My snorkeling gear was in place and my life jacket was securely tightened before I had the go signal to jump onto the water. That very moment, I was hesitant to take that chance as I saw their dorsal fins rise from the surface.
Glued to my seat on the small boat, I stopped for a while and took a good look at my surroundings: tourists taking pictures, laughing and giggling with extreme excitement, boat men scattering krill and tapping on their bamboo sticks countless times, and the waves continuously bobbing us up and down.
Slowly, as these observations began to diffuse, I threw myself down and braced for the arrival of a magnificent creature.
So, I splashed on the blue waters of Bohol Sea. White bubbles hazing my view of the world below the horizon. As it gradually cleared, I was staring at a deep blank bluish-green background. A clear picture of the “nothingness” of the sea.
While the anticipation was building, shrieks and squeals from my friends reverberated from the distance. I gracefully turned to my right and there I saw the massive whale shark swimming across me.
“Oh my God!” I mumbled while in awe with its marvelous beauty.
It was getting closer. Stripes and dots all being zoomed-in as it swam along, prominent ridges on its side flaring, its thick grey skin all for my eyes to adore. Briefly, I got so curious with the huge creature that I just floated there, seemingly observing its every move, every feature. As it got so near, its magnificence was too overwhelming. Its size widened my eyes and petrified me, a miniature human being, small enough to be swallowed by a fish (or shark) that big.
I just have to resurface.
Above the water, I clang onto the bamboo float and threw the tight snorkeling mask back to the boat. I pulled myself up and lifted both my legs. It was such a relief.
“Nakakatakot! (So scary!)” We all just screamed and laughed while being thrown by the current. Tourists chuckled too as they saw us squirming in the water, turning our heads around to look for the gentle giants, raising our legs up in order not to hit them. And every time the whale shark’s head would appear, we would all squeak – coupled with happy, joyful, yet frightened facial expressions.
The Closest Encounter
For the second time, I dipped my head back and witnessed these friendly sharks passing – without the mask, without the whole gear. My eyes became sore minutes after its exposure from salt water. But witnessing them without the added transparent lens, I began to appreciate their gigantic scale. Their true size did not overwhelm me anymore. In fact, it made me at ease.
Outside the water world, I gasped for air. One long breath and I dove back in.
Three critters moving along perpendicular to one another. One positioned itself diagonally, opened its mouth so wide, and swallowed heaps of minuscule shrimps in the water. The others were gliding back and forth with their babies swimming by their side. Another huge whale shark swerved to my direction and our eyes locked into one another.
“When our eyes met. Oh yes, when our eyes met, I was breathless.”
Literally out of breath, intrapersonal dialogues filled my mind as I slowly rose back to the surface to fill my lungs with air.
As I elegantly lifted my head up to feel the morning sun kissing my skin, with the hopes of ending the whale shark swimming session with a wonderful and poetic gesture, I suddenly felt a rough stone scratching heavily on my legs.
“Anoooo yuuuuun? (Whaaaat was thaaaat?)” We all squealed as we panically held on to one side of the boat’s bamboo float.
“Butanding!!! (Whale Shark!!!)” the boat man shouted at us while pointing at the giant fish below us.
“Oh my @#$@%!”