Sunday, March 20, 2011

[DONSOL] Shake It Like a Backup Dancer

The Whale Shark or Butanding, as referred to by the locals, is considered as the world’s largest fish, which means that it is really a shark, not a whale. Otherwise, it would be called Shark Whale (does not sound as dramatic) and would lose its claim to fame to the Blue Whale. Donsol is a municipality in Sorsogon, part of the Bicol region, where these sharks converge. The primary reason as to why they choose Donsol is still debatable, although experts sort of agree that it is because of the rich concentration of plankton in the area. Yes, they eat plankton, not people. This means that it is safe to swim with them, unless you look like plankton, or they accidentally swallow you, even though no such case has ever been reported before.

The plane ride from Manila to Legazpi was fast but not without drama. Suffice it to say that we landed on time and by 7:15 AM I was already in a van headed to Donsol. It was a pity to arrive in Legazpi only to leave at once, especially with the beautiful Mount Mayon stalking you in the background. However, I came to Bicol to have an under the sea excursion with my whale sharks buddies. Mount Mayon is going to have to wait. But I did not have to because the van was almost full when I arrived at the Central Bus Terminal. It did not take ten minutes before we hit the road.

We arrived in Donsol at around quarter past eight. The woman at the tourist information center asked us to fill out a form and pay a 100-peso registration fee. The price is higher for foreigners. She informed us about the cost of the boat and how it would be shared by a maximum of six people. She said that the first batch of 30 boats have already been dispatched and that we were to be included in the second batch from 10 AM onwards.

As of that moment, there were only me and a Danish couple grouped on the same boat. We had to wait for three more, which did not seem to be much of a problem since the tourism office was teeming with people. Evacuation center much. 30 boats with 7 people each. Oops, I forgot that Math hates me. Needless to say, a lot of people! By the way, you have to watch an eight-minute video before you go to sea.

I decided to eat breakfast first and buy a disposable underwater camera. The disposable camera cost 750 pesos, a bit steep for 27 shots to be used only once. You could avoid this tourist trap and buy one while still in the city. Documentation is important! You have come all this way to dive with these gentle giants and you would not even have a souvenir photo? Come on. I ended up not having one either. HAHAHA!

Our time finally came at 10:30 AM when we joined the other boats already at sea. It would have been nice if the weather cooperated but the sun was acting like a total bitch and the clouds would not stop crying. So there we were, wet and shivering on a boat without a whale shark in sight. When one was finally spotted, my five companions and the BIO jumped. I decided not to follow them because I was shaking madly like a backup dancer in a Shakira music video. Damn rain.

The heavens stopped weeping on the second sighting. I told myself, "This time I would jump with them!" The BIO's instruction was clear: Hold on to the life buoy. I gave him the disposable camera and asked him to take as many pictures of the Butanding as he could. Never mind me. And then we jumped.
[DONSOL] Shake It Like a Backup Dancer
[DONSOL] Drowning in Glee

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