Thursday, November 9, 2017

How much does it cost to swim with whale sharks?

Mark with a 'small' whale shark
On the journey from Vanimo to Sorong, we visited Cenderawasih Bay, where big fishing platforms/boats called Bagan attract whale sharks. We got to swim with a couple of 'small' ones that were about 12 feet long. The fishermen threw little baitfish on top of us as we swam in the water so that the sharks would come right up to you. It was disconcerting to see a huge mouth headed for your face, even if it wasn't filled with big teeth.

The Bagan we swam near
It was one of the highlights of our travels, if not very eco-minded. Our friends on Field Trip had gone over beforehand to find out if it was okay to swim with them and to find out the price. Working with Google Translator, it seemed clear that we were welcome to swim and that there was no fee.

Mark with one of the sharks again.
And again. The other kids were a little less eager to
swim near the big guy.
As we finished our snorkel and got ready to leave, the fishermen started holding up fingers and saying numbers in Indonesian, which sounded to my untrained ears like 40,000. In rupiah, this is less than $4 U.S. Mark from Field Trip and I came back with $20 U.S. and some rice and cookies. We were shocked when they wanted 6 million rupiah, which is almost $400.

Between Google translator and broken Indonesian, we made it clear that we couldn't pay that and that had we known how much it was, we would have left. Knowing that big live aboard dive boats probably do pay that much or more, I tried to explain that we were just a couple of small boats with our families aboard. After some uncomfortable back and forth, mostly involving what the exchange rate was between Rupiah and U.S. dollars for varying amounts, they eventually agreed to take $20 per boat (which is what we had with us). Everyone seemed happy with the deal that was struck.

We read in one of the guide books later that the fishermen on the bagans ask for outrageous amounts and that 'hard bargaining is a must.' In some of the areas with whale sharks, the government has warned people not to deal directly with the fishermen, but I'm not sure how that would work since the sharks are only there because of the fishermen.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, sounds like you are having a pretty typical Indonesian Experience ! Unfortunately this is the way things usually go over there, at first very happy and very insistent, that you do the activity, take the photo, etc... first and THEN comes the price. Bargaining is a must, and as you found out, better to establish before hand, and usually, even if they may have sour expressions on their faces, its just all par for the course and all part of their culture, bargaining is a must for any purchase. Everyone wins in the end, when there is an agreed price. A few good sentences to learn : "Berapa Harganya" ? (roll your Rs) means; what is the price. "Dulu" (first), and (in your best dramatic voice)"Oh ! Mahal sekali !" (oh this is very expensive! emphasize the H sound)... "Terlalu banyak!" (Too much). "Ma af. saya tidak punya uang banyak". (I am sorry, I do not have much money). Indonesian do not get insulted if you put the blame on the circumstances and not the person you can always use "Tidak tsok tsok" as an out, which basically means "this is just not working out for either of us" ...another good one to know is "Jalan Jalan saja". ( "we are just walking around/ having a look around") will be asked often "where are you going?" (which is usually just "Di mana?") to which you reply "Oh jalan Jalan saja". you will get lots of appreciative exclamation when you tell them this. Indonesian are a good bunch, but they are always trying to make a buck, like so many other places....oh and by the way : WE ARE VERY ENVIOUS OF YOU ! You went swimming with Whale sharks for $20 and some rice !!! Well done !!!!!


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