SHARK!!!!!

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
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Trip End Mar 31, 2014


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What I did
Whale Sharks

Flag of Philippines  , Central Visayas,
Monday, November 12, 2012

Ian and Anna splash about in the sea helplessly, surrounded by sharks, their hearts beating furiously as the giants close on them, their huge mouths gaping...

Okay, calm down. We survive. And the sharks are not the killer Jaws type but gentle giants called Whale Sharks. They are by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate and are slow-moving filter feeders, so thankfully they lack the razor sharp teeth as they munch on tiny plankton like whales. Hence the name Whale Shark.

Our alarm clock goes of at 5:30am. We are NOT morning people. As we trudge about, getting ready, we wonder if this is really going to be worth the effort. Back in El Nido, Aussiejeff had told us that he had been swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob about a fortnight ago. He said that they are there all the time and if we get up early we can catch the bus down (about 3 hours), take a boat out to swim with them, then catch the bus back before dark. It sounds too good to be true, we had planned to see the sharks on the north island of Luzon but had to change our dates and the chances of seeing them at this time of year are remote. We had given up hope, so Oslob is an opportunity that is too appealing to miss. We fight the urge to go back to bed and brave the crazy, smog filled streets of Cebu on our walk to the bus station. Predictably, the bus station is insane. There is no rhyme or reason to it that we can see, just buses everywhere and swarms of people bustling about. A man points us to a bus and we board it, not really sure if it'll take us where we need to go. We needn't have worried though as 3 hours later we are stepping back into the sunshine outside a large sign that says 'Whale Shark watching this way'. Anna starts to shake a bit, it's like the elephants all over again but at least she won't have to ride one of these giants though. We sit through a safety talk and are instructed to stay at least 5 metres away from them and not to touch. It turns out nobody told the Whale Sharks though...

There are 5 of us in the tiny boat as we sail out into open water - us, the 2 Filipino boatmen and our new friend AmericanEric. We fear the boat will sink before we reach the monster fish but finally we reach them and pop on our snorkel gear. Initially it looks like just a patch of rough sea but as we are getting ready to drop into the water a huge head breaks the surface, its gaping mouth sucking in buckets of water. Anna tries to stop shaking and considers watching from the boat, while Ian wonders how he keeps ending up in deep water when he can barely swim. We have been told that the bubbles created from splashing will make the Sharks think you are food. We really do not want to be food. We enter the water without so much as a tiny splash.

Having looked online at Whale Sharks we knew they would be big. We had also just caught sight of one of their huge heads. However, we are still shocked at just how massive they are once we are underwater. Ian swears profusely into his snorkel and Anna tries to become one with the underside of the boat. They are everywhere and they are gigantic. They brush up against the boat and swim past with graceful elegance. We cling onto the boats bamboo ballasts as they create rolling waves with their bodies and fins. As they glide past, mere inches from us, we have to curl our legs under to avoid touching them. They come so close we both worry about having our legs swallowed on a number of occasions and we both get clipped by massive fins as they glide past. These dozen or so Whale Sharks are not obeying the 5 metre rule! Along with the sharks there are schools of fish swarming around us too. Some of the smaller ones clinging to the sharks huge bodies, either feeding or just hitching a ride. It is a wonderous experience and we spend 30 minutes in the water with these gentle titans. Truely unforgettable and we both survived too. Altough Anna may be left with permanent claw-like hands after clinging onto the boat with enough force that her fingers left dents in the wood. Ian has put on a stone in swallowed sea water and spends a full hour urinating once returning to dry land.

Back on the shore we can't quite believe what has just happened and just how many Whale Sharks were swimming about with us in such close proximity. We count our blessing for meeting Aussiejeff and for taking his advice in coming to Oslob. To top off an already amazing day, AmericanEric says that if we give him our email he will send all the pictures he took on his underwater camera! What a top guy!

Heartfelt thanks to the people of Oslob, AmericanEric and AussieJeff. And also a gigantic sized thanks to the Whale Sharks and their lack of killer teeth. Truly Incredible.
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