Swimming with wonderful Whale Sharks in Donsol
Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
124Trip End Feb 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
Santiago Lodging House
What I did
Swam with the largest fish in the ocean!!!!
A ride on a van, a plane, an overnight bus and finally a jeepney brought us to a place we were extremely excited about. Donsol, a little town that for four months of the year becomes home for the largest fish in the ocean, the whale shark.
We knew we were in for a treat, but nothing could prepare us for the thrills awaiting us the next morning. We stayed in a little pensionne that felt like we were staying in someone’s house and in the evening started chatting to a couple of guys and a girl who were all from the UK. They had spent the morning whale shark watching and had loved it so much, they were going again the next day. We decided to share a boat together and so the next morning we set off for our amazing adventure.
As we sailed on our little Bangka we did not know what to expect. About 10 minutes into the trip our guide told us to get ready, so we quickly put on our masks and fins and sat on the side of the boat ready to jump. On the word ‘go’ from our guide all 5 of us jumped into the sea hoping to get a glimpse of these gentle giants. Very exciting! As we looked down we saw a large tail in the distance but the moment passed very quickly. We thought that the 3 hour trip we were on would be made up of fleeting moments like this and it felt a little anti climatic after all our excitement getting here….oh how wrong we were!
The second time our spotter spotted the whale we were ready and waiting on the side of the boat. At ‘go’ we all jumped in and after a quick look around we couldn’t see anything. We lifted our heads out of the water to ask ‘where??’ and our guide just shouted ‘LOOK DOWN’. So we did… and OH MY GOD I saw this gigantic spotted flat head swimming towards me, adrenalin kicked in, I couldn’t stop screaming not from fear but from the sheer wonder of having this enormous giant swimming up to me. No words can ever describe how I felt with that first encounter. The sense of awe I felt will never leave me. I swam as fast as I could to stay near the whale shark and could feel my heart hammering against my chest from a mixture of excitement and exertion. And yet the best was still to come.
On our third or fourth spotting, the guide actually grabbed me and pushed me directly over the whale shark. So that I was swimming right above it’s head. For a few minutes it felt like there was just me and this giant fish swimming in the ocean. The feeling was just indescribable. It is one of those moments that will live with me forever. A memory to treasure and return to and savour over and over again.
This day was a major highlight for both Paul and I so I’ll stop here and let Paul tell you about his experience of the day. The last thing I will say is that if you ever visit the Philippines between February and May, coming to see the whale sharks should be a must on your itinerary.
Karen is actually making our journey to Donsol look quite easy! After leaving El Nido we stopped for a night in Puerto Princessa as we needed to renew our visas for another month. £50 each! Ouch, the price of bureaucracy I suppose. While we were in the visa office we got talking to an American lady in her late 50's. She was getting her visa and a visa for her friend who could not make it as she had broken her leg. Her friend is in her early 70's so decided to stay on the boat. Boat we say? Oh yes she says, we sailed from America about 5 years ago, just the 2 of us, sank off Papua New Guinea, got rescued by a local tribe, lived on their island for 6 months whilst we repaired the boat and then carried on to the Philippines! If you would like to know more here is a link to our book. Wow, we were amazed. That is the type of person you meet on the road and it just shows you that it is never too late!
After Palawan we flew back to Manila and ended up staying there two days. All we did in those 2 days is visit malls! It does not say much about Manila does it?!
Then we finally made it to Donsol after a night bus and a two hour wait for the mini bus to fill up. So you see, Karen's version is a lot smoother! When we finally got out the mini bus I realized that my beloved I-Phone fell out in it! I was going mad. Luckily the driver (and the Filipino's in general) was honest and came back to our guesthouse and gave it me back. Phew!
Now that is all the boring stuff out the way, let's get down to business.
Oh my god! What an experience. A day that will live with us forever. As Kaz said the 1st encounter with these wonderful gentle giants was a bit murky and it was a bit too deep but our 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th encounters were amazing! Ha ha. I will never forget seeing this huge head coming up from the depths right below me! Every time it happened I just screamed! Not in fear as they are harmless but in excitement! No photo or film clip would ever do the experience justice. All I can say is you have to do it! To swim with the largest fish in the ocean (when I say large, I mean large. They just go on forever! ) makes you feel very small and I don't just mean in size. Each time we swam with one it stayed with us for ages. So long in fact that we had to stop on quite a few occasions out of sheer exhaustion. Josh, Will and Phillipa on the other hand swam with them non stop. Note to self, must get fitter! As soon as we got on the boat we barely had time to catch our breath before we were jumping back in for another encounter. No matter how tired we pushed ourselves to jump in the water and swim with all our might. It is that magical!
That night we went to bed with the biggest smiles on our faces ever!
To keep on the water theme, our next stop is Padre Burgos where we will be diving!
See you at 30 meters!
Paul & Karen xxx
P.S. We've borrowed these photos from the web to give you an idea of what a Whale Shark looks like and what we got to see underwater.