It’s six o’clock in the morning. You’re standing on a dock in Oslob, a small fishing village in the Philippines. The man in charge goes over the rules. No touching. No riding. No flash photography. No sunscreen. Keep at least 5 meters (16 feet) away from the sharks at all times.

You grab a mask and snorkel and put on your life jacket before joining other tourists. You hop aboard a large, thin canoe. The captain paddles out from shore, leading a long line of canoes.

The boat captains toss handfuls of shrimps from buckets into the sea. Soon you see what you’ve been hoping for. Through the clear waters, you see the biggest fish in the ocean: whale sharks.

Tourist watch whale sharks in the Philippines.

Tourists learn about whale sharks before diving in to swim with them.

The captain says it’s okay to get in the water, but stay out of the way of these gentle giants. You jump in. With your head underwater you can see an immense shark swim past. It has a wide mouth with a smatter of white spots on its huge head.

It’s so big. You feel humbled. You pull out your waterproof camera. Click. Click. Click.

A group of tourists jump in the water to swim and take pictures of a whale shark.