The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is the world’s largest fish. It is more popularly known as the Gentle Giants of the Sea, because despite of their surprisingly massive size, they are quite docile in nature. Locally, the Whale Sharks are fondly called Butanding. The Butanding grows up to 18 meters in length and their average weight is 20.6 tons. Butanding season in Donsol, Sorsogon is from the months of December until May. Despite their gigantic size, their favorite food is plankton. Whale Sharks are filter feeders, they feed by jutting out their colossal jaws, scoop tiny plants and animals up, along with any small fishes with their mammoth sized mouths and passively filters everything in its path while swimming close to the water’s surface. Whale Sharks are highly migratory. The factors affecting their movement are food availability, water temperature and quality; and environmental factors such as weather, current and wind.
No other place in the Philippines can offer the experience of swimming with the Whale Shark than Donsol. In fact, this sleepy fishing town has been dubbed as the “Whale Shark Capital of the World.” Only here can you find such a high concentration of these magnificent creatures where they congregate, cavort and caper seasonally, as early as November, as late as June.
Divers and nature enthusiasts have been flocking to Donsol to enjoy this unique experience for years. The municipality and locals of Donsol have learned to respect these endangered species. Fishermen are educated on the value of the Butanding as they also serve as trained tour guides as an extra livelihood. This makes this coastal town a true success story for eco tourism.
The Butanding (Rhincodon typus) is a slow moving species of shark. Contrary to common fears regarding sharks, the Butanding is considerably harmless. They are filter feeders, enjoying a diet of phytoplankton, macro-algae, plankton, krill and small nektonic like small squids, shrimps and prawns. They can be normally found in tropical and warm oceans. They are known to live to up to 70 years, and can grow to up to 12.2 meters, while weighing up to 13.6 tons. They can be easily identified by their silvery polka dots. They have been discovered to be ovoviparous, which means that the female produces live offspring from eggs hatched in her uterus.
Experience swimming with the gentle giants of the sea, come to Donsol and enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.