Tuesday, March 17, 2009
CHASING THE DOLPHINS
(BOHOL vacation, Part Four)
We had a very early call time today, 6:00 AM. Normally, i would revolt at waking up so early (we were on vacation, after all), but i was actually sorta pumped, even though it was all dark so early in the morning, and we had to eat a hurried breakfast.
Why? Because we were going on our dolphin-watching tour at Pamilacan Island, approximately one hour's banca ride away from Panglao.
Our guide/head boatman, Teddy, led us to our banca, called "ARCA". Fortunately, it seemed to be a sturdy boat, with adequate life jackets on board.
Before we sailed off, i asked Teddy about the numerous touts we had been encountering the past day while walking on the beach, all of them offering dolphin-watching tours at low prices. So, what was the difference between the tours offered by these touts and those offered by the tour company employing him?
He replied that these touts have not undergone the Department of Tourism (DOT) seminar/accreditation for the tours. Thus, they had no license to operate said tour. Moreover, they (and their passengers) have no insurance in the event of some misfortune at high seas. Rather reassuring, eh?
We were also introduced to our 'spotter', Arnel (above pic), who was 18 years old but didn't look a day over 12! [No wonder S. had an immediate crush on him, haha :-D]
Teddy proved to be quite a gregarious guide. We had asked if there were also whales to be seen at this time of year, but no such luck. Apparently, while dolphins can be found year-round, whales can be spotted only in the months of April, May and sometimes June.
Teddy commented that he and his co-residents at Pamilacan Island used to be whale hunters. They used to catch the dolphins, whales, sharks, manta rays, etc., and butcher them for food. But they have all seen the light, so to speak; and this practice has been banned for at least ten years.
Upon my egging, though, he described in graphic detail how they used to harpoon a dolphin, and how it easily got disoriented and dizzy from the smell of its own blood. From then on, it was easy pickings to reel it in.
Then viola! Dolphin sashimi for lunch. He described its taste "like beef".
We had expected a hot sunny morning, and had slathered on as much sunblock as we could, only to be thwarted by the overcast sky. Worse, a fairly hard drizzle came and stayed, making the boat ride towards Pamilacan Island one wet, chilly experience. Good thing, though, that the waves were fairly calm.
Fortunately, the sky cleared up during the mid-way portion of our boat ride, and the sun came out.
"The dolphins are there," Teddy pointed. Then he started clapping and whistling. This seems the standard way to catch the dolphins' attention.
"Where?" I couldn't see any, despite squinting and peering like crazy.
Oh, there they were. Initially, it was hard to pick out these creatures' dark gray fins peeking out from the dark blue waters of the sea; but after some effort, they became readily apparent.
Teddy estimated there were around 200 dolphins swimming around, behind, in front, and even underneath our banca. Yes, these creatures are aware they are being watched.
Taking good pictures of them proved quite difficult, though. The banca was rocking to and fro, the dolphins were swimming fast, and one didn't really want to stretch out too far at our vessel's bow, lest one fall off. We did see a dolphin doing a triple somersault some 30 feet in front of us.
A friend (who had previously seen the dolphins) quipped to me that this tour should be called "dolphin-chasing" instead. She did have a point. After all, unlike your typical experience at Sea World or other marine amusement parks, the dolphins are NOT going to do somersaults, or wave at you, or kiss you, on demand.
Nevertheless, seeing these lovely creatures at their natural habitat was made me real happy. Yep, i didn't even grumble at waking up at such an odd hour.
(For more info, check out the website of Pamilacan Island Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours at http://whales.bohol.ph)
(Thanks yet again to Sheila Tan for the pics, taken with her new 10.0 megapixel camera)