Almost a year after skipping Oslob to swim with whale sharks, I made it to Donsol in the Bicol province in the Philippines during the second week of May.
I had an amazing time swimming with these majestic creatures. They are always labelled as the Gentle Giant and I totally agree.
The water of the Bay is very calm and we did not travel far from the shore. I asked and the youngest swimmer to date was about 3-4 years old. On the first run, after jumping off the boat, my GoPro camera fell off the floating handle (luckily my buddy saw it and our Butanding (Whale Shark) Interaction Officer, BIO, Michael dove quick and got it back. I was quite frazzled and actually missed the whale shark. We jumped in for about 7-8 times more after that. I had a wonderful time. It got better each time. I think we had the best BIO. He floated and merely pointed to the direction where the whale shark would approach from and voíla! He made the whole experience serene and meditative. On one run, we swam with the whale shark for about six minutes. It was eating and swam slowly. Guess it was an abundant plankton day.
Two hours into the trip, there was only one whale shark sighted, so all the boats converged and it became a negative enjoyment. The group became too big. In theory, we were supposed to keep six swimmers per whale. Some were swimming aggressively. A meditative, surreal experience became quite annoying. Two guys swam and pushed me aside in the process. One guy dove deep which drove away the whale shark. I chose Donsol because in Oslob they feed the shark. But I suppose they have to keep the tourists happy so we spread the word and keep the touriam economy going. It is always a fine line to balance on.
Overall I still had an amazing experience. I totally recommend it. To get to Donsol, fly into Legazpi, which is 1-hour flight from Manila.