Thursday, January 15, 2009

OT - Whale Sharks

I was thinking while posting about my elephant story on how after a while you just walk among them like if they were just horses. You are not afraid at all, even though they could kill you in no time. Then I remembered about the same experience I had swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines. Now those animals are huge. I mean, huge... They can reach 30 meters. And they are sharks, for God sake, not whales. They are just called whale because they are big. They are in fact the biggest fish on earth (a whale is bigger but not a fish as everybody knows).

However, they only eat plankton and are totally pacific. At the beginning you are terrified (at least I was) at the thought of swimming with such a huge shark. The most impressive in the beginning is when you get face to face with them, and then they just dive to avoid you. But after a while you get so used to it, it's just like with the elephants. You get so used to it that in a way you don't realize the danger even. A bit like for the fear of flying when you fly a lot.

By the way, the Philippines is a good country to see dolphins in the wild too. A fabulous experience. You get to see them better than in Bali. I crossed the whole Bali island in the night so I could be early morning dolphin watching, but I barely saw their nose only, at best. In the Philippines they were really swimming along the boat and jumping. Wonderful...

Snorkeling is a bit sad in the Philippines because although they do have a few sanctuaries of dubious protections, most of the spots get fished with dynamite and cyanide, when they don't just harpoon the fishes. I saw a guy one day having a lot of beautiful color fishes on his harpoon. I tried to tell him that we was damaging tourism but he didn't care. I tried to speak to the resort owner who said they can't do much because these people living and if the resort owners tries to do anything they'll start making trouble for the resort.

It's illegal of course and they do have all kinds of laws but they simply don't have the means to enforce them. Once I saw a speed boat donated by some Western country to the maritime police so they could catch people involved in illegal fishing, but they had no gasoline to run the boat and no one who could drive it!


But anyway, they did used to hunt whale sharks in the past too but not anymore. At least for this they understood that revenue from tourism is much more profitable. Highly advised... If you dare...

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