So there was no Butanding (Whale Shark).
It turned out these migratory mammals have changed their course this year maybe because of climate change as what the tourist guides are saying, or maybe because the butandings got scared out of their wits with the flock of people always searching for and sometimes mishandling them.
But none is more disappointing than the system that the tourism office has in Donsol. I want to shake their shoulders and wake them all up but all I was able to manage was to shake my head time and time again for almost 5 hours.
When we got here last Saturday, we went to their office to pre-register for the whale shark watching for the following day. It seemed organized. They gave us a piece of paper where we wrote our details and were advised to come back the following day at 10 as the first batch, which leaves by 7 AM, is already full. The first batch is composed of 30 boats with 6 persons inside each. That’s 180 persons hunting for Butanding per batch! 10 AM is not a likable time as it is extremely hot by then but what can we do?
So fast forward to the following day. We got there around 9:45 AM and when we asked the staff what is our boat number, she said there are no more boats for 10 AM. If we want we can wait until 1 PM because the number of boats for the second batch has reached more than 50 and they cannot accommodate everybody at 10 AM! ARE THEY CRAZY?!
They just told us the day before that we can go by 10 and then suddenly they are saying there are no boats! They said they didn’t see that there was a big group which pre-booked that day. Is that our fault? ARE THEY CRAZY?!
We got so demanding together with the other guests who were promised the same thing yesterday but were also disappointed. Still, nothing happened. After almost 30 minutes of heated discussion with the staff, they gave us boat number 50 (BOAT NUMBER 50!!!!). We got to leave the shore at 2:30 PM (2:30 PM!!!!!), a very nice time when all the whale sharks have eaten all the planktons they need for the day and are now having their siestas in the deepest and farthest part of the sea, away from the mayhem of the Donsol tourism office.
It was almost 5 PM and our boatmen and spotters are spent and tired. They haven’t eaten anything since they went out at 7 AM for the first batch, they said. They were very apologetic about us not finding a whale shark in that three hours of coursing the sea but I know it’s not their fault. They did their best.
Am I coming back to try another shot with the Butandings? Heck yes. In Donsol? Heck NO! Oslob sounds more promising as my friends were able to really see and interact with them.
I hope the Donsol Tourism Office shape up and fix their system. They badly need a consultant to advise, manage and implement a more efficient way of doing things.
And I hope they also do something to really protect their whale sharks. I have heard some unfairytale stories.
Donsol’s name popped out in the map and gave livelihood to their people for several years because of these gentle giants. The villagers have to do something to keep it that way lest they will know what will happen.
And to conclude what a frustrating day we had, let me share what I eavesdropped from one of complaining foreigner tourists who has been there the same time as us,
“I don’t understand it. Why can’t you give us an expected time on when we can leave? You have 30 boats that leave every 3 hours. The first batch leaves at 7 AM, the second batch at 10 AM and the third batch at 1 PM. So what time can we leave?! We have booked this tour 5 weeks ago and you are telling us now that there is no boat?! I don’t understand it. I really don’t understand it.”
I can totally understand her.
I was in that office as well to complain and follow up our boat but I got so amused watching the dynamics of the tourism officer and the complaining foreigner tourist. The antibacterial hand sanitizer I got for free from one dive expo in Singapore was dangling near the complaining guest. I have to snatch it away and cover it with my hands.
This time, it is really not.