Southern Leyte is famous for whale sharks encounters. The largest fish worldwide reaching up to 12m length (whales are much bigger, but they´re mammals) is a major tourist draw. Despite this attraction, there are not too many tourists in Padre Burgos, as it takes a 2h30 fast ferry ride from Cebu, then a 3h mini-van drive and finally a 1h local bus journey to reach the little town.
On some days we were only two divers on the dive Banka, which has a capacity of up to 20 divers! Taifuns in the past years, extensive fishing and the coral-eating “Thorn of crowns sea stars” damaged the reefs. Once supposed to be among the best in the Philippines, they´re still beautiful but not stunning anymore.
On the third day we started a bit later to the daily dive trip, as the engine of the diving Bangka broke before we left, and the staff had to prepare the smaller second diving boat. Once on board we noted quite fast, that there is also a technical issue with that engine. After a couple of minutes, the diesel engine stopped working and we snorkeled back to shore, while the crew waited on board for rescue. In the Philippines, they neither have a local word for, nor do they really understand the principle of “maintenance”. They use a car, boat etc as long as the engine runs smoothly and they do not really maintain it, and repair it only if absolutely necessary.
My absolute highlight was the whale shark snorkeling tour. Three small one-man Bangkas with local spotters located the gentle giants for us, the boat captain brought as in front of the fish and we just glided into the water and waited, until the whale shark passed by. Following the fish is possible but exhausting, as they are swimming extremely calm, but fast.
5 tourists, 1 guide, 2 local NGO observers (Large Marine Vertebrates La.Ma.Ve) and 3 whale sharks!!! No other boats around and no Asian tourists trying to touch and ride the fish! Superb experience.
Before I head on to Japan I´ll visit the iconic volcano Mayon and the world famous rice terraces in Banaue.
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