To get the most out of whale shark watching you need to swim and use a snorkel and mask. Spotters in kayaks will look for the whale sharks. When they signal that they have found one, your (motorized) boat will drop you off in the water, before retreating out of the way so as to avoid disturbing the whale shark and ensure it (and you swimmers) are not in danger from the boat’s propeller. You can then swim alongside the whale shark for as long as it remains visible or until your energy is exhausted. Your boat will then come and pick you up and the spotters will look for more whale sharks. There are 4 golden rules for swimming with whale sharks:
- maintain a distance of at least 3 metres from the body and head, and 4 metres from the tail of the shark.
- do not touch the whale shark.
- do not obstruct the path of the whale shark – if it is swimming towards you, move aside to let it pass.
- do not use flash if you are taking photographs or videos.
If you can’t swim, or don’t swim very well, you may be able to see the whale shark by hitching a ride with one of the spotters or getting one of them to tow you along while you use your mask and snorkel to watch the shark. Whale sharks swim quite slowly and an average swimmer, using fins, can easily keep pace with them. You will lose sight of them when they dive to greater depths, which they do naturally in their constant search for food or if they are disturbed by swimmers or boats on the surface.
Here in Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte we see 4 or 5 whale sharks on an average tour, and seeing up to 10 is not unheard of. But just seeing one of these magnificent creatures is a memory to treasure for a lifetime.