Lagen Island Resort Environmental Officer Kring Soriano tells of how she finally got to see a whale shark in the wild. The kicker: it was just in front of Lagen Island Resort!
Last December 28, 2011, Ayn Catalan (our Human Resources Asst. Manager) told us during our morning briefing that they saw a whale shark while they were crossing the bay from Miniloc to Lagen. I envied her.
A day after that, the staff reported sightings of a whale shark just in front of Lagen Island Resort. They were all so happy and hyped. I envied them. They asked me for information on the whale shark so that they had something to share to the guests. I shared this with them the next morning:
Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are locally called butanding. Though they may look like whales, they are sharks belonging to the Elasmobranch family. They’re called “whale sharks” because of their filter-feeding habits (like the baleen whales) and gigantic sizes. They’re the largest living species of fish in the world, reaching an average length of 9.7 meters and weighing as much as 9 tons. The largest recorded whale shark was 12.65 meters and 21.5 tons! As whale sharks are fish (and not mammals), they have gills that allow them to breathe underwater. They can dive as deep as 700 meters but because they feed on macroalgae, plankton, and krill, they may also be found on the surface.
Before sunset yesterday, Jolly Gomez (our Guest Activities and Marine Sports Supervisor) led a monitoring team, asking the bangka [small outrigger boat] boys to report if they spot the whale shark. They were in luck – the whale shark was in its usual spot near the buoys just in front of the resort! The guests and staff rode speedboats to get closer to the shark. Unfortunately, I wasn’t near the area. Again, I didn’t get to see the shark. I just heard their stories of happiness and excitement. I envied them all.
December 31, 2011. I was sleeping soundly on the last day of 2011. My phone rings – Mervin [LIR Resort Engineer] was calling me. I grudgingly answer the phone.
“Mervs? Ano ba? Six AM pa lang…” (“Mervs, what is it? It’s only 6am.”)
The four words I hear through the receiver make my eyes pop open and my body shoot up from the bed:
“TATLONG BUTANDING. NASA HARAP!” (“Three whale sharks! In front!”)
I immediately rushed to the toilet, brushed my teeth, and changed from my pajamas. I ran from the staffhouse to the office, grabbed a camera, then continued running to the arrival area. By the time I arrived at the dock, there was only one butanding left. The other whale sharks might have found my running too slow. We rode a speedboat to get a better view and there it was!!!!!!!! Right in front of me!!! A 4.5 meter whale shark!!! I’ve seen whale sharks before, but not in the wild. We have annual sightings, especially during plankton season, but it was my first time to see one in the wild!!
Good thing I remembered to grab the camera and take photos and videos! I texted the Environment girls and told them that we had some great footage for our next Enchanting El Nido episode. They envied me. 😀
Truly, a FANTASTIC way to end the year! Thank you 2011, Hello 2012! 😀Kring Soriano.
- Creature feature: whale shark (elnidoenvironment.wordpress.com)