Today was the trip over from Legazpi to Donsol a quiet village on the other side of the land – I had provisionally earmarked three full days of whale shark watching because I was really not sure just how successful it would be, so today we were both wondering what was in store for us. The drive over was nice enough and every now and then the volcano could be spotted but not photographed! Besides this though the countryside was great, Filipinos tend to live life very simply but their surroundings of rice fields, coconut palms and fruit trees are simply stunning. Not too sure just how close I would want to live next to a volcano but the people seem pragmatic enough about it all so life just goes on. Along the way by the side of the road, or more often than not in the middle of the road, was the rice harvest being dried. It is quite strange to see rice being dried and yet also being driven over – not really sure what the rice to grit ratio is but the roads can be quite gritty so who knows. It might also explain the crunchy rice we get over here sometimes! Once there we soon located our hotel as Donsol is not a very big place at all. The room was not ready so the owner/manager told us to take a seat and have a beer on the house – just the remedy after being stuck in a minibus for, well not very long at all really! It was not long before we got into the room but during this time we noticed that there was a lot going on at the hotel – a course on basic nutrition – it seems this is being promoted nationwide which is probably a good thing as there appears to be an awful amount of fast food joints in the Philippines – the usual global suspects plus one homegrown – Jolibee – beware of these places and avoid like the plague.
Out in the water though we could see no whale shark boats so we decided to find out more about how we could arrange to get out on a boat tomorrow, if this was possible. When we reached the Whale Shark Interaction Centre it turned out there was one last boat due out today, in half an hour – just time enough to nip back to our room at the guesthouse and get our swimming gear on and our snorkels out. We changed excitedly and zipped back and found ourselves getting into a spotter boat with an Oz couple, a Spaniard (called Xabi) and a rather large Filipino guy but a good bunch all round. Our spotter guide was definitely very confident but even then he too added a note of caution so we did not get out hopes up too much but from then on the afternoon went really surreal but all in a very very good way especially as we were the only boat in the water.
Time and again our guide would spot ‘something’, we would don our fins, snorkels and masks as quickly as humanly possible and then ready ourselves on the boat’s edge full of adrenalin and at his command we would jump in after him into the water and time and time again we found ourselves alongside one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. The buzz you feel as you jump in is amazing but this makes it all the more exciting. We eventually ended up having six successful dives and saw four different Whale sharks who stayed with us until they tired of us following them and then simply dived down deep out of our way. It was all very amazing. They swim quite slowly so you can go down for as long as you can stay under and just swim alongside I actually looked into one of the creatures’ eyes but I found it far better just staying at the back of the shark and admiring the way it moved – its entire body moves when it swims. It has quite a strange structure almost like a taut skin place over a badly fitting sub-frame but in the water it was just so cool to watch and so very graceful too. On one of the occasions we jumped in Liz swam the wrong way and found herself head on with the shark which simply avoided her – Liz on the other hand was quite traumatised by the whole experience and seemed to think it would have somehow harmed the whale seeing her thrashing about in front of it – however it took a while to get this out of her as when she surfaced it was more like she was talking in tongues, she was speaking at a hundred words per minute (lol) – quick even by female standards.
The trip eventually came to an end and we all swapped email addresses in the hope of us getting hold of some of the GoPro videos that Xabi, in particular, had taken – but this has somewhat eluded us since he contacted us – boo hoo! At the end of the experience we all had the biggest smiles in Christendom, grinning like grinning buffoons the lot of us even the Filipino and it turned out early on in the trip that he could not even swim – top guy. To cap it all the backdrop for the whale shark interaction had been the bay, the beach and the resort but in the distance we could actually see Mount Mayon (without cloud) as well and it did look as good as they say – if this day could have got any better I have no idea how.
We relaxed at night with a few drinks even more smiles and possibly one of the best sunsets we had seen so far – this, I suppose, is just how the day could get even better, a perfect end to a perfect day. Not sure if the whale sharks would be feeling the same especially the one that had seen Liz thrashing about in the water in front of it but they only hung around as long as they wanted they could opt out and drop down to depths unknown at the drop of a hat and there is nothing we could have done to follow.