Southern Leyte : Diving with Whale sharks
Southern Leyte : Diving with Whale sharks
On a beautiful, sunny day the Philippine Siren once more headed out of port for a cruise to Southern Leyte. On board were fourteen Guests from Germany and Switzerland accompanied by thirteen crew members to make their stay on the luxurious 40m long Phinisi Schooner as comfortable as possible. On our first dive of the trip on, a dive site called Tambuli – just around the corner from the Cebu Yacht Club, Andreas, one of our guests from Switzerland proved that he has real eagle-eyes and showed the rest of his dive group a Blue ringed Octopus! A rare sight anyway, but to find one during daytime is really very unusual. Divemaster Donato showed us a purple-brown and green colored sea hare, a big slug that normally spends the day hiding in crevices and under coral bommies. What a nice start of this Cruise. During the evening, after a delicious dinner, on our 12 hour journey to Limasawa Island we marveled at the stars on the cloudless sky and Werner and his fellow guests enhanced this experience with a cocktail poured by Noel, our host.
The next morning we did a nice drift dive at Crocodile Rock off the western coast of the Island where we watched schools of fuseliers in the open water and divemaster Philip spotted two ornate ghostpipefish in a crynoid. Besides that we found a couple of nudibranchs on the reef slope. After the first dive one of the local fishermen came to the Philippine Siren and reported that he saw a whale shark earlier in the western bay of the island. So the divemasters joined forces with Francisco and Ariel our Dinghy-pilots to search the Bay for the big animal. After one hour searching with no success we decided to go for a dive at the pinnacles in the southern area of Limasawa Bay. During the dive Philip suddenly banged franticly on his tank with his pointing stick: whale shark! As a 6 m long shark approached the dive groups straight ahead and passed us casting a big shadow. Monika was amazed, the biggest animal and only the second shark she had seen in her life. After lunch our crew again went out with the dinghies to look out for the big guys and this time Edgar our assistant engineer found another one. He stayed in the water with the shark while the other guys speeded back to the boat to get the guests who were having a nap on the large sundeck. We spent 15 minutes snorkeling with the shark. This was one good day!
The next day we stayed at Limasawa with nice wall dives but no sadly whales harks. But we were able to snorkel with a big school of chevron barracudas and we saw a pod of Spinner dolphins. The following morning we motored to San Ricardo at the eastern entrance of Sogod Bay because there were rumors among the locals that manta rays roam the area. We didn’t find them but the ocean treated us with three Brydes whales on our journey to Napantaw.!!! First we watched them from the Siren and after a while we tried to snorkel with them but apparently they had a lot of fun playing cat and mouse with us. We were able to go very close to them with the dinghies but as soon as we entered the water they dived and came up hundreds of meters away from where they started their dive. This went on for 30 minutes or so and, exhausted but happy to encounter these massive whales up close, we gave up our attempts.
We spent the next two days in Sogod Bay to dive the stunning walls and reefs of Napantaw and Padre Burgos with their incredible coral growth and schooling fish. We found some huge Giant Frogfish in pipe organ sponges and on the night dive at Padre Burgos Pier we were able to show Eva, Michael and the other divers Thorny Seahorses, Stargazers, Indian Wasp fish and many other weird critters. On the last full day of diving we went back to Limasawa Island in the hope to find more whale sharks before heading back to Mactan but this time the sharks eluded us. On our return journey we had a fantastic BBQ dinner prepared by Jimmy and Oson our very talented onboard chefs and marveled at what was altogether a very memorable experience for our guests – whale sharks, whales, dolphins and great reefs – and also for the crew too! Trip of a lifetime?… yes I think so.
All photos by Chris Von Damm