Until the ‘discovery’ of whale sharks off the coast in 1998, Donsol, southwest of Legaspi, was a sleepy fishing village in one of Sorsogon’s more remote areas. In 1998 a local diver shot a video of the whale sharks and a newspaper carried a story about Donsol’s gentle butanding. Since then Donsol has become one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist locations. Donsol is a third class municipality in the province of Sorsogon, Philippines located at the south of Luzon island.
It is one of the few places in the world that can offer an almost assured whale shark sightings within the season. From month of November through June whale sharks converge in the Donsol bay and stay for 6 to 7 months feeding on the rich nutrients coming out of the mouth of the Donsol River. It’s truly an exhilarating experience swimming along with these huge creatures. You need to be a decent snorkeler and in relatively good shape to keep up with the sharks. In the peak months of February to May, on a good day you’ll see 10 to 15.
It is strictly a snorkelling activity and only snorkelling equipment is allowed; scuba diving is prohibited. There is a limited supply of snorkelling equipment available for rent at the visitor’s center for $8 per session.
Before heading out to see the sharks, stop in at the visitor’s center, 2 km north of the Donsol River bridge. The visitor’s center can arrange a boat good for seven people, a spotter and a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO). The boat and spotter costs approx. $80; the BIO costs $8. Most boats now leave from the beach in front of the visitor’s center. Be sure to tip the crew, especially if you’ve had a good day. It’s not a bad idea to call and reserve a boat in advance.