Thursday, April 01, 2010

Whale Sharks

What an experience! So many of our friends here had done this trip in years past as well as this year and all had expressed how amazing and awe-struck they were by the sheer size of the sharks so we were prepared and in a way I was fearful of the overtold stories in that it wouldn't be as amazing as everyone had described. It lived up to the tales and more!

We hopped on the early morning flight to Legaspi at 6am and were landing a quick 50 minutes later to the view of Mt Mayon. This volcano is active and had threatened to erupt just a few short months ago. It's a beautiful sight.

After a little negotiating at the airport exit we found ourselves a van for 900php (600 less than most people pay, thanks greenhills for teaching me the power of bargaining and thanks to Carol for insisting on an even better deal!) and we were headed to the resort a mere hour of motion-sickness inducing twists and turns and hills away! After arriving at our resort (the Elysia, the only one with a pool) we were informed that there wouldn't be any electrical power from 9-5. Oh lovely, the tropics without aircon is almost unbearable! Finnley stayed at the resort with Carol (our nanny) fanning him with a plank of cardboard as he napped while Nate, Holden and I set off to find some very large fish!

Just up the street we signed away our rights and claimed ourselves Filipino-American speaking
Tagalog all the while to get the local rate once again! Because there was no electricity on the Island we didn't get a chance to watch the safety video but we found ourselves Henry the boatman who, thinking we could understand Tagalog, told us everything we needed to Tagalog. No worries though, there were pictures to explain everything as well!

Out on the boat we cruised. There was Henry who would swim along with us, the captain of the boat, another boat boy and the spotter. The spotter climbs up high on the boat and scans the water for large shadows moving beneath the water and the tada! Whale Shark.

We startedout later in the day (about 930) when ideally 6am would be the better time to see more sharks but luckily came across one quite quickly. There were tons of other people in the water despite the one boat one whale rule. After a few kicks to the head from someone elses flippers we were awestruck by this 4 meter long beast. It was huge. So big you can't get the entire thing in a viewfinder for a photo. Amazed by this but hoping to see one all by ourselves without the multitude of boats around we set off further out to sea. Not 30 minutes later Henry yells, "lets go, lets go!" and we pile to the side of the boat with our gear on. We pushed off and
were right in the path of a 19 foot whale shark coming straight at us.

Because the water is so full of plankton (the reason the whale sharks are there) it is a little cloudy and you don't see the behemoth of a shark until it's right in front of you. Scary indeed.

We let is pass just a few feet beneath us and the swam super fast for about 15 minutes to keep up with it until it went so deep down we couldn't see it. Henry kept up our pace and I couldn't figure out why we kept swimming after it was gone but all of a sudden right underneath us it's giant head re-emerged and we swam again down it's long body for another 15 minutes or so.
I can't continue to re-use the word amazing, but that is what is was. A once in a lifetime experience to see and be so near this whale shark in it's natural habitat. The rest of our day and the next morning was spent lounging in the pool with Carol and Finnley.

I continue to be humbled by so many things we are able to do and see in Asia. Things I would never have even imagined. I hope that I can capture these memories for our boys. Hoping that Holden, at least, will remember them and realize in the future just how lucky he is that we lived here!

1 comment:

Julie said...

Like you said, what an incredible experience you guys are so lucky to be having.
Those pictures are stunning.