Biggest Secret in the Philippines
Located in the center of the Philippines, Masbate Island is one of the best kept secrets in the Philippines. The amazing, gentle giants of Ticao Pass and Donsol.
From December to May each year Whale Sharks gather to feed on the rich, plankton filled waters of Ticao, Masbate. It represents the best opportunity in the world to swim or snorkel with Whale Sharks and Manta Bowl. On average we have been see 15 sharks a day, with the most spotted being 26 in one
Whale Sharks migrate to Donsol waters in vast numbers to take advantage of the dense food concentration. Donsol is the seasonal feeding ground for Whale Sharks, giving scientists and
conservationists the opportunity to research on these endangered species. The discovery of the Whale Sharks in Donsol has also promoted interactional tours. Grab the chance to swim alongside these gentle giants!
Whales sharks, "Butanding" are known to reach lengths up to 18 meters (approximately 60 feet), weigh up to 40 tons, and live up to 100 years.
Feeding and Diet
Whale sharks are filter feeders, typically feeding on plankton, krill small fish, squid, and invertebrate larvae. Their huge mouth (up to 2m across)
is lined with thousands of tiny teeth, which are not used for chewing nor biting. Large volumes of water are sucked into the mouth where the food is
retained in the gill rakers Water is eventually released through their gill slits. Its diet being varied and its food only flourishing in healthy
conditions, the whale shark acts an indicator of the general health of the sea.
Whale Shark Sanctuary
Donsol neighboring province to the south, Ticao, is
host to one of the highest concentration of Whale Sharks
in the world. These creatures have been frequenting
the waters off Donsol, Sorsogon for generations and
in 1998, the Philippine Department of Tourism declared
this area an official sanctuary for the Whale Shark,
thus protected this fascinating species. These gentle
giants arrive from as early as November but the official
season starts from February and runs until end of May,
where the sea of Donsol is at its clearest and calmest.
Local tourism officials and professional divers have
established guidelines on proper whale shark watching
intended to maintain safety and to defend the creatures
from over exploitation.
Manta Bowl In Ticao Island
Dive the spectacular Manta Bowl
MANTA BOWL is the Manta Ray capital of the Philippines, the habitat of the world’s biggest ray. Ticao Pass, Masbate Island has one of the world’s highest
concentration of plankton due to the strong currents from San Bernardino Strait. These currents push large groups of plankton and other organisms to
gather in the area, making this an ideal cleaning and feeding station for the Manta Ray. The Pass is the deep sea “big-boys’-alley” which also attracts Whale Sharks, Hammerheads, Tresher Sharks, and other pelagics.
MANTA RAYS (Manta Birostris) are the largest and most harmless rays in the world, found mostly in tropical warm waters. The Manta Ray's cousin, the
Sting Ray, has a reputation world wide to be dangerous because of the stinging spine on their tail used for defense. The Manta Ray, however, does not
have a stinging spine, instead they have a short tail which is simply part of its biological design, but not used for any defensive purpose. In fact,
Manta Rays are known to be extremely curious animals often approach and solicit the attention of divers, but never known to attack. Their intelligence
is often attributed to their high ratio of brain weight to their body weight. They are believed to be one of the smarter sea creatures, although their
intelligence has not yet been actively explored.
Rays are a flattened type of fish, which is believed to have evolved from sharks. They are dark brown to black on top and are mostly white underneath.
Like sharks, Rays do not have bones in their body. Instead, a Ray's body is composed of hard cartilage. The Manta Ray, being the largest of its
species, can grow up to 9 meters (29.5 feet) wide and weigh around 3 tons (1350 kg). The average width of a manta is approximately 6.7 meters (22 feet) and 1.2 tons (540 kg).
Manta Rays are graceful and powerful swimmers. They come by several names world wide including Pacific Ray, Devil Ray, Devil Fish, or just plain Manta.
They move by flapping their pectoral fins. The enormity of their pectoral fins allow them to swim rather fast and provide enough power to make them leap out of the water, often causing a large and loud splash when they re-enter the ocean.
Why the Mantas in Ticao
Ticao is an ideal feeding and cleaning station for Manta Rays, especially from December to May.
The Manta does not have any teeth. To eat, they funnel their food into their mouth while they swim, using their two large, flap-like cephalic lobes
which extend forward from their eyes. Manta Rays feed on microscopic plankton, small fish, and tiny crustaceans. The strong current from the San Bernardino Straight from December to May makes Donsol an ideal feeding center for the Manta.
Given their size, it is a challenge for the Manta Ray to clean itself. The Manta relies on wrasse like Remora fish to remove small parasites from their skin and gill cavities.
Because of the Donsol's water conditions, the needed wrasse are abundant, making Donsol not only a Manta feeding center, but also a Manta cleaning station.