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Whale Sharks of Donsol

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30 May – 2 June 2009
N12 54.310 E123 33.956

We have not been back to Donsol in six years, and the many tight, long hugs we received were enough proof that we had left good friends there. It was truly a heart-warming “Welcome Back Home.”

But Donsol has changed. It has bloomed. We were generously welcomed to a brand new hotel in town called Giddy’s Place

Giddy's Place in Donsol town with modern facilities that didn't exist until nowGiddy's Place in Donsol town with modern facilities that didn't exist until now

and it boasted of having the town’s very first restaurant and bar,

We used to rely on the 24 hour Franklin Burger in town. Now there's a full fledged restaurant and bar in Donsol at Giddy's Place!We used to rely on the 24 hour Franklin Burger in town. Now there's a full fledged restaurant and bar in Donsol at Giddy's Place!

not to mention WiFi and credit card facilities! The tourism office, too, and the surrounding resorts simply astounded us. In six years, they sprouted like mung beans, and we didn’t recognize the place anymore. But it was good to know our beloved Woodland Resort was still alive and well, run by the same people who called us their own.

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca minimizes his carbon footprint by biking to work with his mask, fins and snorkelWWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca minimizes his carbon footprint by biking to work with his mask, fins, and snorkel

It was raining when we got there. Our two weeks of “office” work Manila had blue skies and sunshine. We felt the climate changed to make sure we got rained on every time we needed sunshine, and have sunshine every time we didn’t need it! This felt like a personal affront to Yogi, or so he thought, but we had to make the best of it.

Elson takes a photo of the left pectoral fin of a passing whale shark for Photo IdentificationWWF's Elson Aca takes a photo of the left pectoral fin of a passing whale shark for Photo Identification

Why are whale sharks in Donsol seemingly growing in numbers year after year? WWF Philippines researchers take pictures of the left pectoral fin of each whale shark, and Photo ID is recorded and submitted to ECOCEAN or www.whaleshark.org. The following three-year summary of whale sharks in Donsol was recorded.

  • 2007 – 70+ individuals with 13 re-sights and one staying 65 days
  • 2008 – 110+ individuals with 50 re-sights and one staying 120 days
  • 2009 – 160+ individuals with almost 100 re-sights and one staying 138 days
Feeding whale shark with wide open mouth and snorkelerFeeding whale shark with wide open mouth and snorkeler

If we follow their food, we may learn more about whale sharks and why they like to keep coming back to Donsol. We were really happy to find out about WWF Philippines efforts to collect and study microscopic plankton within Donsol Bay. The biggest fish in the world eats the tiniest living organism in the ocean. Fascinating!

WWF volunteer biologist Jaymar Galag and Elson Aca collect whale shark food samples with a plankton netWWF volunteer biologist Jaymar Galag with Elson collecting whale shark food samples with a plankton net Jose Buella Jr. transfers plankton samples into a bottleWWF volunteer Jose Buella Jr. transfers plankton samples into a bottle

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca leads a group of local stakeholders in finding out more about whale sharks in Donsol. His volunteers Jaymar Galag, a cum laude biology graduate from Partido State University in Goa, Camarines Sur, and Jose Buella Jr., a fisheries graduate from Bicol University, Tabaco, Albay help out in the photo ID and in finding out what is in the whale sharks’s menu all around the bay.  Sometimes a BIO will come and help out in the photo identification.

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca checks a crustacean zooplankton with a microscopeElson checks a crustacean zooplankton with a microscope

So what whale shark food does the bay contain? Here’s what our WWF boys found out:

Donsol Bay has three (3) major groups of Zooplanktons:

Donsol Bay has four (4) major groups of Phytoplanktons:

Elson with Grade 1 students of Donsol East Central School and Giant Panda, of courseElson with Grade 1 students of Donsol East Central School and the Giant Panda, of course

It was the first day of school, and the Grade 1 students of Donsol East Central School were treated to a “Welcome Back to School” by Tandy, WWF Philippines adorable Butanding whale shark mascot.

The Freund Factory with their longtime friends, the Butanding Interaction Officers of DonsolThe Freund Factory and Elson Aca with the Butanding Interaction Officers or BIOs of Donsol One of the murals during the 2009 Donsol Butanding Festival. A sign of hope don't you think?One of the murals during the 2009 Donsol Butanding Festival. A good sign of hope for the whale sharks, don't you think?

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Comments


  • Marine Iguana

    Another great & really positive story – despite the weather!

    I love the informative glimpses that you show us into the lives & work of people like Elson & the wonderful work that he’s contributing to.

  • Emma Fung

    Nice one guys and so good to hear a postive story about the ocean and its creatures.

    I have many happy memories of times in Donsol 11/12 years ago! (or was it longer even?)

    Em

    • Stella Chiu-Freund

      Yes Em, that was in 1998 when we first went to Donsol together. I think you were with CNBC then. I still have your bag to prove it.

  • chinkyjulz

    yeahee..itsz my MURAL..Thank you!!!

  • http://www.echinoidea.net Annelids

    A few months ago, a magazine in the UK published the story about annelids. When I first read it, I didn’t take it seriously. But when I found your topic Whale Sharks of Donsol @ WWF Coral Triangle Photo Expedition, I thought to myself that I must learn more about annelids because it may be useful for me in the future.

  • Pingback: Mary Fallin » Donsol, Sorsogon()

  • Sofia

    Great work Stella and Yogi! Wonder if Sabah can have our own “Donsol” here…..

  • http://dd chloe

    Do you know if we could go there for a volunteer work?? I have googled and there is no volunteer work on the website which takes place in Don Sol

  • joel briones

    I invite everyone to come and visit the whalesharks here in our town Donsol..
    I am Joel Briones one of the Senior Butanding Interaction Officer here in Donsol swimming with the sharks for over 11 years and counting..
    We have sightings now beginning last November…
    So if you have quiries about everything that goes with our tourism pls contact me via email at
    joelbutanding@yahoo.com or superkim18@yahoo.com or one can call me 63+919-420-2324
    our butanding is dubbed as the “BEST ANIMAL ENCOUNTER IN ASIA”
    Adventurers, travellers, backpackers, nature-lovers, tourists from around the globe…
    Come and visit Philippines, visit Donsol “The home of the WHALESHARKS”

    • Stella Chiu-Freund

      Hello Joel. We remember you as one of the most progressive BIOs of Donsol. Thank you for writing in to our blog. We wish Donsol the very best and may the efforts of the Donsol community to protect whalesharks serve as an inspiration to other countries who still hunt their endangered marine life. Stella & Yogi