The biggest fish

Trip Start Mar 20, 2009
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Flag of Philippines  , Luzon,
Monday, March 22, 2010

Donsol, a small fisherman town found at the southern tip of Luzon Island, is known for its big concentration of whale sharks, known as butanding in Filipino.

The whale shark, the biggest fish in the world, is a migratory animal which finds refuge in the waters of Donsol from December to May, as it follows its food supply. It takes advantage of the dense food concentration of plankton and krill thanks to currents, water temperature, and the general health of the sea.

The whale shark is included in the list of endangered species as there are only about 1000 identified of them worldwide.

Having so many in Donsol, the city tried to set up an eco-tourism program to protect the peaceful animal from the hord of snorkelers attracted by the idea of swimming with the giant.
There are "BIOmen" for Butanding Inspector Officer on each boat (each with 6 snorkelers) supposed to ensure swimmers will behave with the fish.
I found it very little enforced though, our bioman, a nice guy though, did not give any recommendation and we even saw some biomen touching the whale... Not the best example.
I had had the chance to swim with whale sharks in Mexico, Quitana Roo, a few years ago and being with my girlfriend and a local fisherman only the 3 of us following the whale differs widely from having to avoid fins' kicks from several frenetic swimmers in the race to follow the fish.

Thing is we are supposed to be one boat over one whale. That is neither being enforced. So sometimes there are 12 swimmers around the poor whale.
And off course there is always the smart one, the bravest, who dives to touch the peaceful, gentle animal and make it drown for everybody's lost..

Anyway it was nice and fun swimming with the whale again. The mouth is definitely the one of a whale and the tail is on the shark side. The ones we saw where 5 to 10m long with a nice spotted back and that's always impressive. A fun thing to do is to hold still in front of it and let it go around you without moving. It gets sooo close..

You have to show up around 6.30am to form a group at the butanding tourist center, a few km from town and try to be the first on the sea. We saw maybe 5 whale sharks the 1st day and 7 the second one. The tour costs 600 pesos each and lasts for 3 hours.

The rest of the day I enjoyed the charming villagers of Donsol.

Then I jumped in a jeepney heading for Pilar, a little port where I could catch a boat going to Masbate, on my way to Cebu.


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