Thursday, January 29, 2009

Welcome to the Philippines - Vol. 7

This is the last set of photos from the Philippines. After the whale sharks in Donsol, it was time to head home. Back to Masbate by banca and then the overnight ferry to Cebu.

Goodbye, Philippines! I'll be back, someday!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Welcome to the Philippines - Vol. 6 (Whale Sharks)

After two days traveling from Cebu, we finally arrive at Donsol - the tiny fishing village but mecca for whale shark spotters! This is it, the place to see and swim with the Biggest Fish in the World: The Whale Sharks.

I will post about the sharks later, but here are my pictures of Donsol and the Whale Shark Swimming Expedition. Unfortunately, the water off Donsol is so nutrient-rich (the reason the sharks cluster here from December to April) that it appears green and limits visibility. This means I don't have any underwater pictures of me and beast. (Don't let this deter you, I made up for it with the last picture of this post!)

All in all, I swam with two whale sharks. The first, probably 10 meters long, we swam behind for maybe 10 seconds. What a shock it was when the skilled Shark-Spotter suddenly started yelling, "Go! Go! Go!" and we all jumped and flailed into the water, flippers on and holding our masks to our heads... And then, head under, the beast appears through the green murk. Kicking hard to keep up with it (and our guide), the shark disappears.

But an hour later, the second, much larger whale shark was spotted. It was an enormous 17 meters long, and swam right under the boat and right under me in the water. Silence descends as all your focus is directed at the beast, trying desperately to take in everything about the experience. The shark was huge and moving slowly, it's white speckled skin pattern filling my field of vision. I watched the fish for over a minute before it swam lower and disappeared. What an exhilarating and incredibly surreal experience sharing the water with something so big and powerful. I'll never forget it....


My first experience with the whale shark

Our shark-spotter (on the right) and the crew

Waiting for the sharks...

Mount Mayon, the most perfect cone volcano in the world, still active

Me and the whale shark!

Not-Me with a real whale shark (found this online to give you an idea of the experience!)

Focus on Whale Sharks next...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Welcome to the Philippines - Vol. 5

After the incredible time in Bohol learning to scuba dive, it was time to start the Search for the Whale Shark! We had to take a overnight ferry from Cebu to Masbate, and then a big banca (5 hour catamaran boat through rough water) from Masbate to Donsol....