Six Butanding Interactions with BIOman
Donsol Travel Blog› entry 9 of 12 › view all entries
Finally, after three years of waiting, I was able to swim with not just one but six butandings.
We woke up at around 6 am despite of our hangover, had quick breakfast of pancakes and coffee and then we were grouped into two. I was still with the nicotine group. :)
We left the beach of Donsol to the deep waters of Donsol bay. Our spotter or BIOman (Butanding Interaction Officer) briefed us about the do's and don'ts and our strategy with our entry to the water. As we reached the bay, we saw several same boats - about 20 boats. If the maximum swimmer per boat is 7, that means there were about 140 people wanting to swim with the Butanding that day. The bay is beautiful; one can see the Mt Mayon from afar.
It took our spotter about 20 to 30 minutes to finally stop the boat and ask as to get ready. It was a surreal feeling; there was a feeling of butterfly in the stomach. The he finally shouted "Jump"! I wasted no time, I jumped right away. As I finned towards the direction of the whale, I saw from about 20 meters under, a graceful creature about to surface.... It was a beautiful sight.. I fell in love with it. I reckon, it was an adolescent whale shark. It was not as huge as I imagined it. It was about the size of a van. It glided about 3 meters under the surface and I can really touch it, but I hesitated. :)
That was our first encounter which was followed by 5 more whalesharks. The next 5 sharks are bigger and I think were all adult Butandings. They are as big as a bus. I think.
It was a wonder how the spotters can locate or detect whether a Butanding is about to surface. They said they can see the shadow of the shark, or sometimes, they can see the shark's Dorsal fin. I tried doing what they did, and I failed. O wells, maybe it took some practice to do it...
Then for the last dive, our BIOman (Blue two) told us that it would be our last and we will be heading to the resort after that. As we jumped to the water, I only had one agenda. To touch the butanding.... As the butanging approached us, I finned fast. As I did that, I saw my pamangkin, followed my direction. We didn't talk but I figured that she had the same agenda as mine. We actually pinched the tip of the dorsal fin of the whale at the same time. It was a moment of triumph for me. Hahahaha.
The whale felt like the sandy tongue of a cat - slimy and rough.
I heard of stories about sightings of other types of sharks here - tresher sharks, megamouth sharks. They are even rarer breed of sharks. Given the location, the volcanic system, the river that produce huge amout of planktons (Butanding's food), it is exciting to know that Donsol or the Sorsogon - Masbate area could be a haven for sharks. Manta rays and dolphins are common sights either. There was a discovery of the 15 inches newly born butanding a month ago in this area. This means that Donsol is not just some sort of gasoline station for these beautiful creatures, but their breeding place.
Hopefully, the protection for this creatures will continue as we are the greatest threat to their survival.
The rest of the trip was just about packing, buying pasalubong and a long bus ride home with one stopover in Naga. I was sleeping since we left Naga, it was almost 9 hours of sleep. Not bad... :)