Encountering the largest fish in the sea is an awe-inspiring experience and to be able to do so on scuba makes the occasion.The village of Oslob, on the Island of Cebu, has been on the migration paths of the Whale shark for as long as the fishermen can recall.
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 metres (41.50 ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 tonnes (47,000 lb), and there are unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks. Claims of individuals over 14 metres (46 ft) long and weighing at least 30 tonnes (66,000 lb) are not uncommon.This small village is the only place that I know of in the Philippines that people are able to dive with the sharks, and this only began mid 2011. Knowing that the sharks feed close to the surface of the water, the fishermen found that the Whale sharks would follow the small fishing boats when their food source (krill) was fed to them. The krill is collected early in the morning (around 2am) daily, so it is always fresh.
The search for the Whale sharks usually begins at around 5am and as the area is known feeding ground it is not too long before they appear. The season for Whale sharks in the Philippines is usually November – June, but it is believed that the smaller juveniles remain in the area and surroundings for most of the year.
At peak times (November – February) there have been up to 14 individuals in the area being fed by the fishermen, but it is more common to see between 2-5. Many of the sharks are still young and usually range from 3-6 meters, however the biggest sighted at Oslob was about 12m!
I was able to do this dive on the 25th February 2012 and we enjoyed the company of 3 Whale sharks ranging from 3-5 meters. It was quite an exhilarating feeling watching these large but graceful animals cruising around with the dappling sunlight filtering through and silhouetting them above you. It is an image that will not easily be forgotten.
I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking – feeding Whale sharks? This is a controversial issue which can, and is, debated almost everyday. I will try not to discuss the ethics and long term effects of this practice in too much detail; but I will say, for me, feeding them is preferable to fishing them.
For more info on whale shark tours visit Harolds Mansions front desk.