By: Connie Calipay
DONSOL, Sorsogon — The local government here has introduced whale shark interaction tourism, as sightings of the “gentle marine giants”, locally known as “butanding”, have increased since last year.
“Mas maganda ngayong taon ang sightings ng mga butanding. Mas madami at dahil dyan, dumadami din ang mga turista (Whale shark sightings are much better this year, compared to last year. Thus, tourist arrivals have also increased),“ Donsol tourism officer Desiree Abitria said in an interview Saturday.
Abitria noted that tourists are “thrilled” to have close encounters with these human-friendly sea creatures.
Based on the records of Donsol’s tourism office, together with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 91 whale sharks were documented as of last May 15, compared to 46 in 2018.
“With their (whale sharks) appearance, tourists have once again started coming (over). Before, when it was already the month of May, mostly only local tourists were present here. But now, more foreign tourists are coming,” she said.
Data also showed that total tourist arrivals reached 13,304 from January to May, up from 10,562 in the same period last year.
Abitria said whale sharks are giant sea mammals and the largest extant fish species. They measure as long as 13 meters and weigh more than 21 metric tons.
They are migratory in nature but some of them have adapted to the waters of Donsol as their residence, she added. (PNA)