Swimming With Whale Sharks
Since before I ever made plans to go to the Philippines I really wanted to swim with whale sharks in Cebu. I had seen my friends do it on their trips, and when I was little I had wanted to be a dolphin trainer, so this was everything to me.
We had to get up at 5AM to go from Moalboal to Oslob. I couldn’t sleep at all the night before. I was so scared to oversleep and so excited. I tried to sleep in the van on the ride there, but it was impossible. I was so excited.
When we got to Oslob the beach was beautiful. The sun had just finished coming up over the horizon, and the beach was a pearly blue that I was getting used to seeing in Cebu mornings.
The resort had prepared sandwiches, fruit, coffee, and Milo for us. I was ridiculously excited to have breakfast right on the beach. I had a bacon cheese onion sandwich, mango, and a cup of Milo.
The process after that was incredibly confusing. We got our snorkelling gear and then we were put in what seemed like a random truck with random people to go to the whale shark location, a 3 minute drive. Then we got out of the truck, and came onto a pavilion. We didn’t know where to go or what to do, but were sat down to see a short briefing on the regulations, about 3 minutes.
Then everyone lined up to buy tickets but what seemed like a random guy told us our number was 73, so we didn’t need to buy tickets? How did he know? Who was he? They called our number and gave us life jackets. We were told to get on one of the boats. This was one of the coolest parts. Filipino boats like canoes with large wooden balances on either side. They’re called banca in Tagalog.
I wasn’t sure how far we were going to go, but I expected to go way out to sea to find the sharks. Not so. The sharks were just a 5 minute canoe ride from the shore. There was a large circle of canoes and men were feeding the sharks in the middle of the circle, assuring that the sharks would come and stay. I was a little disappointed to be honest. I thought we were seeing completely wild sharks. But that disappointment was quickly forgotten when we were told we could get out of the boat now.
The circle was filled with tourists shrieking and laughing as they spotted the sharks, got too close, and swam away in delight. I jumped off the boat fearful and elated. Filming felt almost impossible underwater. We had bought waterproof cases for our phones, but trying to find the sharks, trying to get close to snap a shot, getting scared and swimming away, all while the sharks kept twisting and turning, felt like aiming a shot at a moving target. I have so much respect for underwater photographers now.
The sharks were enormous and beautiful. Whale sharks don’t have teeth, so I wasn’t that scared, but they are still enormous wild creatures who could probably hurt someone. The challenge of taking a good picture with the fear of the animal and excitement of our proximity was one hell of a thrill ride.
After our swim we headed back, covered the van in towels, and made our way back to Moalboal, but my friends had spotted a McDonald’s on the way to the beach, and they were unexplainably desperate to have Filipino McD’s for lunch.
I was a little conflicted about going to McDonald’s. I really wanted to try it but we still hadn’t tried a lot of Filipino food. When I walked in and looked at the menu, however, that feeling vanished. The menu was SO DIFFERENT! Fried chicken, spaghetti, rice, chicken parmesan, Sprite ice cream floats, McDo’s?? I wanted to try everything!
I got the McDo and spaghetti, my friends got the Chicken Filet Ala King, fries, and rice. Everything tasted really good! The McDo was a sausage patty instead of a burger. The spaghetti was really, really sweet – a theme I was getting used to in Cebu. But luckily I love sweets. I wish we had this stuff in Korea!
When we got back to Moalboal we tried our best to sit back and relax by the pool, but we were so amped from the sharks, so we asked the resort to borrow snorkels and ran back into the ocean one more time!
Have you been shark diving? Would you ever go? Share your ocean experiences in the comments below!