On the southern tip of Cebu Island in the Philippines, tourists travel from all over the world to swim with the massive whale sharks. Not only the largest of all the sharks, Rhincodon typus are the largest of any fish alive today. Averaging about 40 feet long, whale sharks are generally mild-mannered filter-feeders and pose no danger to humans. The whale shark is considered an endangered species though, and is protected under various international programs.
One of the ways the whale shark population is protected is through encounters like those offered in nearby Oslob. Instead of fishing the whale sharks, locals here facilitate encounters with them, and help protect the migrating, usually juvenile, males from becoming shark fin soup.
Zachary picked an unlikely method of overcoming his lifelong fear of the ocean. “I absolutely hated the ocean. I was afraid. I hated fish. The thought of the ocean and fish and being touched by fish was just so disturbing to me. Pools, hot tubs, lakes, OK, but the ocean … no, thank you.”
“The people I was there with were like, ‘Hey let’s go swimming whale sharks’ and I was like ‘OK, I can’t stand that and I don’t like the idea of that, but I guess we’re doing it.’ This was the day that I overcame that fear.”