Thursday, March 28, 2013

Diving with whale sharks in the Philippines

To me, one of the greatest reasons for scuba diving is the chance to see animals that inhabit the wet part of the Earth.
About three quarters of the Earth’s surface is water, but only a small percentage of people have the skills, i.e. scuba diving skills, get to spend large amounts of time under the water exploring creatures that live their lives in that environment.

I’ve seen everything from large animals – sharks, turtles, eagle rays, pilot whales, for example, to smaller ones, such as shrimp, sea horses and nudibranches. Every dive is different, and every dive opens a window to seeing something you’ve never seen before.
For me, nothing gets the heart racing like seeing a large pelagic – a shark or a whale, for example, that just happen to be passing through at the same time you are there. That’s why seeing a whale shark up close and personal sits very close to the top of my bucket list.

Whale sharks are so large, quite often more than 40 feet long, that they can look intimidating. But looks can be deceiving. These gentle giants are no more of a threat to humans than a common ant.
Whale sharks are not only the largest fish species on earth, they are also the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, rivaling many of the largest dinosaurs in weight. The largest ever recorded are more than 21.5 metric tons, or about 47,000 pounds. They are a filter-feeding fish, consuming primary macro-algae, plankton, krill and Christmas Island red crab. They live to be about 70 years old.
Tony Gramer, a regular speaker at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, recently gave a speech on diving in the Philippines. The location was Dumaguete City, near Manila. During that trip he happened to have a chance to dive (actually snorkel) with whale sharks. After I turned green with envy, I caught up with Gramer to have him tell me about that incredible experience. That conversation is in the video above.

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