30 May – 2 June 2009

We have not been back to Donsol in six years, and the many tight, long hugs we received were enough proof that we had left good friends there. It was truly a heart-warming “Welcome Back Home.”

But Donsol has changed. It has bloomed. We were generously welcomed to a brand new hotel in town called Giddy’s Place

Giddy's Place in Donsol town with modern facilities that didn't exist until now

Giddy’s Place in Donsol town with modern facilities that didn’t exist until now

and it boasted of having the town’s very first restaurant and bar,

We used to rely on the 24 hour Franklin Burger in town. Now there's a full fledged restaurant and bar in Donsol at Giddy's Place!

We used to rely on the 24 hour Franklin Burger in town. Now there’s a full fledged restaurant and bar in Donsol at Giddy’s Place!

not to mention WiFi and credit card facilities! The tourism office, too, and the surrounding resorts simply astounded us. In six years, they sprouted like mung beans, and we didn’t recognize the place anymore. But it was good to know our beloved Woodland Resort was still alive and well, run by the same people who called us their own.

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca minimizes his carbon footprint by biking to work with his mask, fins and snorkel

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca minimizes his carbon footprint by biking to work with his mask, fins, and snorkel

It was raining when we got there. Our two weeks of “office” work Manila had blue skies and sunshine. We felt the climate changed to make sure we got rained on every time we needed sunshine, and have sunshine every time we didn’t need it! This felt like a personal affront to Yogi, or so he thought, but we had to make the best of it.

Elson takes a photo of the left pectoral fin of a passing whale shark for Photo Identification

WWF’s Elson Aca takes a photo of the left pectoral fin of a passing whale shark for Photo Identification

Why are whale sharks in Donsol seemingly growing in numbers year after year? WWF Philippines researchers take pictures of the left pectoral fin of each whale shark, and Photo ID is recorded and submitted to ECOCEAN or www.whaleshark.org. The following three-year summary of whale sharks in Donsol was recorded.

  • 2007 – 70+ individuals with 13 re-sights and one staying 65 days
  • 2008 – 110+ individuals with 50 re-sights and one staying 120 days
  • 2009 – 160+ individuals with almost 100 re-sights and one staying 138 days
Feeding whale shark with wide open mouth and snorkeler

Feeding whale shark with wide open mouth and snorkeler

If we follow their food, we may learn more about whale sharks and why they like to keep coming back to Donsol. We were really happy to find out about WWF Philippines efforts to collect and study microscopic plankton within Donsol Bay. The biggest fish in the world eats the tiniest living organism in the ocean. Fascinating!

WWF volunteer biologist Jaymar Galag and Elson Aca collect whale shark food samples with a plankton net

WWF volunteer biologist Jaymar Galag with Elson collecting whale shark food samples with a plankton net

Jose Buella Jr. transfers plankton samples into a bottle

WWF volunteer Jose Buella Jr. transfers plankton samples into a bottle

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca leads a group of local stakeholders in finding out more about whale sharks in Donsol. His volunteers Jaymar Galag, a cum laude biology graduate from Partido State University in Goa, Camarines Sur, and Jose Buella Jr., a fisheries graduate from Bicol University, Tabaco, Albay help out in the photo ID and in finding out what is in the whale sharks’s menu all around the bay.  Sometimes a BIO will come and help out in the photo identification.

WWF Research Coordinator Elson Aca checks a crustacean zooplankton with a microscope

Elson checks a crustacean zooplankton with a microscope

So what whale shark food does the bay contain? Here’s what our WWF boys found out:

Donsol Bay has three (3) major groups of Zooplanktons:

Donsol Bay has four (4) major groups of Phytoplanktons:

Elson with Grade 1 students of Donsol East Central School and Giant Panda, of course

It was the first day of school, and the Grade 1 students of Donsol East Central School were treated to a “Welcome Back to School” by Tandy, WWF Philippines adorable Butanding whale shark mascot.

The Freund Factory with their longtime friends, the Butanding Interaction Officers of Donsol

The Freund Factory and Elson Aca with the Butanding Interaction Officers or BIOs of Donsol

One of the murals during the 2009 Donsol Butanding Festival. A sign of hope don't you think?

One of the murals during the 2009 Donsol Butanding Festival.  A good sign of hope for the whale sharks, don’t you think?