Today is Black Saturday. I remember spending it last year in Donsol, Sorsogon with mother, Erwin, and Sherdon. We had a morning date with whale sharks, the gentle giants who feed on plankton and small fish.
We paid registration fees at the tourism center, then watched a short video about whale sharks which also came with instructions on how to move around them in the open sea. We were then directed to go to our guide, fondly called BIOman (Butanding Interaction Officer man), whose task is to make sure that guests interact with whale sharks properly and safely.
He introduced himself and while his teammate, the spotter, looks out for whale sharks, he talked about being a fisherman and whale shark hunter before being transformed into a BIOman. Sure he earned big during those times, but no whale sharks equals no pay, so he was always like a millionaire today and a beggar tomorrow. When WWF came to their town, they learned how to work with nature and became guardians of the sea. Thanks to the promotion of whale sharks in Donsol, they now have a steady income much better than what they were making before.
And then the spotter signaled a sighting. Motor boats revved up their engines and flocked to the sight. Our BIOman instructed us to ready our masks and fins then helped us get to the ‘diving platform’, the edge of the boat where guests can sit and easily jump into the water. OK GET READY, BIOman said. Everything happened fast and after a few seconds, BIOman was yelling like a drill sergeant. DIIIIIIVVVE! DIIIIIVVVE! Then off we jump, without hesitation!
One would easily forget everything when you see an enormous creature swimming under you, like clicking the shutter on time to record what could become a viral video of swimming with whale sharks.
It was an experience of a lifetime. A fantastic sea creature was gliding effortlessly beneath us, its white dots almost shining from below. The interaction lasted until everyone grew tired of catching up with the gentle giant.
We saw three whale sharks on that trip to Donsol in a span of almost three hours. Quite low, but luckier than other guests who did not see even one on the same day.