This is one to add to the bucket list!
If you are lucky enough to swim with these gentle giants, it is truly an unforgettable experienced that would be difficult to match.
We left Naga at 4am to be at Donsol at 7am for the registration ($300PHP for tourists and $100PHP for citizens) and briefing. You can either share a boat with others or have your own private one for around $3000P. Snorkel gear will set you back $300P. Your crew consists of two spotters a diver and a driver. Your boat will depart between 8am to 8:30am and will be out on the water for 3 hours.
Once you are on the water your crew kick into gear and when they spot a Whale Shark, they will tell you to get your equipment on and get ready to jump. If you are one of the lucky ones, a few seconds after you hit the water, you will soon see a great mass of white spots heading your way in what I can only describe as an breathtaking experience.
Our crew were fantastic and they spotted 10 whale sharks for us. We jumped in the water 10 times and were able to swim with 9 whale sharks. The one that got away was just too quick!
If you are terrible with disappointment and handle it like a sulky cry baby, then this experience may be too risky for you. There are no guarantees that you will be able to swim with them. If you are adamant about swimming with them, then stay a few nights in Donsol and head out for a couple of days. We were willing to take our chances and it exceeded all our expectations.
- If you can afford it, get a private boat. You can decide what you want to do and can extend your time if you want. You also don't have to be 'polite' about getting in and catching a glimpse or swimming with the whale sharks. No "after you, please", just get in and swim then get back on board and boast about who got the best footage! Having a private boat means you can get familiar with your crew and the good ones will offer to take videos and photos of you with the whale shark - No need for awkward underwater selfies while you struggle to breathe!
- If you must share, get familiar with your fellow tourists and gather a group of 6 before you register. This way, it isn't left up to the office staff to put you in a group and this means you are on the boat and water sooner. Plus you can make some new buddies.
- Having a good crew is important. I know this is out of your control and is simply luck. We had an excellent crew and were stunned to hear that groups that went out during the same time we did, only saw 3 whale sharks compared to our 9.
- Invest in a quality underwater camera. The GoPro worked a treat!
- If you're not a great swimmer, use the life jackets they provide. You will have to tread water A LOT! And you will need to be fast to keep up with your diver and obviously the whale shark. Once you are in the water, you're on your own, though the divers will have float devices you can cling onto as they drag you along.
Overall, a wonderfully awesome experience!
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