Whale Sharks in Bicol and Holy Week at the farm!
Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
55Trip End Oct 05, 2008
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I ended my last entry saying that I was on my way to swim with the world famous whale sharks in Bicol Region (Southeast of Manila). What an exciting weekend my two days in Bicol were. Carrie (fellow PCV), Kim and Laura (Belgium Vol's) and I flew into Legaspi City on Saturday March 8th, when we landed we hopped on a travel van that took us about 2 hours east of the city to a town called Donsol. This peaceful beachfront community waters are home to the Butanding. Butanding are the worlds largest fish and can reach up to 40 feet long. They only feed on plankton and are completely docile, but because of their size, swimming alongside of them is a huge rush. They are endangered because their meat and fins can bring in a lot of money, so the local fishermen had all but killed off this beautiful creature in Sorsogon until 1997, when laws were passed to prevent the killing and sale of whale sharks. As an alternative livelihood for the fisherfolk of the area, there was a big ecotourism push (by World Wildlife Fund) and swimming with the whale sharks quickly became a popular tourist activity.
We stayed one night at a cute little beachfront resort and rose early the next morning in order to catch a boat out to swim with the whale sharks! It was well worth the early morning rise; swimming with these massive creatures was truly incredible. The guides would spot them from the boat tell us to get ready... we would put on our flippers, mask and snorkel and then jump in the water and literally the whale-sharks were right there and we would swim right along with them. The best part for me was swimming with the third shark we saw (we saw six total) it felt like we were swimming with it for nearly 10 min. when all of a sudden it took a deep breath, I saw it's gills go in and out, and it swam quickly ahead and did a huge tail whip!! Good thing I was far enough away I did not get whacked!! A huge adrenaline rush to say the least!
Carrie and I spent our last night in Bicol outside of Legaspi City in a town called Salvacion with some fellow PCV's Jarod and Mariah. They live on the beautiful beachfront property of a former PCV and his Filipina wife. The husband is a world renowned Volcanoligist and their location could not be better with Mt. Mayon towering over their town. Mt. Mayon is one of the most active volcano's in the Philippines and last year had a huge eruption that the community is still trying to recover from along with the devastating typhoons that hit the region. While Mayon was under cloud cover most of our visit Jarod was kind enough to give me some of his amazing photos he took from their deck. They have an incredible view of the volcano!
Being that this last week was Holy Week many PCV's were looking for a good get away from their respective sites. ENCA Farm was the perfect location and nine of us spent the week at the farm, camping, hiking, weeding, harvesting in the garden, and enjoying the ever peaceful and relaxing energy of the farm. We did an intense hike up to the ridgeline above the farm that I had not done in nearly a year. It was really fun and we all enjoyed the incredible mountain views on top. We ate great food, enjoyed each other's company, laughed a lot and had one of the best weeks we have all had in the Peace Corps!
Tomorrow I head to Sagada, Mountain Province with my cave guides for an exposure trip. Sagada is where we spend Thanksgiving and is known for their amazing caves and strong eco-tourism development. This trip is a wonderful opportunity for my guides to learn from the experience and expertise of Sagada Guides and hopefully be inspired to continue to protect and build eco-tourism within their community.
It is a beautiful sunny day here hope this update finds you all doing well.
Happy Belated Easter and Equinox!
All my love,
PS: Tomorrow I will have been in the Philippines exactly two years! Crazy to think how fast this journey has gone by and all that has happened over these last two years.