03 August, 2012

Oslob Whale Shark-watching Experience

We started the day early.  At about 6:30 AM, my friends and I were already registering for our whale shark-watching experience.  The fee is Php500.00 per person.  As one of my friends is a foreigner, she had to pay Php1,000.00.  Too bad we came here just after they imposed the increase on the rates as before, Oslob's whale watching rates were only Php300.00 for locals and Php500.00 for foreign nationals.

After our registration was the briefing.  Here, we were informed of the do's and don'ts of whale-watching e.g. the acceptable 5-meter distance when swimming with the whale-sharks, and other reminders like no putting on of sunblock, no flash when taking photos, no riding or touching them, etc.

Afterwards, we were issued tickets.  

Then we were given our snorkeling set and life vests.

As the seas were rough, we were told to not bring our cameras if they were not waterproof or with no proper casing.  My friends heeded this and went back to our room to leave their cameras but I refused as I wanted to document my whale-shark watching experience.

Then our banca was off to the sea.  It was a very scary ride and I feared the banca would tip over as the waves were crashing against it rather violently.  Thankfully, it did not.

The whale shark-watching area was five minutes from the shore.  As we were among the first batch, there were few guests.  There were about half a dozen spotters though, luring the whale sharks or butanding with food.

I'm scared of open water so I was the last one to leave the boat.  It was a fun experience to be swimming with the whale sharks but I must admit I wasn't feeling particularly ecstatic.  I only swam and snorkel for a mere five minutes and asked to be hoisted back up to our banca as it felt terrifying for a non-swimmer like me to be floating in the deep water, kicking my legs as I tried to swim away from the whale sharks when they got close.  And boy, did they get close as despite their size, they could glide swiftly in the water that one moment, they're meters away and next, one was already a mere meter or two away from me.  What's even scarier was that their mouth looked so big that when they open it, I thought I'd get sucked in.

If it was scary for me to be out in the water with the sharks, it was fun for me to just watch them swim around the boat while a spotter fed it with shrimp.  Below are my two photos of whale sharks that got close to our boat.

As my friends were enjoying snorkeling and swimming with the sharks, I chatted with out local boatman.  From him, I learned that whale sharks had been visiting Oslob usually during the months of October since he was a child.  The locals did not mind them, though, until October last year when they discovered that they could bring in tourists.  Below is a photo of my knowledgeable boatman.

I learned so much from him, including what they ate, that they are attracted to bubbles as they thought there's food, they disliked seaweeds or sagbot that when fed and they accidentally sucked in some sagbot, they would swim away, and that they have no teeth.  I am debunking that bit about their having no teeth though as my online search says whale sharks have 300 to 250 rows of tiny teeth.

From him too, I also found out that there are a dozen or more whale sharks in the area but only six of them are always seen.  Lastly, he shared that whale-watching in the island is only until 1 PM so as to not overfeed the whale sharks and to give them free time to be out in the sea.  "Because so long as you feed them, they keep on coming," he said in the vernacular.

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