I signed up for PADI Open Water Diver course in Malaysia in 2005 and since then I’ve always dreamed about that special day when I would see my first whale shark. It took me over ten years and about 1500 dives when this magical moment finally happened few days ago here in Panglao, Bohol, Philippines.
That was one of the best moments of my life. I’ve been very lucky in the past seeing dugongs and mola-mola in Bunaken, schooling sharks at Palau, barracuda twirls in Sipadan, wobbegongs in Raja Ampat, school of manta rays in Komodo and the list goes on, but whale shark is the one fish (the biggest fish in the world) which has been hiding from me and which I’ve been waiting to show up at any given time.
I was filming a group of Open Water students, and when I turned around after shooting a sea snake, I could not believe what I saw. There it was, the beautiful plankton eating gentle giant, right in front of my eyes. Those students were doing their OWD no.1, which means most of them were under the ocean surface for the first time in their lives. So lucky!
Just few weeks ago it became official that whale shark is an endangered species. There are couple of places in the Philippines where you can snorkel with the giants but I never wanted to participate on such trips knowing that feeding and other activities are proven to be stressful and harmful for these animals. LAMAVE and other Philippine based organisations are working on raising the awareness among people:
“Philippines based marine conservation NGO the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) in collaboration with Save Philippine Seas, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines,Greenpeace PH, GeenFins, Reef-World Foundation and Responsible Tourism Philippines are campaining to raise awareness amongst tourists about national guidelines being put in place to protect not only the marine wildlife we interact with, but also the community who’s livelihood relies on the welfare of the animal and the local environment.”
Be responsible. Check the facts and choose your whale shark destination carefully. More information: http://www.lamave.org/
Have you encountered a whale shark on your diving trip? Where and when? Share your story with us, we would love to hear it!