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Published: February 19th 2013
We opted for Harold’s again on our return to Dumaguete and instantly fell in love with the huge air con room we were allocated (P800). It was a real treat to have wardrobes, a massive window and air con for less than we were paying in Siquijor.. ok it didn’t have the beach views but we were still happy! It’s the little things that matter!
First on the list was trying to find someone to help with Dale’s camera. We didn’t really want to take it to a random electronic repair place so headed over to Robinson’s Mall in the hope that someone in a shiny shop might be our saviour, and they were! We were checking out prices in the first place we came to - we didn’t want to fork out for a new one but thought we’d best see what the worst case scenario might be - as we were doing this we explained our problem to the sales assistant who was super helpful and directed us to an Authorized Sony Repair centre just down the road, at last things were on the up! We headed off down the highway passing the usual bamboo huts and crossing
our fingers that our destination might be something a little more up to date. Thankfully it was, with a big Sony sign outside it was almost like we’d found the city of gold we were so happy! Our happiness was soon crushed when we saw one of the staff ‘fixing’ a tv by sellotaping a piece of cardboard to it.. not exactly what we had in mind but we’ll push on regardless.
The staff in the shop hadn’t had any experience with this camera but were keen to help and offered to send it off to Manila where hopefully it should get fixed up. Faced with the cost of just P1,300 (£20.29) diagnostic cost + repairs or the cost of a new camera body we thought we should give this a go, even if it didn’t work at least we have tried everything so off it went with us hoping that it would be returned in the week timeline they had promised.
We hadn’t come back to Dumaguete just for the camera though. Keen to cross off another item from his bucket list Dale had decided that the best opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks might be the
trip they offered from Harolds.. they had promised 99.97% chance of seeing them and some girls we’d met said they had had a great time on the trip so we booked on the costly P2,550 snorkelling trip across to Oslob and Sumilon Island the following day along with Anita & Achim.
For those not familiar with Whale Sharks they are huge monsters of the sea but totally harmless and only eat plankton, this is quite something when they can grow up to 14m in length. They can be seen in a few places in the Philippines and are best sighted from February through to May.
It was a really early start and we had to be up at 05.30 ready for the supposed 6am departure. We say supposed as we were up in good time and then left hanging around until 06.45 as the packed lunch delivery was late and we couldn’t leave without it… not the best start!
Much like the Apo Island trip we travelled the 20 minutes down the highway to Dauin which is where the boat is moored. We were glad it was the same boat we’d been on previously as it was
quite big and the 10 of us on the trip had plenty of room to relax for the 1.5 hour trip over to Cebu. The crossing was quite calm, the sun was shining and we were all quite excited and a little nervous about swimming with these gentle giants.
Sophie was especially anxious, she had visions of pulling up in the deep black ocean, getting in and a huge dark mass appearing from the depths below her. This really is something she fears most but she really wanted to do this even if it meant squealing her way though it and the others had promised to stay close in case she started to panic. In reality the trip is nothing like this, had we known it would be the way it was then it’s quite likely we wouldn’t have gone. Sadly it was another lesson learnt on doing some research before you embark on a trip rather than making assumptions that this would be the same as others you have read about, we were here now though and had paid a lot of money so had to make the best of it.
As we pulled up to Oslob
we stopped pretty much on the beach.. about 50m out. In front of us was what can only be described as a circus of little banka boats milling around with 100’s of snorkelers in between. It was only when we looked closer that we could see black shadows beneath the water with some mouths poking out the top of the water next to the small banka boats… this was the place we were going to swim with the sharks? Errr ok!?
The water wasn’t so deep so we swam over to the busy area and saw one of the whale sharks as soon as we arrived. Visability wasn’t great, not helped by the handfuls of prawn matter that was being thrown in to the water every second by the ‘Whale Shark helpers’ on their bankas and often you couldn’t see the sharks until you were literally on top of them.. that was pretty hair raising! Sometimes they would swim up unannounced and you would see a shadow glide past your feet only to pop up in front of you opening it’s huge mouth to suck in the water and food. There were strict rules not to touch or get
within 3m but one of the sharks themselves broke this rule and brushed by Achim’s leg at one point! They were big but Sophie had her usual ‘I thought they’d be bigger’ comment! Some were perhaps 3 – 5m long at a guess and it was incredible to be able to get so close to them it was just a shame it was in such unnatural circumstances.
After about 40 minutes of splashing around with these beasts our time was up and we were back on the boat for the short travel over to Sumilon Island. This island is a marine reserve and was reported to have some great snorkelling. We had one diver on board the boat so we stopped just off shore to drop him off for his dive then the snorkelers could swim out and across to the sand bar on the edge of the island, the snorkelling was a little disappointing on this side although Dale did manage to spot a small reef shark as he swam over. Lunch followed then we went around the island a little more and got in the water for our final snorkelling session. This was a drop off about
100m out from the island and everyone in the group really enjoyed this side. There was plenty of colourful coral and quite a good variety of fish, the best of which was a massive Titan Trigger fish who was busy minding his own business. We also spotted a fairly large coral snake, Sophie spotted it in the distance and swam over to find it only to lose it, when she told Dale he pointed out that it was directly below her and perhaps she should move in case it came up for air! After the one diver had come up we sailed back over to Negros with most people sleeping on the way to make up for the very early start!
As we say we should probably have done a little more research on the trip as a whole. Dale really wanted to swim with whale sharks and that is exactly what we did but we really wish the whole experience had been a bit more natural. Sure, if you go out to find the bigger sharks in the wild then there is a risk you may not see them but the same can be said of lots of
previous trips we’d been on, it also makes the whole experience even better if and when you do get to see them. This trip was totally staged and you couldn’t help but leave feeling a little ripped off and sorry for these poor sharks who’s lives now totally depend on these men feeding them every day. Would we recommend the trip? Honestly no, but if you are really keen to see whales and swim with them then this trip will certainly provide this opportunity.
This was to be our final evening with Anita & Achim so we opted to hang around Harold’s with them & the group we’d gone out with that day. Some of the others in the hostel were going to karaoke again, we were a bit tempted but didn’t fancy the super late night so opted to stay in and have a reasonably early night.
With Anita & Achim off to Bohol we stayed around Dumaguete for one final day so we could get some washing done and equally as uninteresting activities! The following day we were going back over to Cebu to a place that came highly recommended for it’s excellent snorkelling from the
beach so we were really looking forward to being able to spend a few days seeing more of what the fabulous Philippines waters could show us. Underwater photos in this blog have kindly been donated by Anita & Achim - Thanks Guys 😊
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