Monday, April 20

Donsol: Our Vacation in a World of Giants 3

Day 2, The Whale Shark Adventure

Giant 4: Whale Sharks of Donsol

Whale Sharks are known locally as Butanding. They span up to 40 feet in length. Donsol is a possible breeding ground. They are migratory so it's not every year you get to see a whale shark.

Pay 3,500.00 per boat (max 6people) at the DOT plus 100/person registration fee. They assign you a boat and Butanding Interaction Officer or BIO. You get to watch instructional videos too.
It rained the day before so we didn't see much Butanding but what we saw are worth it!

4 grueling hours of looking for a Butanding, our BIO was frustrated as us. He doesn't want his clean record broken. He direct and drives the boat himself. We spot several pods of dolphins and flying fishes but that was it. Several boats were following us. They too were desperate. The DOT had a 3 hour limit but our BIO assured us we were not going home until we saw something.

So, off we went to spot one in the deeper area of the cove since we get beaten by other boats in shallow waters. BIO didn't want to share sharks.
He drive the boat and hands it to the crew when he spots something.
We gear up.
Boat intercepts Whale shark.
Ass lands on my head.
BIO say: "When I say look down, look down! Look down now!"
We do.


It felt like communicating with God. It was huge!
BIO says it was only medium, 20 ft in length. But my! it was 2m wide! It was magnificent. Picture do not do it justice.
It sauntered below us in a slow gliding swim, very shark-like but I'm not scared at all. I hear my breathing, steady. I head my heart, excited!
It was exhillarating!
We begged BIO for another one.

In the mean time, the other boats reached us and jumped too but they didn't see anything anymore. We got to it first!!!

Second sighting: Spotter sees the dorsal fins out of the water.
BIO doesn't want other baots to beat us. two other boats race to the Whale shark.
BIO screams: Intercept! Intercept! i-neutral mo! Jump!
We jumped!

This was closer! This was just as big! It slowly, silently glided the plankton-rich ocean and avoided colliding with us by ducking under. Just a centimeter more and I could touch it already! I felt it's movement, I tried to reach under. To hell with the 3meter rule! Shark, shark!

Nope, it was elusive as a thought.

The other boats jumped too and swam beside us but we were directly on top of the Whale shark. Our BIO was good. We had the expereince of a lifetime.

Encounters with a whale shark or dolphins are priceless. You should treasure it. These gentle giants are definitely worth seeing.
They are worth saving.
Butandings are indicators if the waters are still healthy. If we pollute the waters, they might not be back anymore.

  • The usual: Sunblock, Shades, hat/bandana, Underwater camera.
  • In the DOT, request for Kuya Romell as BIO. He's good and he had his own boat.
  • When in the boat, always be ready and alert. When the BIO says gear-up, get your masks on in 5 seconds or less and sit on the side of the boat.
  • Bring fresh potable water. The sea can be dehydrating. Also bring some snacks. Offer the crew some.
  • Tip the Crew and BIO. They may be paid by the DOT but it can make their day. 300 pesos is alright for the whole crew.
  • Do not litter. Scoop up trash you see in the water even if it's not yours. Save the Whale sharks and the dolphins!

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