For a few seconds that felt like eternity, I could not move. I watched the dark giant swim gracefully, majestically, as though in slow motion just a few feet beneath me. Its perfect, shiny black tail splashed the water as it moved away from me.
So this is the whale shark. I had seen it many times in photos, but those pale in comparison to the real creature, now gliding as though one with the bright blue water.
When I came out of my trance, I chased after this gentle creature, and saw the divers with me as well trying to get close to it. I swam and swam until my body felt like lead to spend a few minutes with this awe-inspiring giant. Its white spots glowed underneath the morning sun, and its wide mouth, though open, did not look threatening. In fact, it was friendly and not at all scared of us. A few divers even had to move away to avoid colliding with or touching the whale shark.
There were just less than ten divers with me, and the fact that this whale shark (known in Cebu as tuki) unexpectedly showed itself to us in this remote island of Pescador on a beautiful day made my first encounter with it special, magical. It was as though it appeared just for us.
I was told by other divers that another whale shark was sighted around Pescador Island the day before, so there was indeed a chance we would see one in our visit. Whale sharks are not always there, though – in fact, I was told that the dive the next day after ours had no whale shark sightings. So I suppose we were lucky.
I felt a bit disturbed, though, when I heard from another diver that when he swam with a whale shark on the afternoon on the same day of our dive, he saw the fishermen feeding it. He himself got to feed it. I am not a fan of feeding, though I understand why fishermen would do it for tourism purposes. For me, though, seeing a whale shark in the wild is more special.
If Moalboal fishermen plan to regularly feed whale sharks like it is done in Oslob, then I hope they take proper precautions and proper care of these gentle giants.
There are other things to see in Pescador even while snorkeling, like colorful corals and fishes, but the whale shark took the spotlight during our visit.
For the rest of day, I sometimes caught myself grinning in amazement – part of me could not believe that I saw such a beautiful creature. It is moments like this when I feel truly lucky to live in the Philippines, a country truly blessed with rich marine life.
How to get to Moalboal:
There are buses bound for Moalboal from Cebu City South Bus Terminal. Just ask to make sure if the bus you are riding will be passing by Moalboal. Once you get off at Moalboal town proper, hire a motorbike or tricycle to take you to Panagsama Beach or White Beach, depending on where the location of your accommodation is. I paid Php 60 to the motorbike driver to take me to Panagsama Beach.
Where to stay at Moalboal:
There are many accommodations in Moalboal, but the cheaper ones are generally at Panagsama Beach while the pricier ones are at White Beach, probably because of the big stretch of white sand, which is relatively finer than at Panagsama Beach. I stayed at Moalboal Backpacker Lodge, which offers bunk beds, single rooms and double rooms with shared bathrooms. A bunk bed with locker access costs Php 275 while a single room costs Php 350 per night.
How to dive or snorkel in Moalboal:
There are several dive shops in Moalboal, and they usually have a schedule of dives posted in advance for you to decide which dive to join. I checked out Cebu Dive Centre and Nelson’s Dive Shop (both accessible by walking at Panagsama Beach), though, as the staff at Moalboal Backpacker Lodge and a local diver recommended them. The local diver I talked to claimed that Cebu City Dive Center has the cheapest rates – true enough, rental of snorkeling gear with mask, booties, and fins costs Php 100. Boat dive costs Php 900. I went with Nelson’s Dive Shop, though, as they had a scheduled dive for the famed Pescador Island, where I wanted to go to. As a snorkeler, I only paid Php 200 for joining the boat for the day and gave a tip to my guide. I brought my own snorkeling gear, so I just rented fins for Php 100.