PWhale shark (butanding) sighting season is officially on off the coast of Donsol, declared the provincial government on Thursday.

 “Yes, these friendly whale sharks are spending Yuletide season this year in Sorsogon. As per advise by the local government unit of Donsol, spearheaded by mayor Josephine Alcantara-Cruz and in partnership with the provincial government, the butanding season is officially on and open,” Sorsogon governor Bobet Lee-Rodrigueza said.

In a report by Nino Luces for Manila Bulletin, Lee-Rodrigueza added that the whale shark sightings have already started almost a month ago.

The whale sharks are appearing earlier than expected compared to previous years, where most ‘butandings’ were seen between January to June.

“Nagbago ngayon ‘yung sightings ng butanding, siguro dala na rin ng climate change. Pero kahit ano pa man yan, we have to take advantage of it kasi ito yung isa sa mga bumubuhay sa ating probinsiya,” Lee-Rodrigueza said.

A Tourist Favorite

Most tourists go all the way to Oslob, Cebu to meet the famous butandings, but little did they know, these friendly giants could also be visited at Donsol, Sorsogon.

You could take a long drive, ride a bus going or buy a plane ticket to Bicol to meet them.

Donsol’s Butanding Interaction office allows 30 boats with six passengers each at a time accompanied by four to five experts from the Butanding Interaction Officers.

You get to have an awesome and life-changing three hours with the whale sharks.

But why do tourists really go miles to see them?

Whale Sharks Facts 101

1. They are the largest fish in the sea as they reach more than 40 feet in length.

2. Most whale sharks have a gray to brownish color with white spots. It’s head is flat with a blunt snout above its mouth.

3. In order to eat, these sharks’ mouth opens wide and filters everything in its way while swimming close to the water’s surface.

4. Their favorite food is plankton, which leads the whale sharks to swim near the Ningaloo Reef, which has an abundant supply of it.

Though many spots in the country allow tourists to swim with the whale sharks or hitch a ride, the butandings are still listed as a vulnerable species.

National Geographic reported that these magnificent beasts are still hunted in some parts of Asia – including the Philippines.