Today we were swimming with whale sharks. I still can’t believe it while I’m writing this down. We are sitting here with the four of us sharing our experiences with big smiles on our faces still super excited! We were lucky to see 4 different whale sharks, the largest being at least 9 meters. It was fantastic, incredible; these huge fish (the biggest fish in the world) are so impressive and so beautiful. It looks like they move in slow motion, but it was almost impossible to keep up with them if they went in a straight line. They have beautiful patterns on their back and we could see all the beautiful details; their fins, their gills and their huge mouth and very small eyes.
Ok, now let me tell you the story. We are in Pintuyan, southern Leyte (Panaon Island). It took us one and a half day to get here from Camiguin, but we are glad we took the journey. We arrived yesterday around noon and we settled down in a homestay in this very sleepy town where all the inhabitants were happy to talk to us and where we finally had a group of schoolchildren just watching what we were doing. We went to the municipal hall where we had to arrange the whale shark trip and afterwards we had a fantastic hamburger, according to Richard, the owner of the shop “local flavor, not Mac Donald style”. For dinner, we had another local flavor; the neighbor of the homestay cooked us chicken, tuna and rice and he sat down with us to chat.
Next morning after breakfast at the local bakery we went by habal-habal (motor-taxi) to the Barangay of Son-ok, from where we took off by boat. A very small Bangka, we just fitted in with the four of us. Two spotters in separate Bangka’s joined us; they were connected to our boat by ropes until we reached the spot. We were on the water less than half an hour and the spotters had already seen the first whale shark. We still didn’t see it, but the adrenaline was pumping through our blood. They told us to get ready and jump in and there it was, right in front of us, so clear, so close by, so enormous. It looked like this one was swimming in circles as he wanted to really show himself to us, so we could follow it and look at it for a long time. Then it took off into the deep and we went back in the boat. It was fantastic and there was nobody around but the four of us. The guide, boatman and spotters were all very carefully and trying not to interfere with whale sharks. We continued our trip for about 3 hours. Wessel mostly stayed on the boat with one of the spotters, just putting his head under water to look at the whale sharks, while Sterre was pulled along by the second spotter. He had very long fins and was a very good swimmer so she had first class sightings. Menno and I we were swimming like crazy to keep up with the whale sharks. Once a whale shark had disappeared into the depth, we would climb back aboard until there was another sighting and we could jump back in. It’s such an incredible experience; the spotters getting excited and communicating to each other, pointing, us following their eyes, not seeing anything, them telling us to jump in, you just jump and as soon as your head is under water there appears a whale shark!
On our way back, still overwhelmed by this incredible experience, the boatman was pointing at a spot in the ocean and we were surprised by a group of enormous dolphins swimming by.