This guest post was written by our friend Matt Gibson, a fellow Canadian travel blogger that writes about adventure travel. We went searching for whale sharks in Belize last year but were unsuccessful, so we’re happy to share some tips from Matt’s snorkeling trip in the Philippines.
Five Reasons to Swim with Whale Sharks in Leyte, Philippines
Last December I swam with whale sharks on the island of Leyte in the southern Philippines for the second time and I loved it — again.
Although there are several places where you can swim with whale sharks in the Philippines, I think Leyte is the best. Here’s why.
1. It’s Safe
Whale sharks are they world’s largest fish, but they’re not even close to dangerous.
They’re slow moving filter-feeding sharks, which means that, like many whales, their diet consists of plankton and krill filtered from water passing through their mouths. They don’t have teeth and aren’t aggressive at all.
2. It’s Easy
The first time I considered swimming with whale sharks I was afraid I may not be able to do it because I wasn’t a certified scuba diver. I needn’t have worried though. On whale shark expeditions diving is actually discouraged because the sound made scuba regulators upsets the sharks.
Snorkelling is the preferred mode of underwater breathing, and pretty much anyone can snorkel.
3. It’s Eco Friendly
In push to bring more tourists, operators at some whale shark sites allow people to do things they shouldn’t.
Some allow people to touch the whale sharks, which can upset them and discourage them from returning to the area, thus altering migratory routes. Others may feed the sharks to bring them close to the surface for tourists to see. This may cause whale sharks to become dependent on humans, and may cause them to become too comfortable around humans, which may make them more susceptible to poaching.
Neither of these practices occurs in Southern Leyte, where the tours are overseen by a local official who is very serious about ensuring the safety of the sharks.
4. It’s Private
Whereas Donsol and Oslob are close to major centres (they are near Manila and Cebu City, respectively), southern Leyte is more remote. There are only a handful of dive resorts that offer whale shark trips.
On both of my visits, there was only one boat carrying six to ten people and two or three whale sharks swimming about. This is a stark contrast to Donsol, where dozens of boats can be out at a time.
5. It’s Inexpensive
I took my whale shark tours with Peter’s Dive Resort. The resort was small clean nice — on par with most dive resorts I’ve been to. Accommodations start at $1500 Philippine Pesos/night (around $35 USD), and the whale shark snorkelling tour was 2200 Philippine Pesos (about $50 USD) for the day. So, for less than $100 (before food) you can spend the night and swim with whale sharks during the day, which is well worth it. These are some of the best travel deals for those on a budget.
And, if you’re on a really strict budget, you can find much cheaper accommodations ($10 USD/night or less) in nearby Massin City.
Author bio: Matt Gibson is a Canadian adventure travel writer, photographer, and blogger. You can read more about his experience swimming with whale sharks on his blog, Matt-Gibson.org.
Photo credits: Photos are property of Matt Gibson, except for the first photo, which was found on Flickr Creative Commons (click on first image for credit source)