At first, I just wished they weren't called whale sharks. Our Filipino hosts (Gian, Racel, and Jay) told us we were going to swim with these sharks, and I was afraid of meeting a fate like Quint from Jaws. Of course, the first thing I Googled was "whale shark attacks," and I wasn't reassured when the search produced multiple videos and stories. Nonetheless, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to swim with the big bastards. I mean, they are crazy-cute.
|"Hey, FranT, wanna go for a dip with me?"|
On the day of the excursion, we woke up at 3 a.m. and drove about three hours before we reached the beautiful landscape of Oslob, Philippines. Apparently, whale sharks wake up at dawn without any regard for people's hangovers.
During the drive, I was extremely excited and not very nervous. I was sure we'd have a training seminar or something before we were allowed to swim with these beasts. I wasn't totally wrong...
There was a seminar, although it lasted about 30 seconds. The only thing I learned was that I could be fined $5,000 or imprisoned for 4-6 years if I tried to ride a whale shark.
Of course, the first thing I tried to do upon entering the water was try to ride a whale shark.
Just kidding. I was actually pretty frightened when I first jumped in. After a couple minutes, though, we were sharing the ocean with some of the coolest creatures I've ever seen.
A bunch of our best photos:
A few other highlights and notable takeaways from the excursion:
--Some Chinese guy was clearly as much of a newbie as us. He swallowed a mouthful of krill and started puking into the water. Alas, we missed the opportunity to take a photo.
--The first time I accidentally swam into the fin of a whale shark, I almost soiled the Pacific Ocean.
--The Filipino language is impossible to understand, but the term for "whale shark" is "whale shark."
--Jellyfish and whale sharks share the same habitat. How do I know? I guess from the jellyfish stings all over my body.
So, how bananas is swimming with whale sharks? I'll let Chris Rock explain: