Monday, March 28, 2011

Whale Sharks in Donsol

I saw whale sharks!!!  5 of them!  A whale shark, to me, is one of those animals that you are not sure if you will ever see in your lifetime but if you ever do it would be one of the best most wonderful experiences.  And it was.  Whale sharks come to an area of the Philippines near the small town of Donsol on the island of Luzon.  There are very few places in the world like this where they come every year to a place where they are so easily assessable.  And this happens to be the right season for them.  I couldn't justify going any where else in the Philippines for any other reason for a least a day or two of our last few days here.  So this is how the experience went... We flew into the city of Legazpi (which by the way is a no smoking city- you can't be caught smoking on the streets-I thought that was great!) and you take a bus, minivan, or taxi to the town of Donsol.  We took a Taxi because we were traveling with Emma and Chris and could split the cost four ways, and to splurge a bit.  It costs 800 pesos, so about $4.50 each.  Doesn't seem like much of a splurge now that I'm writing it. We got into Donsol, found a guesthouse and decided it was too late to head to the visitor center.  The next morning by 7:30 we were headed that way.  You pay a fee to rent the snorkel gear, then a marine park fee, then you pay for a boat, split 6 ways.  All in all the cost is about $20.  We found another couple to share the boat with to keep the cost down.  A man from Clarksville, TN, which we both found funny, small world, and his very nice Filipino wife.  Not the creepy old man with a little girl kind of situation that abounds here, but a very nice same age couple.  After a short video from the World Wildlife Fund about how to treat the animals to not harm them we got on the boat with our guide Jerry and headed the short distance to all the other boats already out there.  It was a huge adrenaline rush!.  As soon as Jerry said it was time to get in you had to have your fins and snorkel on and be in the water.  We jumped in under the outrigger and glided quickly from under the boat.  We swam our legs off trying to follow Jerry, because we knew he knows exactly were we would encounter the big fish.  The moment had come!  I saw a giant mouth within a meter or 2 of me.  I had to get out of the way of this gentle giant! 

Then it was just swimming over him following his every whim unless it took him down to the depths.  He (they are he's here, young bucks there for the plankton) didn't seem to mind at all 6 people swimming with him occasionally diving down to take a closer look at his beautiful poke-a-dotted skin or his sweet little eyes.  After he decided to swim down where we could no longer see him we climbed back on the boat to wait.  A "spotter" sits on a high part of the boat to keep a look out for them.  So every time we hear its time to go we geared up and were in the water within seconds.  It was so wonderful being so close to them.  They are magnificent and so huge!  I have never swam next to something so big.  Their heads alone are the size of a king sized bed.  They have these tiny eyes compared to there big bodies.  At times I was totally taken aback by it all.  What if he decided he didn't like us swimming with him and he got mad.  All he had to do was give one flick of his giant tail and he could inflict some serious injuries.  It is a really good thing they are so docile and sweet.  It seems a bit fleeting now, only 3 hours with them, when the locals get to seem them everyday!  So lucky!  This was a wonderful experience and I am so glad to be sharing with you!


  1. This is the difference between me and you:
    "A whale shark, to me, is one of those animals that you are not sure if you will ever see in your lifetime but if you ever do it would be one of the best most wonderful experiences."

    I didnt even know whale sharks existed. This is another reason I blessed to have you in my life. My very own animal planet tour guide! Ha! I cannot believe his head is as big as a king sized bed. I cant imagine being underwater and near something like that. So glad you got to see it!!

    And $4.50 is such a spurge! Ha! Cheaper than a starbucks drink...

  2. I know! Its ridiculous the way you start to think about money when you're traveling in a cheap country. Something that is supposed to cost 1 dollar but cost 2 somewhere is all the sudden absurd.