then you are brought to a boat together with a shark spotter. The shark spotters (or BIOS) used to be fishermen who used to capture these sharks for food – but now they’ve changed jobs to become the shark’s prime protectors!
Once they’ve spotted a whale shark, you’ll to jump in the open sea and swim so hard to follow these huge creatures.
You are not allowed to touch, ride, feed or swim right next to them (especially near their tails) for your safety and for the preservation of their habitat as well.
But definitely, it’s an experience that everyone should do!
To go to Donsol, fly to Legaspi (1 hour from Manila or Cebu) and it’s another 1 hour jeepney ride away to get to the Donsol town proper. Alternatively, there is a daily overnight bus that goes to Legaspi and Donsol. You can arrange the day you want to do the swim in their tourist office and will cost you less than 1500 PHP (30 USD) for the entire thing.
Have you tried swimming with whale sharks? Share you experience below!
About Filipino Friday: Every Friday, I’m going to showcase something unique about my home country , the Philippines. It can be a place, food, experience, custom or tradition that highlights what we our 7,107 islands can offer. I hope that through these posts – I can help bring awareness about the Philippines, it’s beauty, hidden sites, quirkiness and diversity.
Are you a travel blogger? I’m inviting you to take part of Filipino Friday with me. All you need to do is post something about the Philippines every Friday. Contact me if you’re interested.