the Philippines


Manila, Luzon




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The whale shark

 Meet the biggest fish in the world!

Do you want to meet the biggest fish in the world, a shark which can grow up to 9 meters in length? The Philippines is one of the countries where there is the possibility to arrange such a meeting!

Meeting whale sharks in the underwater-world became an attraction for many divers In the nearby seas of the

south-eastern part of Luzon.

Characteristic features of the whale shark

Not dangerous for human beings

Whale sharks live in tropical, warm waters all around the world. For eating, they swim quite near  the water surface.

Whale sharks are not dangerous for human beings, on the contrary. Though their mouth  is about 1,5  meter wide, the opening to the stomach is very small. So, they are not able to swallow a human body. Whale sharks only live on plankton and krill.

Length and weight

When they have a length of 4,5 meters, the weight is about 750 kg. The maximum length of a grownup whale shark is 13-14 meters. The whale shark then has a weight of approximately 1500 kilograms.


The "Butanding", a lucrative business

For the local tourist businessmen in the village of Donsol in the south-eastern part of Luzon, the possibility to arrange eco-tours to the whale sharks became a good opportunity to set up businesses. The local tourism council has set up already  whale shark interaction tours, which includes swimming with the butanding, the local name for whale shark.

Dive vessels bring the eco-tourists to the locations. Especially the period between the months of January and June, the time when the spotted giants usually appear,  is the best period to make a chance to meet the whale sharks.

Whale Shark

December - January the best period

December and January are the peak months, when warm streams bring plankton close to the shore. But even in this period, there is no guarantee that you can meet the Butanding. The swimming area of the whale sharks is wide and stretches out over a wide territory in the sea. Whale shark spotters, fishermen who try to  make some money by offering their services to the tourists, will give you a good chance to see and meet the whale sharks. However, spotters are still no guarantee.

Threats in the past

Not so long ago, the fishermen of the village of Donsol were hunting for the whale sharks. It was a period of diminishing the whale shark population. Catching this huge fish was rather easy, because the whale shark is slow and docile, making itself an easy target.

World Wildlife Fund

Happily, fishermen discovered that whale shark tourism makes good business. The World Wildlife Fund started learning  local fishermen how to get tourists close to whale sharks and showed the fishermen the way how to shift livelihoods to become tour operators or "spotters", capable to look out for the whale sharks.



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Pictures: taken by members of the

Whale Shark research Group  Copyright 1999 Whale Shark Research Group, inc

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