World’s Biggest Sharks Before They Become Extinct
Copyright 2022 by Jennie Mae Ong
Photo by Adiprayogo Liemena on Pexels.
the water” The spotter suddenly shouted. His excited voice
drove us all into a frenzy and we started jumping off the boat. Water
splashed everywhere as our dark heads bobbed in the water. Not
everyone can swim, but our life jackets were keeping us afloat. We
all bobbed around waiting excitedly for instructions, anticipation
filled the air. The show was about to begin. This was what we all
came here for. We flew all the way from the capital city of Manila to
this sleepy town just to get a chance to swim with whale sharks. Whale
sharks are the biggest sharks in the ocean and they might go
extinct soon. These giant sharks are elusive and mysterious
creatures. We only get a chance to see them when they surface to eat.
No one really knows a lot about them. Even science experts don’t
know how they’re born and where baby whale sharks or juveniles
spend their time.
We turned towards this massive shadow gliding in the water towards
us. We looked down the crystal clear water as this giant shark swam
directly beneath us. I opened my eyes big, not wanting to miss a
single second of this once in a lifetime encounter. The whale shark
was huge, longer than the boat we were on. I admired the white spots
dotting its blue body. It looked so close I can touch it, but it was
actually many meters below us. We swam above it, trailing it as it
swam leisurely away. These sharks aren’t your usually sharks.
Instead of running away when we see THIS shark, we swim towards it.
They’re gentle giants. They pose zero threat to humans and
they’re so harmless they don’t even have teeth. They only
eat planktons, algae and very small sea creatures like tiny shrimps
or small fishes.
cool. I’m so lucky I got to have this rare experience to swim
with the biggest sharks” I was grinning ear to ear while
bobbing in the waters of Donsol Island. I felt like a winner who can
brag to everyone I knew that I got to swim with whale sharks. It was
something everyone wanted to cross off their bucket list. And more
importantly, I got to see these magnificent creatures in real life
before they’re gone forever.
group of 15
tourists was the lucky ones. Ours was the only group that had a
sighting that morning. Other tourist groups rode out into the open
seas for more than an hour and came back without seeing a single one.
We spotted this magnificent creature after circling the sea for less
than 30 minutes.
back onto our boat. A triumphant buzz hung in the air as we talked
about our magical encounter with this elusive giant. A strong breeze
blew my hair around as the boat revved its engines in search of more
whale sharks. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves as we rode into the
open sea. We didn’t have to do anything. Our skilled spotter
will find our prey. All we have to do is just wait for his signal. I
sat down near the spotter. He was scanning the horizon. He told me
about his life. “I used to be a fisherman. I’ve been
swimming these waters all my life. As far back as I can remember the
whale sharks always come back here every year. They come during
November and leave after summer. We’re used to the whale
sharks. To us, they’re as ordinary as fishes. That’s why
we were surprised when the tourists came. It’s strange for us
that people would come all the way here just to see them. But it’s
been good to have tourists since I make better money working as a
spotter for boat tours. It’s easier work than fishing. I scan
the sea for signs of a whale shark near the surface. You know, you
guys are really lucky you got to see them. Normally during the summer
it gets too hot, the whale sharks don’t want to surface in the
morning. That’s why sometimes tourists go home disappointed,
they never get to see one.” He stopped talking and stood up. He
looked intently in the horizon before barking instructions to the
another whale shark. We’ll go near it and cut the engine so we
don’t scare it away. Get ready” He told us. Adrenaline
shot through the group, we were excited to see them again. Our first
encounter was too fleeting.
were floating in
the sea again. It felt refreshing to be in the cool waters as the
intense tropical sun beat down on us. We waited alert for this
elusive creature to show itself. I looked down and saw a magnificent
spotted body slice through the water. I bobbed stationary in the
water; holding my breath underwater as I watch this creature swim
past me. It was so huge, I ran out of breath thrice before its entire
length swam past me. The experience was humbling. I just came face to
face with a powerful creature. It can easily kill me with just a
flick of its tail. It finally hit me how tiny we humans really are.
“Aren’t we lucky they don’t eat humans? We won’t
stand a chance if they do. Good thing they’re harmless and just
eat planktons.” Flashes of Jaws the movie, crossed
was almost noon
when we headed back to shore. Our group high-fived each other, in
total we saw four whale sharks. How lucky! It’s almost hard to
believe these gentle giants are rarely seen when we managed to see
four of them in one day. As we stepped back on shore I felt sad. I
read the whale sharks are an endangered species, that they might die
out. I didn’t want to permanently say goodbye to these gentle
giants. I hope I still get a chance to swim with whale sharks in the
future, but by then, I’ll be bringing my kids with me.
Mae Ong works as a pharmacy manager by day but loves to write in her
spare time. She lives in the tropical paradise Philippines so the
world's best beaches are her backyard. She has an adventurous spirit
and has swam with whale sharks and giant jackfishes.
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