diana_sjoerd (diana_sjoerd) wrote,
diana_sjoerd
diana_sjoerd

Philippines (Jun '07)

Last weekend we had one of the best diving and snorkeling opportunities since arriving in South East Asia

On Thursday morning, we headed to the Phillipines, more precisely to Donsol in South Luzon. Donsol used to be a small fishing village with not much was happening, until it was discovered that whale sharks come to feed on the plankton rich waters, every year between February and June. When we heard about it, we knew we h
ad to go! Even though it’s known in which months the whale sharks come it's not a zoo, so you need some luck to see these magnificent and friendly creatures.

When we arrived to Donsol, some other tourists told us that they were very unlucky, as they didn’t see any whale sharks on the previous day. We were a bit worried that the season was already over..
.
The next morning we headed to the jetty with high hopes, together with just 10 other people. It seems to be much busier in April..

They don’t allow scuba diving with the whale sharks, only snorkeling is allowed. In this way, whale sharks can easily swim away if they get bored of the attention. 
We rented a boat and we were lucky enough to share it with 3 scientists... they told us plenty of things that we didn't know about whale sharks. In the boat we also had a captain; two spotters and one Butanding Interaction Officer (butanding means whale shark in Pilipino). And we were very lucky: we had 12 interactions with five different whale sharks!!!! That is as much as you can expect even during the middle of the season... what a day!

We have seen old males, some younger ones, and a pregnant female (which is unusual). We could have touched them (they wee so close), but we were told not to do this at the briefing in the morning.
Every moment was magic! Whale sharks are beautiful animals, huge and very friendly (the biggest we have seen was about 9.5 meters!).

There are three places in the world with a high chance for seeing whale sharks: one in Australia, one in Mexico and one in the Philippines. W
hale sharks are endangered, as in some countries they are still hunted for food unfortunately. It takes them 30 years to mature and the 70 cm babies are very vulnerable at birth. Just like elephants, females often live in groups to take care of babies, while males live a solitary life. 

We hope more people will go to Donsol, so that local fishermen can make money from watching these beautiful creatures, not by hunting them.
We will certainly go back here!

After these amazing encounters, we headed to Ticao Island hoping to see manta rays while diving in a dive site called Manta Bowl.
A private boat was waiting for us in Monreal, and took us directly to Ticao Island Resort (www.ticaoislandresort.com). It’s a lovely resort with about 8 cabins, and we were the only guests (the place is still new, and it was near the end of the season). The room was great; the food delicious and the stuff including the owner Martin super helpful!

There are several great dive sites here, and they are discovering more each month (the famous Manta Bowl is 20 minutes by boat). Manta Bowl has very strong currents, so
you really need to be comfortable under water (no Open Water divers allowed). When we jumped, we immediately knew why... We had to hold on to a rope and then had to descend quite fast (otherwise the current would sweep us away from the dive site). Once we were down, we had to hook ourselves to the reef... it felt odd (it's like a strong wind blowing in your face), but we soon got used to it. 

The visibility was great. No mantas at the first dive, but there were many beautiful corals and fish (angel fish, sweet lip fish, and white-tip sharks)
. The current was less strong during the second dive, and we soon saw a very gracious 4 meter long manta ray, flying through the water towards us. It really looked like a large bird, moving slowly and graciously close to the bottom of the reef. He wasn't shy at all, so we could enjoy his company for quite some time. 

At the third dive, we were lucky again and saw another manta.
It was magnificent and unforgettable! We just couldnt stop enjoying the beauty and graciousness of her movement! What a day, what an incredible experience, what a fantastic dive site...

Donsol, Ticao Island, Philippines... we'll
be back!



Diana & Sjoerd


Click here for more pictures.

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