Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Donsol: The playground of the Gentle Giants

We set out way early in the morning as it takes about an hour drive away from the Legaspi city. Because it’s so early, we didn’t have proper breakfast. L Lucky we were smart and bought some bread the night before during our 1 hour journey.

The guide drove us for the full hour and the sea came into view! Yea! I actually love the ride, because they came to pick us with a Mitsubishi SUV and it was so big and comfy! Reaching the place refresh, we went to the Bicol Dive Center shop to try our fins and goggles. Afterwhich, they brought us to the tourist center to fill up a form and watch a mandatory video for all snorkelers on rules and guidelines.

To be honest, it was my first time snorkeling. Although I knew that it was nothing much, but for someone with a fear of water, it was quite a lot for me to take in. Furthermore, I was reading online prior to the trip and heard many comments about how beginners should try snorkeling in calm waters for the first time. But since we are going to search for whale sharks, calm water just don’t seemed to fit into the picture.

And so we head out!

Me and my partner was quite paiseh (Singapore dialect for embarrassed) because our BIO was actually lunging a huge bag full of our towels, goggles and snacks. Although our boat caters for 6, I guessed only we took up a full package (consisting of lunch and snacks, oh and towels and water as well).

We headed quite far out into the open sea, and we were given an option whether or not to wear a life vests. It was actually quite contradicting because the life vest keeps you safe, but you can only float on water. Since I’m not a strong swimmer, of course I wore the life vest at the first chance I’ve got.

We were actually quite worried because they said there was little to no sightings for the past few days but I insist on trying. As you may have read my previous posts, I have been secretly praying that this trip of ours wouldn’t come to vain.

It was just anxious waiting and keeping a lookout for I don’t know what, since it’s my first time, and I have no idea what to look out for in the waters.

Our eyes for the day

And suddenly the BIO just started screaming, “GET READY! GET READY!” – it was a que for us to wear our fins and goggles. And I just went YES! in my heart. At that point of time, it was just pure excitement and anxiety in my heart, since like I said, I have no prior experience to snorkeling, let alone in this choppy waters.
We sat by the edge of the boat and next thing we knew, “GET IN NOW!” and we JUMPED!

LOOK DOWN! LOOK DOWN!” The BIO was screaming at the top of his head and when we peer through the waters, it can only be the most magnificent thing I have seen in my whole damn life. The whale shark was just gracing through the waters. And it was HUGE, although the word huge doesn’t seem suffice.

And as silly as I am, with my first encounter, I let out a little scream of excitement, in the water. Yes, in the water, and you can only imagine what happened next. I drank a whole lot of sea water, and I was coughing and struggling and feel like I was going to die. And yes, although I have my life vest on me.

Afterwhich we board the boat when the gentle giant was out of view. One funny thing about boarding the ship is that we have to remove our fins. So each of us just clung on to the boat and comically struggles to remove the fins. I was really really bad at doing so.

What amazed me was a pair of Iranian guys who did not wear a life vest and dives (equipped with only snorkel goggles and fins) with the shark. One of them swam a long distance away before mounting the boat. I was so so so envy of him because I know that that is something I can only dream in this lifetime.

In the midst of our trip, while we were all freezing and hungry, the BIO started handing us (only me and my partner) water, cupcakes and towels. We were once again DAMN PAISEH! But since we had enough, we shared water and the cupcakes with all on board. And luckily there were 6 cupcakes. Phew.

So this continued for another 4 times until we were all tired and fatigue and we went back on shore. When we step ashore, another mini surprise came up. I know this might sound childish but the sand was indeed soft and black and they SHIMMER! I was really amazed.

As mentioned earlier, our full package includes lunch! WHeeeeee!! We even have a place to shower and relax before we take our 1 hour ride back to our hotel at Legaspi. Talk about hospitality. Phew! Seeing that we already dirtied our previous towel and only brought a small one along, they hurried to bring us new towels.

To be honest, the package we have paid was rather expensive. However, in view of the great customer service that they are giving, I would at least rate them 8/10 even with the amount we paid.

And then we were back!

To be honest, some heartfelt opinions about this snorkel trip is that,

          -  It’s great since the whale sharks are not being kept in captive, nor are they being fed (like those in Oslob Cebu) to attract them around. I think this is extremely important because feeding them disrupt their natural cycle. SO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE support whale shark snorkeling at Donsol over Oslob Cebu to support the eco tourism.

         -  Although many warnings were given to the fishermen that only 6 swimmers are allow to be near any one shark; and that we were to be at least 3m away, these advises are more than often ignored because sometimes there are just so few whale sharks in the vicinity. I can only say that it is lucky that these gentle giants can swim away fast enough.

       - I have also recently watched a documentary named “Blackfish” regarding the hunting of the very intelligent creature also more commonly known as Killer Whales, or also known as Willy from the movie Free Willy. I have always been an environmental advocate; I believe that we should cherish the environment and what’s within in as much as we cherish any other material items. So people, please try to visit them in their natural habitat, you will not regret it!!

With that, I end my amazing journey with memory I will never forget.

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