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Whale Sharking

by becca on February 19, 2010

What brought us to Padre Burgos in the first place was the promise of whale sharks in Sogod Bay this time of year. From February through April whale sharks follow their food — plankton — into the warm waters of the bay and the dive shops around here make a killing charging upwards of $70 per person for a snorkeling trip to swim with the biggest fish in the sea. Our boat-building European friends however, know the ropes of the area and hired two boats to take a total of 17 of us out to find and swim with some whale sharks (costing about $5 each).

The weather was shit but it didn’t damper anyone’s spirits as we charged toward Limasawa island with our eyes peeled. Usually you can see the giant shadows in the water, but the day was totally cloudy so our only hope for spotting them was the odd fin that pops through the water as they swim very shallow. Then the boats head that way, a few people hop in adorned with snorkel gear and before long some one shouts “WHALE SHARK!” and the rest of us pile into the water for a glimpse of the creature.

Whale sharks are magnificent creatures — massive but graceful, covered in a beautiful spotted pattern with a large open mouth welcoming in as much plankton as possible and a giant tail that sways slowly and effortlessly to propel them gently through the water. And though they’re huge, they’re very placid. The first one we found was a curious, playful youngster, but still quite a sight at 3.5 meters long. He swam around with us for about 15 minutes and would even swim right toward us so that we would have to frantically kick out of the way to avoid touching him (they get spooked when touched). The second was much bigger, maybe 6 meters, but he was swimming deep and fast, so we all snorkeled on the surface kicking as fast as we could to keep up. Because the whale shark was the only point of reference in the otherwise dark blue bottomless sea we had no idea how fast we were swimming or how far we had gone when he finally descended beyond our view.

Over the course of the (cloudy, rainy) day, we saw about four sharks, but it was enough and we all headed back to the one pub into town to warm up and have a few drinks to top off an exciting day.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Hannah 02.28.10 at 6:35 pm

What an amazing creature! Loved the video.

Did you hear about Shamu drowning the trainer during one of the live shows at Sea World? I think about the magical moments watching that show as a kid and the trainer emerging from the water on the nose of the killer whale… It’s really shocking. But I honestly am surprised it’s taken this long to happen. These are wild animals, after all, and how titillating, wonderful it is to see them in their natural habitat. To feel like the observer, the cautious visitor. We’re going to go snorkeling on our honeymoon, and hopefully see sea turtles, dolphins and some cool fish. I’m excited!

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