Ever since I became aware of these behemoth denizens of the deep, the whale shark has found a place at the very top of my underwater bucket list. As the largest living fish with an average size of 32 feet and weighing 20,000 pounds, they pose no threat since they feed upon plankton, krill, and fish eggs. The largest confirmed individual was 41.5 feet long and weighed in at an impressive 47,000 pounds!
The whale shark, of which there are estimated to be only 6000 specimens worldwide, is by far the world’s largest living non-mammalian, vertebrate species. Its name is merely referencing its enormous size. My trip’s sole purpose in this small backwater in the Philippines is to swim with these gentle enigmatic creatures whose population here is one-tenth of the world population, and I booked myself a room for a full six days ensure myself an encounter.
Coming in for a landing at Legazpi Airport.
Legazpi landing strip with a volcanic peak in the distance.
VIEW FROM MY ROOM
MY COZY ROOM AND GROUND ZERO FOR A WICKED SINUS INFECTION
TOURISM CENTER FOR WHALE SHARK ENCOUNTERS
WHALE SHARK BOAT FLEET
BRAZILIAN COUPLE FROM SAO PAOLO
JERRY & COMPANY – They had a chance meeting in Manila three weeks before.
VITTON BEACH RESORT – After four hours of sharking I would stop here for something to eat since I would usually be starving. It was 150 meters from the visitor’s center.
WHALE SHARK MODEL IN THEIR DRIVEWAY
DOWNTOWN DONSOL – It was pretty slim pickings at the Express Mart. They didn’t even have any nuts!
These tiny markets were everywhere.
DRIED FISH – Just in case you didn’t get enough in Hong Kong.
FRUIT & VEG
This was my third day of whale shark hunting with no luck so far. I took a look at the captain, had a good feeling and declared to the rest of the passengers that today was the day. The third time would be the charm. Sure enough in less than an hour, I would be swimming with my first whale shark. Shortly thereafter, I encountered a giant beast that was well over thirty feet long.
WHALE SHARK – CHECK
This is the doctor who failed to give me the antibiotics I requested so I was sick for an additional three days. I’ve got a recommendation as to where you can stick that thumb, pal.
MOVIES OF UNDERSEA LIFE & STUFFED TOYS
THE LOCAL PHILIPINOS PUT THEIR MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTH IS BY DOING A BEACH CLEAN-UP
The locals don’t just treat the whale sharks like family, they treat the ocean like it’s their home. When was the last time you saw a beach area this clear of debris? Well, this picture was taken before the clean-up. On the seven-minute walk to the visitor center, I was hard pressed to find any trash on the street.
The townspeople are determined to preserve the ocean and its residents for generations to come. They see that there is value in protecting the ocean’s creatures and that their community will be rewarded for its efforts.
I have yet to encounter this phenomenon anywhere else in SE Asia. It was very heartening given that Vietnam is a giant field of trash with a citizenry that thinks nothing of tossing their refuse in every tiny picturesque town to the big cities. Many of their rivers are literally choked with trash and and seemingly have more plastic than water in them.
VIEW FROM ELYSIA BEACH RESORT
WHALE SHARK OUT-RIGGER
DAILY WHALE SHARK TALLY
On February 11, I was lucky to see two out of the three sharks, before succumbing to my cold/sinus infection.