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Diving with Whale Shark in Cebu, Philippines

Diving with Whale Shark in Cebu, Philippines
By 10 months ago 7488 Views No comments

Whale Sharks, Cebu and The Philippines

The world´s largest concentration of whale sharks is found in the Philippines. That is why my partner Tomas and I chose this place for our next adventure i.e. swimming with the largest shark in the world. We specifically chose the island of Cebu, where local fishermen feed them from their banca boats to attract them as close as possible to the coast. The fishermen have developed their own system to offer tourists the opportunity to swim with this shark, which despite its enormous size, poses no danger to humans. The feeding activity of the sharks begin at dawn and it is not possible to enter the water before the fishermen give the OK.

The fisherman gave us permission to enter the water 15 minutes before the rest of the groups arrived so we could photograph them without disturbance. As an animal lover, I am totally against using animals in a show, however after talking things over with the fishermen and realizing that the sharks are the ones that decide where they go and that they are free to leave whenever they wish, I now see this from a different point of view which has allowed me to enjoy swimming with them much more. We entered the water just as the sharks began to reach the area where the fishermen feed them with a mixture of krill and small fish.

Rules to Photograph a Whale Shark

Whilst calibrating the parameters of my camera, a large whale shark suddenly appeared out of nowhere like a torpedo below me. My heart was pumping and I had a feeling of excitement as it was the first time I had seen one in person. What an incredible moment. When the sharks arrived at the fishermen's bancas the silhouettes of their huge caudal fins became clearer. There were about 6 whale sharks opening their big mouths and sucking water from the surface. I was awestruck, one of my biggest dreams was happening. When I came back to reality I began to photograph them. At first, I was a little stressed because you have to be aware where the sharks are so you do not bump into them or receive a flap from their tails. It was like swimming with airbuses. I tried to see where Tomas was all the time because when you look through the camera you lose your orientation.

Once when I was photographing the underside of a shark, Tomas indicated to me to look backwards. When I looked, a huge shark was approaching me and I was sandwiched between the two. Talk about an adrenaline rush. The rules to be able to photograph the sharks are very strict. You can choose to go diving or freediving and it is forbidden to use flashes, touch them or try any other nonsense. Each group can only spend a maximum of 60 minutes in the water. If the fishermen observe any bad behaviour they take you out of the water and you are forbidden to return to the dive site.

Tomas and I were able to compile some beautiful photos of these angels of the oceans and share with them 60 minutes of their life. In short, I can only say that this activity fulfilled 100% of my expectations and I am very pleased to see the great respect and affection that the Filipino fishermen of this area have for them, and how they try to do the best they can. It is clear that it is not an optimal activity for sharks, since there are many people in the world who pass by every day to enjoy this magnificent experience, but knowing that whale sharks are FREE to choose what they want to do, makes this way of seeing them acceptable to me.

Text and Photo Credit: Regina Malles Ekman