If we talk about whales and sharks, what comes to your minds? Me, ohh the movie jaws comes first, with the background music playing. Forgive me for being morbid and gruesome, but all can think of is blood, and bitten off hands and legs. The shark attack! And off we go for whale shark encounter, isn’t that ironic?
But as they say, life is full of surprises, so let us see what this “butanding” watching can offer us.
(courtesy of google images)
Our scheduled time was 7 in the morning. We had to be at the tourist center by that time since we have to watch a 5-minute video regarding the do’s and dont’s of the activity. We also had to fill-up registration form and rent snorkeling equipments. By 7:30, we were sailing towards the site where butandings usually roam around.
Our boat consisted of 11 people. 1 operating the motorized boat, 2 spotters, 2 guides, 3 girls and 3 guys. Since the boat rental is pricey (3,500 pesos for three hours, $79 at the current exchange rate),if only for the three of us, we were more than willing to accommodate and share with 3 more, to make it more practical and affordable. Luckily, 1 french guy and 2 chinese men were off to whale watch also, so we went together. The more, the merrier, right?!
We just arrived few minutes in the middle of the ocean when Kuya Jun, the lead guide, told us to don our gears. I opted to wear the life vest since i cannot swim, in addition to the snorkel masks. In his signal, amidst panic and excitement, we all jumped to the open ocean. Kuya Jun with Benj went ahead of us, followed by Kuya Kakoy, the other guide, with Paj. While, me and the other 2 Chinese guys were left behind, since we were all wearing life vests which slowed us down. At the first appearance of the whale shark, only Benj and Paj who were guided rightfully ,were able to see it. We, then went back to the boat. Aldo, the French guy did not have difficulty seeing it since he is an open sea diver. But for first timers like us, Benj and Paj were the lucky ones. Back on the boat, they were marveling at the experience they had when they saw the whale shark under the water for the first time. As for me, i was silently beating myself up, why don’t i know how to swim. Aarrghhh! But alas, there was still time and there was a lot of hope.
We scouted again for the spots where they where supposedly swimming around, but for an hour or so, we cant find anything. I was beginning to panic, because i don’t want to go home not having the full experience. But since negativity is not an option, we all hoped and prayed that these gentle giants make their appearance sooner. And so they did! After waiting for quite a while, Kuya Jun signalled again to jump. This time he brought me along, making sure i will see it. While he was holding the other end of the lifeboy, i was holding on to the other end. We swam, more so, he dragged me to the open ocean, and waited for a few seconds. Then finally, he told me to look down. When he said NOW, i submerged my head, with the snorkel gears to sea clearly under the water, and oh my! oh my! my heart almost leaped for joy! There it was, swimming under me. I saw its spotted big, big body passing under me. You know the feeling of being scared and excited at the same time. That’s what i felt! And when we cant see it any more, we went back again to the boat. As i was pulling myself from the ocean to the boat, I was screaming. I cant contain my happiness. I was really jumping for joy. Imagine, i swam over the whale shark! Unfortunately, the other Chinese guy didn’t see it yet. But we were a group full of good vibes and positive thoughts, so off we went to wait for the moment when it shows up again.
To sum it all up, we were able to see the whale shark around 9 times. We got used to the jumping and seizing the moment part, so all of us were able to watch it more than a few times. As for me, i hoarded Kuya Kakoy, one of the guides, all for myself. Since Benj was with the other one, and Paj knew how to swim even without the guide, i let Kuya Kakoy guide me when its time to jump and be with the butanding in the ocean.
It was really a close encounter with the whale sharks. The distance with it was so near that there was one time that it felt like if i stretch out my hands, i will be able to touch it, but since it was not allowed, and i was scared at the same time, i was really avoiding it.
(this is how we suppose to look like while we watch the butanding. photo courtesy of google images)
The three and a half hours of swimming and jumping and running around just to see a glimpse of it was all worth it. The experience itself was so overwhelming.
We weren’t able to capture the exact moments since our underwater camera was behaving badly, and every jump in the ocean had to be quick if we want to see the butanding, so there was no time to prepare. But we still had to try, right?1 So im leaving you a picture of the butanding we had seen, taken from camera we borrowed. See the spots? … at least that was what I am trying to show you! But believe me, this is real! :p
For further inquiries, please do contact:
- Ate Myra of the tourist center (09198686426)
- Jun Principe ( boat guide, one of the best!) (09281921817)