I almost didn’t go on this trip, because of shallow reasons involving money. In case you didn’t know, I do not have a job. Not that you care about this, but as an obvious reason, it is an important way to generate money and to make my travel dreams come true (A little bit exaggerated but I know that you get it). Anyway, I’m grateful that I have the energy and a boyfriend who supports me in everything I do, and I went anyway.
Accompanied by fellow freedivers. We had one goal. To see and swim with the gentle giants, known as whale sharks.
The first time I tried freediving, I was in awe of how my body can adjust underwater. How the deep blue is amazingly beautiful, overwhelming and scary all at once.
I felt that the same feeling last weekend during our visit in Pintuyan, Southern Leyte.
The First Time I saw Whale Sharks
I remember the first time I saw these gentle giants was on our trip to Oslob last 2015. I was in awe and scared at the same time not knowing that it was bad for the whales. Whale Sharks were and still are being fed with krills (uyap) by the boatmen and this practice made the whale sharks dependent and it messes up their migratory patterns. Aside from that, this can lead to malnutrition. I’m not an expert, but as far as I know, it has been a controversial tourist spot especially to biologists or even to travelers who seek and do ethical activities.
I always mention this, knowledge can bring to better actions. Maybe knowing a little and a bit more can help us make better decisions. Not just on how we travel, but on how we do in our daily lives.
How to get to Pintuyan?
From Cebu to Hilongos
- Roble Shipping (Pier 3)
- Available travel times are: 12 Noon, 2:30 PM and 9:00 PM
- Travel time is 4-6 hours, and the ticket costs Php265-450 depending on the accommodation.
- From Hilongos to Pintuyan – Van going to Pintuyan
- Drop by at Brgy. Son-ok II in Pintuyan.
- Bus fare Php150-200
How we did it?
We took a ferry from Cebu City to Hilongos, Leyte via Roble Shipping for Php275 (economy A). Travel time was 9 PM to 2:30 AM.
From Hilongos we got on a minibus going to Maasin City for Php70. It was an hour drive. Then from the terminal, we hired a multi-cab for Php500 going to Padre Burgos.
We rented a boat in Padre Burgos that will take us to Pintuyan then to Limasawa Island.
We had a little problem because the first boat gave un an overpriced cost for the boat (Php8000). Then a boatman offered a lower-priced around Php4000.
If you will go to Padre Burgos and want to rent a boat you can contact Samson at 09177549569.
Important Details about Pintuyan Whale Shark Interaction
Pintuyan whale interaction is operated by the KASAKA, an association of fishermen in Pintuyan. Whale sharks appear in the area from November to May. They roam freely in Sogod bay which also means that when you visit, it is not always 100% assured that the whale sharks will appear.
Before swimming with the sharks, all tourists and visitors must undergo briefing where they will discuss the important guidelines for tourist safety and less disturbance to the whale sharks. Such as below:
- Environmental Fee – Php250 per guest
- Spotters – Php300 per spotter
- Guides – Php350 per guide
- Pump boats – Php800 each (good for 3 pax)
During our trip, we already rented a boat so we didn’t pay for the pump boats, we hired 1 guide and 6 spotters. We were a group of 10 people.
Unexpected Chasing Game
Aside from the quick briefing about the guidelines regarding swimming with the whale sharks. We did not have the actual idea of what we were going to do.
We hopped on our boat with our guide and 6 spotters tagging along. I went to the other side of Sogod Bay where the whale sharks would probably be lurking under the water. It was an hour ride to set all the spotters and do their job, searching for the gentle giants. At the same time, we were patiently waiting for their signs to start swimming.
We waited another hour until one spotter saw a whale shark. Before that moment, we were tired and exhausted from our long journey and the waiting game sucks so we slept for a while, but the moment we heard them saying “Here it is!”. All of us automatically moved and wore our gears. As quick as 1 -put on the mask, 2 and 3- wear the fins, finally 4- jump.
The unexpected race began.
It was so Surreal. Here’s my experience.
I jumped and saw the whale shark under the water and I felt a different feeling where I was overwhelmed, excited, and thankful all at once. Seeing this creature swimming freely was totally a different feeling compared to the first time I saw them in Oslob. It was bigger, so probably well nourished.
The moment the whale shark was gone in my sight, I tried to swim very hard to keep up and to chase it. My heart was pumping really fast and my legs kicked really hard for the first time. It was quite unusual for me since I’m a lazy swimmer. HAHA.
I stopped and saw everyone was way far and ahead of me. It turned out, was the last one, it seems they left me behind. I was alone in the middle of the ocean. I got a little scared that I might have cramps, but actually I was more tired and wanted to rest a little bit. Plus, I’m out of breath.
Hernan, my boyfriend was genuinely sweet, he saved me and we hop on the big boat and relaxed for a little while until our next dive.
Since I did not know what to expect. I wasn’t able to keep up at the time.
The second time, I understood how this chasing game works.
The spotters have a small boat and they can paddle very fast. The whale shark seemed to move really slowly but compared to us, it swims faster. Our long fins were very helpful though, but we still needed to exert more effort to keep up with the shark.
After one dive, the whale shark was already far away. It was almost gone from my sight. So I hopped on the small boat, and with the spotter, we chased and padded where the whale shark was heading then dive when it was already below us. Repeat the process. Dive, hop on the boat, chase, then dived again.
It was more or less an hour chasing game. The adrenaline rush was still kicking in after that surreal experience with the lovely creature. We only saw one whale shark, unlike the other days there were more, probably more than five.
But numbers are not really important, the experience was still amazing nevertheless.
After the Shenanigans
After a couple of hours, we got back to the shore and prepared to eat our lunch. We were starving but really hyped after we experienced all of that. We were laughing at what happened during the chasing adventures. It was undeniably a fun conversation.
Then we went to the cottage where locals were stitching cloths to form small whale sharks and serve as souvenirs. We talked about our experience. A man was sharing his experience watching us. He said that the one wearing white one, Mirai, swam very fast chasing the whale shark while Sandy, who wore a bikini, was being competed for by the boatmen to hop on their boats. It seemed she was the other attraction during that day. We laughed it out since we all had a great day.
Also, a nice piece of information is that Whale sharks are known as “tiki-tiki” in Pintuyan.
The locals were truly accommodating and nice to us, and it shows also how they truly care and respect the whale sharks in their area. They let it roam freely which makes the encounter ethical and this experience more memorable to us.
After Pintuyan, we packed and we got ready to go to Limasawa Island. It was my first time to visit the island, and I will share our story on my next blog post!
P.S. Don’t forget to follow our amazing underwater photographer @badjaw_ on Instagram!