Snorkeling Alongside Gentle Giants in the Philippines!
July 25, 2016
Donsol, Philippines, is renouned for Whale Sharks sightings. These gentle giants are protected here by WWF guidelines and follow certain rules such as restricting contact to only snorkeling at least 3 metres away and limiting the number of snorkelers to six to a boat.
Today was the day we had been waiting for and our main reason for travelling all this way to Donsol. We met at the Information Centre at 7am ready to be allocated to a boat for our whale shark (Butanding) diving experience. There were six to a boat plus the guide, driver and spotter. We sailed out about a kilometre into the waters, where these large gentle creatures are found, before we noticed a few boats gathered around at a specific area. They had spotted a Butanding! Because they come to the surface they are easily spotted but considering the large ocean it can be quite challenging. It only took seconds from the time the whale was spotted to us swimming alongside it. We had to put on all our gear (snorkel, mask and flipper) and sit on the edge of the boat ready to jump when the guide told us to. When we were directed to jump we jumped and followed the guide to the shark. The first shark was small (around 7 metres) and swam near the surface with it’s dorsal fin protruding out of the water. The largest we spotted being around 10 metres in length. It was easy to follow and it didn’t even seem bothered about us swimming next to it. However, we could not keep up with any of them for more than a couple of minutes before it swam away or dived downwards into the deep depths of the sea. Even though each dive was short lived it the excitement was great.
It only took seconds from the time the whale was spotted to us
swimming alongside it!
Spotting whale sharks was challenging. The first two were not as difficult but we sailed in search for a long time before another boat sited the third. To our relief we successfully managed to swim five times with three different sharks within the three hours we were out at sea and for £15, which is very cheap, I would definitely do it again!
These Butanding migrate to Donsol area from January to May but this year they saw sightings as early as November. We were informed that the adults, thus the larger ones, had already migrated away as it was nearing the time for them to move on and the young remained in the area for a little bit longer. I wasn’t going to complain, yes it would be amazing to see the bigger sharks but I was more than satisfied swimming with the smaller ones, which in actual fact are still quite big and impressive!