BICOL Summer Spree: DAY 2 – Whale Shark Interaction

Read first about DAY 1 here.

There had been much anticipation of the beach that morning. What I hadn’t anticipated was the surge of butterflies that increasingly brushed my stomach as I road the boat, held back and waited, and finally jumped and glanced at the gentle giant swimmer of under the sea.

We registered at the Tourism Office, waited for other tourists to share the boat with and watched a video on proper whale shark interaction. We were ready with the snorkel and diving fins that we rented the day before. I and my companion met two law students and a foreign couple. I noticed a lot of rashes on the foreigners’ legs and back, and found out they had been stung by jellyfish when they swam by the shore. I was so happy to have chosen the resort pool. (Whew)

Friendly foreigners on the boat
Friendly foreigners on the boat
My dear companion on the look out
My dear companion on the look out

Three hours. We only had three hours to find it (or them, if we’re lucky). Excitement and anxiety gradually filled me as our boat sailed farther off shore. We were alert. As soon as the BIO (Butanding Interaction Officer) told us to, we had to jump.

It all happened quickly. I jolted when I heard a shout and the next thing I knew, I was racing in the water towards where the BIO pointed us. I struggled to catch up. I became so nervous. Maybe it was fear of being on the deep part of the water. Maybe it was the anxiety of knowing that there’s something huge beneath me. Or maybe it was the anxiety of like meeting love for the first time.

I submerged my head into the water. At first, I saw nothing. Then, like a matchmaker, the BIO pulled me towards it. My heart thumped. I smiled, and I felt my heart did, too. It was swimming right beneath me. A whale shark slowly, gently swimming away from the surface. I said, “Hi.” With my head underwater, all I heard was the slow ­blob-blob-blob of the water until the creature faded out.

It’s ironic how this ocean creature is so huge and physically intimidating yet it swims so softly that it drags time slowly along with it. When I was looking underwater, it felt like time ran slow.

For a period of three hours, we only saw two whale sharks—each just for a brief moment. It was enough. Afterwards, we were given a short while to just swim.

Much up-close with the whale shark!
Much up-close with the whale shark!

Whale shark interaction is the main attraction of Donsol beach, though the Tourism center also offers island tours and firefly watching by boat on the river. The whale shark peak season is from November to May. So, in other months there is no whale shark interaction, and some beach resorts are also closed since there are much fewer tourists in Donsol. When the whale sharks come back, life consisting of tourism and livelihood, also returns to the beach.

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