After I failed at my first attempt to see them, I was back again to Derawan Islands few months later with my other group of friends. After being told that the best time to go to Derawan Islands is when there is no full moon, so with some helps from online moon calendar, I chose the date that so-called not a full moon period. Not so sure that time, but yeah, I decided the date.

Eco Water Villa in Derawan Island
Eco Water Villa in Derawan Island

On our last day in Derawan Island, we departed early in the morning, around 5 am, to Talisayan for the Whale Shark spotting and then to Biduk-Biduk where we would spend our last night at before going back to Jakarta. Biduk-Biduk is also where the crystal clear Labuan Cermin Lake is.

We were told that there was a new spot – a new bagan that was stationed not far from Derawan Island, and it had been reported that there were two Whale Shark seen the day before. We decided to give that spot a shot, if nothing found, then we would continue to try our luck at Talisayan.

The sky was still dark when we left Derawan Island by boat that morning. I didn’t know what others had in their mind that time. As for me, I was a little nervous but excited at the same time, wondering whether I would have the luck to see this largest fish in the ocean this time. About 30 minutes later, we reached the bagan that we were told before. No other boats around, only ours. I saw one or two fishermen were throwing the fish down to the sea. They kept throwing in and all of us were in silence watching over the sea water.

Peek Holidays – Bagan in Derawan

Bagan is a floating fishing platform made from wood which connected to a boat. The fishermen would throw small fish to the sea around the bagan every morning to feed the Whale Shark. Apparently, Whale Shark is a filter feeder. It feeds on plankton including copepods, krill, fish eggs, and small squid or fish. And based on the information I read online about the fish behaviour, it doesn’t fancy any others besides its usual diet. So, turtles or human, a nay for them.

“There it is! There is one coming!” Shout one of the fishermen from the bagan.

I couldn’t really see because the sky was still dark but I saw one by one my friends started equipping themselves with their own snorkeling gears and underwater camera. I was hesitated whether to jump in or not as I felt the boat was shaky which means the sea was not calm either. For few seconds I could feel the fear overcame me – fear of the sea and also the fish! I didn’t know how big the Whale Shark would be as I couldn’t see it from the boat.

But I tried to calm myself down. Few of my friends didn’t go down. I was the last one from the ‘going in’ group to go down. With my action cam on my right hand and my other hand trying hard to grab on the aluminium stairs that hanging on the side of the boat to stabilize my position inside the water. Until I felt comfortable enough then I let go and swam a little in..


I saw that giant fish. It was near to the bagan, sucking the small fish that being thrown by the fishermen and also plankton around it. I was in between fear and amazed. I started aiming my action cam to record the Whale Shark.

It was beautiful.

Peek Holidays - whale shark in derawan

Whale Shark has a wide mouth and the one that we saw was considered a smaller size, the big one can be twice its size. Before we left the boat earlier, our guide told us that the Whale Shark usually has tendency to swim near to us, so, don’t be panic. Ok, advice still an advice. The fact was we were all quite panic when it turned around and swam toward us.

He also advised us to stay about 2 meters away from its wings and 1 meter from its tail. But the fact was, once we were in the water, all the calculation just seemed not right. Ha..! I stayed in for a while then I went up to the boat and watched the fish from above. The sky was getting brighter and its appearance was easier to be seen by then. It swam in, up and around multiple times. We all enjoyed watching it. The journey to Talisayan was still long, so we made a move not long after that.

One more God’s creation in front of me. I was happy. Hope it will still be there in many generations to come. Stay safe, buddy! Till we meet again!

Peek Holidays - Whale Shark in Derawan Islands

Have you seen Whale Sharks in wild before? Do you feel fear to see this gigantic fish? Let me know what is your thought about Whale Shark on the comment box below.


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  • Stacey Billingsley

    My husband love sharks, and he woud’ve loved to be right there with you! I probably would stay on the platform boat. The pictures of the whale shark are absolutely beautiful! Great job!

    • Thanks, Stacey! Haha..I will definitely drag you along if you were here with your husbands for the whaleshark! :)

  • Jackie Bugarin-Uy

    Awesome landscape photography. It’s amazing to see the sharks upclose . God is so creative and it’s awe inspiring to realized that even in this post:)

  • yukti agrawal

    Nice photos of shark that too so close. ECO villa looks real place for relaxed staying

  • Lois Alter Mark

    What an amazing experience! I don’t think I would have had the nerve to go in but my son would love love love this! Great up close and personal shot of the shark!

    • Your son will definitely loves to see the whaleshark. There was one little girl with me on that trip, she was really excited seeing that whaleshark. :)

  • Tasha Haley

    I am going to Indonesia soon. I always wanted to see the whale sharks up nice and close! Great recommendation of where I can do that!

  • I’ve never heard of the Derawan Islands but this excursion looks worth visiting them for. Your photos of the Whale Shark are incredible, well worth the early morning. I also learnt what a Bagan is!

    • Derawan Islands is just getting more popular for the past 1-2 years, even for locals. I think few more years, more people will come here already :)

  • Oh wow! That is amazing! I honestly don’t know what diet whale sharks partake in, but getting close and personal with them doesn’t seem all that cozy. Nonetheless, it seems like tons of fun! You are so brave :D

    • That morning I was braver than I usually am I would say. Hahaha..I was so curious to see the whaleshark :D

  • Neha Verma

    Its great that your effort paid of and you got chance to take a glimpse of Whale shark. Your story is no less than of National Geographic or Animal Planet :). Seems you had a great time.

    • Awww…thanks, Neha! I wish to write for NG one day. :)

  • Matt Hulland

    What an amazing experience. I’d love the chance to get up close to a whale shark, such majestic creatures. Happy you didn’t get hit by the tail though, that would hurt!

    • I think it would more than just hurt! Hahaha..

  • Marissa Abao

    This was an amazing experience! You got lucky! I like that you were able to take photos. It is pretty cool that the fishermen feed the whale shark every day. They are probably the best friends of the whale shark.

    • Although some people against about feeding the whaleshark. Apparently, I think that what attracts them back to the bagan.

  • Archana Singh

    Now that’s an exciting and totally brag-worthy experience. You seemed to have lady luck on your side that day. Glad to know you were safe.

    • Thank you! I am now trying to overcome my fear of water. Hope to get a chance to go back there again with more courage swimming with the whaleshark. :)

  • Your writing style is quite impressive. I felt like I was right there with you through this whole trip and I could visualize it all. One day, I will go!

  • Katy Clapham

    Awesome post! I swam with whale sharks in Mexico once and it was such an amazing experience. Glad you enjoyed it too :)

    • It was fun, thrilled, mixed feeling! Haha..but I am glad I did it. :D

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