Swimming with Giants and Jumping off Cliffs
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
The vibrations of my alarm shook me awake, I had scarcely entered the realms of sleep before it was time to move. I peeked behind the curtains hoping for a glimpse of orange but I was only greeted by the dark shadows and silhouettes of a city still deep in slumber.
At 3.30 am we were frantically pushing the elevator button, as if by will we could summon it there and then. We were supposed to be in the car park by now but as Sod's Law would have it, we were still on the 7th floor. Fortunately, our guide was patiently waiting for us below and he ushered us into a van.
2 and a half hours later, after the bumpy roads, plenty of mango trees and the beautiful sunrise over the sea, we arrived. Oslob is a small quaint town, you wouldn't think there's much to do here except read a book whilst lounging in a hammock. But the streets were bustling. We jumped out the van and our guide ushered us past the locals trying to sell various goods from pearled jewellery to waterproof cases. The crowds were beginning to make me nervous as someone in the midst blares out rules for the activity. My boyfriend sees my face and he reminds me why we're here, for a once in a lifetime opportunity, to swim alongside gentle giants - whale sharks.
People from all over the world are gathered on the beach, awaiting a boat. The boatmen are giving us numbers and assigning us groups but before we know it, we are handed snorkelling gear and given a hand into our boat. Much to my surprise, you don't need to row far before seeing the gentle giants rise above the waves before dipping back below. Beneath the surface, they dominated, their large bodies effortlessly gliding through the water, as if unaware or maybe uninterested in our presence. I had known these creatures were big but I was in awe of their magnitude, the way their eyes rotated like marbles and how they swept through the depths of the water. This was their home. They were kings here. Then our boatman’s voice echoed through the water, beckoning us to turn our eyes to the camera.
Once out of the depths of the water, we sat in a nearby restaurant and we were served our breakfast. Grateful for the experience and the food in our tummies, we smiled, we knew we had just experienced something extraordinary.
Our next adventure began with an hours drive to Badian. Nothing could quite prepare us for the thrills we were set to experience. It started when we were asked to jump on the back of a motorbike, our driver, then me and then my boyfriend. We were whisked up winding mountain roads, the views were breathtaking but as I peered over our driver’s shoulder I read the speedometer. Gulp. My father would probably most certainly disapprove of my adventurous spirit. My lack of sleep or rather almost no sleep at all led me to encourage my boyfriend that we need to only do half of the canyoneering course. So we turned for the sign down a now rocky path until the rocks gave way to a dirt track. We were told to get off then we were left at the entrance to the jungle. “Now what?” Kentaro asked. I laughed the kind of laugh that comes with adventure, the unexpected and thrill of not knowing what will happen next. But sure enough we were not alone for long. Our guide came and without speaking a word, he walked into the jungle with such confidence you would've thought it was his palace.
We walked until we could hear the screams and laughter of company. We had reached the canyons. The green, lush jungle gave way to crystal blue water. Water bluer than I had ever seen before. It seemed as if we’d stumbled upon nature’s very own natural water park. Our guide was keen we tried the slide carved from stone first. We lay down and into the depths we went. But the exhilaration didn’t stop there, we were then beckoned over and upon climbing out, guided to a 10 meter jump. We were advised to jump far, to run up and leap off the edge of the cliff. No brainer, right? Simple. Easy. My voice cracked. Kentaro did the honourable thing after some convincing from me and jumped first. Then it was my turn. I breathed in. Then out. Easy. I can’t do it. My guide laughed and two tourists with their iPhones ready eagerly egged me on. “You go first” I said but I was met with a “Noooooo”. After going over the rules again. I finally did it. I ran up and I jumped. 10 meters in the air I saw the water beneath me and immediately thought What have I done?
I immediately forgot the advice of my guide to stay straight as my legs kicked out below me, as if in utter disbelief of my action before I landed with a splash. The cool crystal blue waters enveloped me, welcoming me to their depths. My life jacket and kicks brought me to the surface with a smile. How glad I was to have overcome my fear. Next up was the swing. With newfound confidence, I scaled the rocks to the swing to find it was higher than it looked. I put this thought to the side and instead on the count of three, took a leap of faith. I swung out into the air, lifting my legs and straightening them again before landing in the water. I was chuffed again. But the next lagoon brought a whole new terror. Signs warned not to attempt the jump without a guide and my guide informed us it was a 15 meter jump or 12. I opted for 12, thinking if I had just done 10 it would be okay but how wrong I was. I peered over the edge. The jump was right next to a waterfall. Maybe 5 years ago I could’ve done it but as I had aged I had come to terms with the fragility of life. I backed out and this ultimately I would come to regret later, but I know one day I’ll be back to confront the whole 4 hour canyoneering course. As for that day, I decided riding a motorbike and a 10m jump was enough thrills and heart pumping for one day.
The rest of the journey was just as delightful as we trekked through more jungle, saw more fish and Kawasan falls. It was overwhelmingly beautiful and we swum around plenty, even under the waterfall which quite reminded me of the “can you feel the love tonight” scene in the Lion King. I was so happy and felt so grateful to go on this trip, and to experience it with the one I love well that made it just perfect.
All these memories remain vividly in my mind, in perfect precision. When I close my eyes I can see my boyfriend’s smiling face, the taste of the ocean, the whoosh of falling 10 metres high, the waves crashing gently against my body, the crystal clear water, it’s all become something I will never, not ever, forget.