Sogod Bay in the Philippines is one of the most incredible - and uncrowded - places to have a good chance of encountering the biggest fish in the world - the whale shark. Here are some videos shot at Sogod Bay by my friend Pedro
Sogod Bay is located on Leyte island in the middle of the Philippines. It's been a whale shark hotspot for the last 10 years when these gentle giants first started to been seen within Leyte Gulf. No one is quite sure why they started arriving, but one idea is that they might be attracted by the healthy coral reefs at Sogod Bay spawning and come to feed on the nutrient rich waters. Sogod is geographically quite near to Donsol, which has become world-famous as a place to see whale sharks, but also something of a circus as so many people go there in high season for a chance to see the sharks. At Sogod, there are only a couple of dive operators - I went with and recommend Sogod Bay Scuba Resort - and there is very little development otherwise. No condos, high rises, hotels, no nothing - just a local village and the small dive resorts. The diving itself is great and worth visiting Sogod for on its own. Trips to go and snorkel with the whale sharks (no diving allowed) run regularly, although they need a few people on the boat to make it worth the trip to pay for the boat fuel.
These videos were taken by Pedro, one of the divemasters at the resort who is a fish! As you can see, he got some amazing footage with my little Canon IXUS camera video setting, managing to get right in front of the whale shark at some points. The area is relatively shallow and the visibility is generally excellent.
To get to Leyte, the easiest way to go is to fly from Manila to Tacloban and then get the resort to come and pick you up. The drive is about 2 - 3 hours. Alternatively you can fly to Cebu, then get a ferry to Leyte and the resort can pick you up - that's about 1 to 2 hours drive. The relative remoteness is what has kept Leyte so pristine. I am hoping to go back there in 2011 or 2012 and see if it's as beautiful as I remember it.