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Whalesharks! #omg #bucketlist #squeals

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So, remember when this happened?

https://singaporeadventures.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/no-whalesharks-no-gallbladder-no-worries/

We at last made out fateful trip to the whale sharks, this time going to Oslob in Cebu over Chinese New Year break. Oslob is a tiny little spot on the southern part of Cebu and it’s about 3.5-4 hour drive from Cebu City. Since it’s best to get there early, we opted to head to a small “resort” (really a motel to be honest, but it had indoor plumbing and a surprisingly comfy bed, so no complaints) that was closer to the whalesharks and avoid a 4AM wake up call to drive down there from the main city area. This proved to be a very good decision on our part.

We arrived in Cebu on Thursday around 4AM and headed straight to Alcoy where the resort was. After a much needed power nap we spent the day lazing about and relaxing by the pool, playing words with friends on the iPad and just decompressing.

Friday morning at 7AM we departed for  Oslob which was about 45 mins way from the resort. There we received a very brief information session (5 mins) about keeping our distance from the sharks, no flash photography, ect and then handed over 1,000PHP for snorkel gear before being led to out boat. The interesting thing about Oslob is that here they feed the sharks from about 6AM to 1PM and it’s really close to the shore. They load you up in a small boat (Paul and I were lucky, just the to of us in ours) and two guys paddle you out to the sharks. There, a few other boats paddle up and down tossing out Whale Shark food (smelt like pulped shrimp, but who knows, the sharks are filter eaters, so they eat plankton and krill) and the sharks swim back and both enjoying the buffet.

We’ve done some snorkeling before and I often forgot my life vest. I can float with the best of them and am a decent swimmer. Wanting to have some freedom of movement I opted to skip the vest this time as well. Alas the sea as very choppy that day and thru a combination of that, what I suspect was a not so great snorkel, and my lack of a life vest, the waves kept coming over my snorkel and I kept sucking in salt water. bleh! Between that and the sheer excitement of seeing the HUGE beasts swimming before me I was a little overwhelmed in the sensory department. Should I focus on the sharks? focus on breathing without sucking in sea water? focus on getting ‘that photo’ that I was ever desperate to get because you know, whale sharks. So I was trying to tread water, see the sharks, take photos, and not drown, which is a lot to multi task quite frankly when you are very excited. ;)

But we did a good job. I remembered to put away my camera some and just be ‘in the moment’ as best I could and then spent part of the time being the touristy tourist I can be at times. By the end of the 30mins we were both tired and ready to head back to shore. One thing they don’t mention is that you are swimming in the whale sharks buffet so by the end, you smell like whale shark food. Luckily there is a shower nearby to wash the sea/food off of you.

That aside, it was amazing! They are huge and we had maybe 4-6 around us at the time, swimming by at different times, one of them was really big, and that’s saying something. They swim really close in fact I get hit by a tail twice as they made their way along.

We headed back after that and reflected on the experience. The sharks were amazing, but the choppy seas made it hard to enjoy and even I  was feeling a little sea sick after 30 mins of bouncing around out there. Of course all the salt water I sucked in might have been a cause for that as well…

We still had two more days in Cebu and since our resort was kinda in the middle of nowhere, there was not much to do. I realized I wanted to go back and try again because really, I had been dreaming about this experience for years. There are not many things on my bucket list, but this was really something I wanted to do. It was a short drive away and really cheap to do (1000PHP = 22USD) so I thought why not? Let’s go back.

Paul decided he had seen enough and did not like he choppy seas, so he opted to stay behind.

I got a car for myself, left at 6:30 on Saturday and went back for more.

Great decision on my part! The sun was out, the seas were much calmer and I had a good snorkel. Whether is was the snorkel, the sea, or just that I was prepared this time, everything went smoother. Instead of chasing the sharks and tiring myself out, I stayed near the boat and let them come and go past me. I was able to see them up close and really ‘breathe’ thru the snorkel and enjoy the experience.

Most of the time the sharks are near the surface at eye level with you, but twice I had one swim right below me which was really awesome because you could see the spots and markings on top of it.

So all in all, an amazing trip and I am very glad we made it there at last!

 

Bevis Bawa

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Post ant attack, we toured the garden and home of Bevis Bawa.  This proved to be a real treat. Not only was the garden a nice stroll, his home was fully open to the public and it was nice to see inside. There was quite a bit of nice art and sculpture around the home and the design had a ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’ quality to it. It was not overly fancy and extravagant, but in it’s simplicity there was a definite charm to it.

 

Geoffrey Bawa

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Geoffrey Bawa

Geoffrey Bawa is a very famous Architect from Sri Lanka. One of his homes nera Bentoa beach where we stayed has been preserved and is now used as a guesthouse and also for tours to learn more about him and his work. We took a tour of the grounds and structures, but could not go in because all the rooms were booked.

Two things, the grounds were lovely and it was great to see it. However, due to the heavy rains, it seems the grounds were infested with the most  horrible, angry, mean, no-good, dirty rotten, big as a house, stark raving mad….Ants!!!! OMG. It was horrible. I don’t think they had stingers, thank god!, but they did have mandibles, and the bit!!! I mean, really went to town. They would swarm onto our shoes and ankles and go to town. I assume they just bit, because there were no welts afterwards, but there was sharp pain. Needless to say it made it practically impossible to enjoy the tour because we had to keep hopping and jumping to avoid standing still for too long. Our guide said it was because of the rains, their nests are in the trees, but they got knocked down in the rain. I don’t know why they were so angry, but I wish they had not taken it out on me!!

Anyway, the grounds were great and it was nice to take the tour. But only seeing his house from the outside was a bit of a let down.

Later we tours his brother, Bevis’s home and we found that to be much nicer in many ways (first among them, NO ants!) Also, yes, his brother’s name is Bevis….

Stupa

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Another Stupa, but I loved the lines of these structures, one in foreground is brick with the lichen growing on it, in the background another in plaster with the more common white paint.

 

Monk

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I was very lucky to catch this picture of a Monk after finishing some prayers making his way along the trail at one of the Ancient Cities we visited.

 

Stupa

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The Stupa form is all over Sri Lanka. They are associated with holy sites for Buddhists. They are enchanting structures that dot the landscape, often painted white, but sometimes in gold. This is massive one at one of the Ancient Cities. Notice at the lower left, the little color dot, that’s an umbrella person, to give you an idea of how big this one is.

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Roadside corn

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We kept passing by people selling corn by the side of the road and were intrigued.  For me, it reminded me of home. For Paul, it just reminded him how much he liked Corn.

We got the driver to stop at one place so we could try it. I had hoped it would be prepared with Sri Lankan spices, but  it turns out it was just boiled and served up. Maybe they were not in season, but it was a little tough, and not as sweet as other corn we typically have. Oh well, was good to try and find out.

 

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Not sure if you can tell, but his shirts says Iowa :) Here he’s pulling the corn out the boiler.

 

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Back in the van, still horn corn to be enjoyed on the road

 

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