I have lived in the Philippines most of my life and I didn’t know we had whale sharks.
The biggest fish in the world weighing 30,000 pounds and a length of 8-13 meters is swimming in our waters.
Not only that but I just discovered they were swimming a mere three hours away from my own backyard in my province in Cebu.
When I returned to my home the Philippines after my North Korean tour, I knew I had to do this important must do item on everybody’s bucket list.
The whale sharks live in barangay Tan-awan in Oslob in the Southern part of Cebu province. Normally sharks just come and go in this part but the fishermen have fed these whale sharks and as a result domesticated them so these big babies decided to stick around and become tourist attractions. There is a close bond between these sharks and the fishermen and they even took to naming them. At the time I was there I was swimming with Nicolas, Melanie and Herman. Sometimes it’s a hit and miss with the world’s . On some days you’d see one whale shark and sometimes you’d swim with a staggering thirteen. And all for USD20-30.
In our briefing in Oslob, the tour operator told us to stay 5 meters away from the sharks and that’s the same thing they tell you up in Donsol, Legaspi in the North –the whale shark capital in the world.
There is one huge difference though. In Donsol, you chase after the sharks. In Oslob, the whale sharks chase after you.
We spent most of our time swimming away from them though. Don’t know about you but when you have a gigantic two man size shark chasing after you with its gaping mouth the size of three human heads, you’d be running away from them too. There were many times I wanted to lazily float in the clear aquamarine waters of Oslob. Not when the boatmen keeps yelling, “He’s behind you!” and I’m off swimming again to hang on the boat’s rafters. I shouldn’t worry. The whale sharks are pretty harmless and they don’t eat people. Its mouth doesn’t even have any teeth. But when it’s chasing you….oh boy…. it just reminded me of Jaws.
The experience swimming with them – 10 meters safely away (or trying to) – was still one of the most majestic and awespiring moments I’ve had.
It truly felt like dancing with one of God’s beautiful giants.
Read the rest of my journey for the summer from finally giving up my day job in China to traveling and living like a nomad for a couple of months (destinations will be revealed shortly). It’s just beginning!