The whale shark, known locally as Butanding is the biggest fish in the world. Its scientific name is Rhincodon typus and it weighs 15 to 20 tons and grows to the length of 15 to 50 meters. The typical Butanding you see in Sorsogon is as big as a passenger bus. You also see baby Butandings that are about 7 meters long. Rarely seen elsewhere in the world, the Butandings visit Donsol Sorsogon in relatively large number from November to May. Large number means over a dozen sightings and 10 close encounters in a couple of hours. Those are the best figures you may expect of a creature that is in danger of extinction. Even the great explorer Jacques Costeau admitted to seeing only two whale sharks in his lifetime of sea adventures.
It is still not fully explained why the whale sharks prefer to flock to Donsol Sorsogon. So nobody knows when they will stop coming and prefer another bastion elsewhere in the world. The locals are doing the best they can to keep these “gifts of God” around. They put up some rather arbitrary guidelines on how to interact with the Butandings on close encounter. Yes, you can touch these gentle giants, although the Donsol Tourism Office prohibits this. There has never been a report of a whale shark attacking or preying on humans. The constitution of the Butanding is not made for agression and violence. It has thousands of teeth but each one only 1 cm long; it cannot chew; and its brain seems to be programmed to make it a gentle, even playful, creature. It feeds on plankton, shrimp, anchovy, krill, small crabs, and other small fish.
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