As travelers we often have certain things we want to do when we visit places. Sometimes it’s just to make a tick on the “to-do” list. Other times, it’s because we really, really want to do those things. Swimming with the whale sharks at Donsol belongs to the latter category. I really, really wanted to do it. I was curious about what it would be like, ever since a friend back in Australia told me that there’s a place in the Philippines where you are almost guaranteed the chance.
Doing this sort of activity is something I wouldn’t have done just a couple of years ago. I was too focused on the photography side of things and my budget was veeery small. These days the budget’s a little better and I have that underwater housing, so I happily turn anything water-related into a photographic opportunity. But I also think that as I have been getting older my attitude has changed somewhat. More than a few times now, I have consciously taken the time to be a traveller before a photographer, which to me means enjoying certain things first hand, rather than solely seeing them through the lens.
I love having the chance to be a traveller. I love experiencing new things and I love meeting new, fascinating, fun people, other travelers. I feel very lucky to be able to do this kind of stuff full-time now and it’s great being able to share my experiences with others, via the powers of the “internets”.
My experience of swimming with the whale sharks was in short pretty amazing. But there was a negative side to it, which I feel obliged to mention. The regulations of certain numbers of swimmers and boats per shark are not really followed, resulting in a crowd of excited, scrambling, kicking, splashing “shark-hungry” enthusiasts madly swimming after the whale shark, while ignoring everything that comes in their way. Heck, I was one of those people, I admit it. Despite the negatives, this is still an experience of a life-time and I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation.
I will say that going the second time felt much more special, because I and a new friend I made hired the boat for just the two of us (instead of the regular 6) and were able to have a much more quiet, private and in turn, more magical experience with this sea-giant.
Before I leave, I’d like to ask the question: What’s at the top of your list of things that you really want to do while traveling? Is there any particular experience which in itself would be reason enough to travel to a place? Perhaps you folks can give me some ideas or maybe I can tell those of you who want to do something that I’ve done if it’s worthwhile or not.