Annika Dahlberg: Palawan – The paradise of the Philippines

by Annika (Annie) Dahlberg

I’m back. Once again I find myself back in this crazy and beautiful country of the Philippines. Where travelling from one place to another sometimes takes hours, if not days with a bus, jeepney, trike and two boats. Where finding a quick feed at the bus station means getting another bag of garlic peanuts (yum) and a bunch of bananas. It also means being back in the amazing crystal clear - blue waters where whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and eagle rays live. After two weeks of training I finally arrive at LAMAVEs research site in Puerto Princesa. I’m about to burst from excitement, I just want to get out on the water. On my first day out on a bangka (boat) myself and another two volunteers scan the surface in the bay, looking for signs of any activity. Eventually we spot the large shape of something being hidden underneath the surface. I put my awkwardly long fins on, place the mask on my face, in with the snorkel and let’s not forget the camera! I slip into the water and with visibility being +20 meters you cannot miss the beautiful whale shark sitting just underneath the surface. Once I get the 3 required shots for identification I take the time to enjoy this amazing experience. It is not every day you get the chance to swim with the largest fish in the ocean-unless that is your task, wait, that’s me. 

After visiting the Philippines and Donsol bay a few years back which is when I was introduced to LAMAVE and whale sharks, I knew I had to come back and see more. This is my first time volunteering with LAMAVE but I am sure it is not the last one. It is an incredible experience and a great opportunity to learn about the incredible marine life in the Sulu sea and to work with likeminded people.

Annika searching for signs of whale sharks whilst on survey in Palawan.

Annika searching for signs of whale sharks whilst on survey in Palawan.

Annika (Annie) Dahlberg is originally from a small town on the west coast of Sweden. She is a whale and marine life enthusiast and conservationist, and has previously worked on a whale watching boat and travelled the world and oceans to view marine life. A clumsy person on land (her words!), she says “there is something about being in the ocean that makes me a better me, I have always felt very comfortable in the water”. Annika was part of LAMAVE Puerto Princesa Whale Shark team in 2018.

A whale shark encountered by the team whilst on survey.

A whale shark encountered by the team whilst on survey.

Dolphins photographed from the survey boat by Annika.

Dolphins photographed from the survey boat by Annika.

If you are interested in volunteering with LAMAVE, check out our VOLUNTEER section and be sure to follow us on Facebook for updates.