I just had the most unforgettable and exciting swim in my life. Let me share my story to you and the lessons I learned from the gentle giants of the deep.
I woke up in one rainy and cold morning. Someone knocked at my door saying, “Sir, we are good to go.” I woke my wife telling her that it was time for us to get up and be ready for our activity for the day. So, my wife got up and picked up my 2-year old son and we are set on our way.
We were dropped near the shore. I didn’t expect that there would be a lot of people who are also planning to see the gentle monsters that I have only seen in videos and photos.
Now, it was our turn to be in a small boat. As we move farther from the shore, I could smell the usual sticky odor of the sea mixed with a little stinking smell brought about the food being fed to the gentle giants we are about to meet.
As we approach a group of people who came there earlier, I looked behind me and there it is. I saw something that I will never forget for the rest of my life!
The large mouth of the gentle monster I was talking about. It has a mouth big enough to swallow a full-grown man! When it opened its mouth, it created something like a deep suction hole that could swallow a great amount of water and food.
From our boat, I could see that this fish is really HUGE!
Now, it was time for me to get into the water. I stood up, approached the ladder going down the water, and got myself in. I submerged my head on the water and what I saw next is simply AMAZING!
For the first time, I saw not just one, but two whale sharks! Their gigantic bodies are riddled with small white spots. Their enormous gill slits danced with the wave of the water while other smaller fish swam along with them.
After a few minutes, I realized there are more than two whale sharks. From afar, I could see at least three or four whale sharks aside from the big fish in front of me.
In spite of their monstrous and terrifying look, they are generally harmless. I can even say that we humans are more harmful than these gentle giant creatures!
If you are curious about the whale sharks, here are a few fun facts about them:
- The largest confirmed whale shark was 41.5 feet (15 m) long and weighed about 21.5 tons.
- Though whale sharks have thousands of tiny teeth, they are filter feeders. They eat plankton, krill, squid, and small fish.
- Whale sharks can live as much as 70-100 years.
- They become sexually mature at the age of 30 years. They give birth to live young.
- The smallest recorded living whale shark was only 15 inches.
Before going to Oslob, Cebu (the place where you can do whale shark watching), I read some blogs about how these big fish were becoming more and more reliant to humans feeding them. Instead of leaving the area of Oslob and migrate to other places, the whale sharks are more than happy to stay.
It is worth noting though that whale sharks have been traditionally hunted in the Philippines and I’m sure not just in our country, but in other places in the world. They are killed for their liver oil, fins, and meat. Whale sharks are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Personally, I think having the whale sharks in Oslob has its pros and cons. For one, the whale sharks in Oslob becomes an ambassador to their species. They help in increasing the awareness of the public about these whale sharks. It is also good that the fish are not caged, but rather they are allowed to stay in the open sea. The local economy of Oslob also benefits from the tourists the whale sharks attract. I believe this would also benefit the whale sharks in further helping them thrive in the sea.
Of course, whale sharks are not meant to live like this. They are supposed to migrate and be in different places at different times of the year. I just hope there are better ways to do things.
Nevertheless, as I look back to the day I met the whale sharks, I was humbled by the experience. I remember the wise words of Job, which was written thousands of years ago:
“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;
And the fish of the sea will explain to you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of Yahweh has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
Does not the ear test words
And the mouth taste its food?
Wisdom is with aged men,
And with length of days, understanding (Job 12:7-12).
As I swam with those enormous fish, I am filled with awe and admiration to the creative hands of our Almighty God. The whale sharks, though docile and lazy-looking animals, are actually majestic in size and beauty. Job was not mistaken when he said, “that the hand of Yahweh has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing!”
Thus, it is only true when the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans that we, humans, are without excuse. What we see around us, the magnificent and grandiose creation, the huge whale sharks of the deep, are a testimony to God’s creative hands and proof of His existence (Romans 1:20).
I hope by sharing this experience to you, you would also realize that this world is a beautiful world in spite of what we have done to it. It is still a beautiful, blue planet that God has crowned with beauty and splendor.
May we all have the eyes to see and the heart to appreciate God’s handiwork!