The whale shark is the biggest fish in the world, growing up to a staggering 12 metres long. Here’s video footage of the whale shark I snorkelled with at Sogod Bay in the Philippines
The biggest fish in the world is the whale shark, which can grow up to 12 metres long but is completely harmless to humans as it feeds on plankton. Whale sharks are in general quite elusive, but there are several hotspots around the world where whale sharks can be regularly observed by snorkellers as they come to hoover up the plankton on the water’s surface. Two of these hotspots are in the Philippines – most famously at Donsol and also at Sogod Bay in Leyte, where the whale sharks have been appearing for the last couple of years.
So, without further ado, here is some of the video we managed to get of the whale sharks at Sogod Bay:
I wish I could claim it was me who shot these awesome video clips, but it’s not. They were shot on my Canon IXUS camera using an underwater housing by ace divemaster Pedro Batestil from Sogod Bay Scuba Resort, who can swim a lot faster than me and keep up with the whale sharks. I know in the videos it looks like they are going really slowly, but believe me, they’re not. You have to swim like a maniac to keep up with them on the surface – thankfully Pedro is a human fish! I was busy with my big Nikon stills camera rig which is a lot heavier and more difficult to manoeuvre in the water – that’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Pedro originally wanted to video me swimming with the whale shark, bless him, but it would take a jetpack and Francis Ford Coppola to chereograph something like that.
Our day of whale shark spotting began with the boat heading out from the dive resort and cruising across to the other side of Sogod Bay. This is where the whale sharks have been frequently spotted – Sogod Bay’s topography means that it gets deep really quickly from the shoreline, which is why the whale sharks arrive, and then come into the shallows to eat the plankton. We cruised up and down for three hours without any sign of the sharks, despite our three man crew of local spotters who’d joined us on kayaks once we’d arrived at the other side of the bay. We tried to be philosophical – Sogod Bay is a beautiful and wholly unspoilt area, with flat waters and rugged mountains rising up steeply on either side to frame it. It was a perfect day for seeing the whale sharks, especially as we were the only boat in the area – but we wondered if we would be the first to be unlucky that season (whale sharks usually appear at Sogod between November to April).
Our patience was rewarded in the end because soon not one but three different whale sharks appeared in the waters below us. Scrambling off the side of the boat with snorkels, masks and fins, we did our best to take in the truly breathtaking sight of these huge creatures and then keep up with them, finning across the surface. Luckily the locals were already on hand in their kayaks to give us a quick tow while they paddled furiously after the whale shark, occasionally sticking their head in the gin clear water to see where the shark had gone.
As you can imagine, seeing the sharks is a fairly frenetic experience what with jumping in as soon as the boat captain gives the word and then frantically trying to keep up with the power of the whale shark’s massive tail as it moves through the water with the stateliness of a starship. But each time, there is a moment or several moments where you catch your breath, and you are positioned perfectly, and you can simply enjoy the awesome sight of the biggest fish in the world passing only a couple of feet beneath you.
Next week I’m heading to Exmouth in Western Australia, possibly the world’s most famous whale shark hotspot, to go whale shark spotting again, this time with my dad for his 60th birthday. Maybe I’ll manage to get some video clips of my own that live up to Pedro’s. Even if I don’t, it’ll be amazing to share this experience with my dad – as Pedro says, who has snorkelled with the whale sharks scores of times, you never get tired of seeing them.
Tomorrow I’ll be posting another couple of whale shark videos which are possibly even better than the three above.