The quiet town of Donsol in Sorsogon offers a one-of-a-kind experience: whale shark watching activity. This includes going on a boat tour and then looking for whale sharks in the wild where you have the opportunity to see them up-close and swim with them in the water.
Currently, Donsol is the best place in the Philippines to see whale sharks. Whale sharks are called butandings by the locals. They visit Donsol Bay, which is teeming with fish and krill, to feed and breed on certain months. The whale sharks here are estimated to be 4-12 meters in length.
In contrast to that in Oslob (Cebu), the whale shark activity in Donsol is sustainable. The whale sharks are not fed by humans and the local guides are trained to only spot them on the wild and oversee that the tourists keep a reasonable distance.
Below you can find everything you need to know about whale shark watching in Donsol, Sorsogon!
How to Get to Donsol
From Manila, there are 2 ways to get to Donsol (Sorsogon):
- Take a local flight to Legazpi Airport.
- From the airport, ride a tricycle to the shuttle terminal which is 5 minutes away. Fare is around P80 per ride.
- Finally, ride a van to Donsol. Fare is P80 per person. Travel time is 1-1.5 hour.
- From Manila, ride a bus bound for Donsol. Fare is about P700 per person. Travel time is 11-12 hours.
When Is the Best Time to Visit
Whale shark season runs from November to June, when there is high plankton density in the ocean. However, the best months to see the whale sharks are February to May.
How to Book a Boat Tour
From Donsol, head to the visitor center for registration. The staff will assign you with boats. Most resorts & dive centers also offer whale shark tour packages.
Here are the current rates for the whale shark activity:
- Registration fee – P300 per person (valid for 5 days)
- Boat rental – P3500 (good up to 6 people)
You can pay the full boat fee or share with other tourists to reduce cost.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Lifevest and snorkeling gear are provided. If you want your own snorkeling set, you can buy from the stores located near the visitor center.
- Before the tour starts, you need to watch an educational video about the whale sharks, which includes rules about interaction.
- There are 3 schedules daily: 7:30AM, 10:30AM, and 1:30PM. The last schedule may be cancelled if there are not enough tourists. The whole activity lasts 3 hours.
Guidelines on Whale Shark Activity
Here are the guidelines for the whale shark interaction:
- Do not touch the whale sharks.
- Keep a distance of 3 meters from the tail. (If the visibility is low, tourists are allowed to get closer.)
- No flash photography.
- No scuba scooters, jet skis, or other motorized underwater propellers.
- A maximum of 6 snorkelers per whale shark. Only one boat per whale shark.
What to Expect in the Tour
You will hop on a boat along with other tourists and cruise around the bays in search of whale sharks. You don’t need to worry about this, there is a designated guide called the spotter who will continuously look out for whale sharks in the water. Once the spotter sees a whale shark, he will yell at you to jump — in which case you need to jump in the water right away.
This is an adrenaline-pumping activity as you can swim with the whale sharks and take amazing photos. Just make sure to respect their space and do not get too close. Whale sharks are friendly to humans and won’t mind your presence.
Reminders and Tips
Here are some reminders and tips about whale shark watching in Donsol:
- Book the early schedule. Especially if you go during high season.
- The whale shark tour is strictly a snorkeling activity. Diving is not allowed in Donsol Bay for safety since there are constant moving boats and snorkelers in the area.
- Sightings are never guaranteed. It’s best to allot 2 days for the activity, so even if there are no sightings on the first day, you can have another go the following day. If booking with a resort or dive center, choose one who can give you updates on recent sightings before your trip.
- Manage your expectations. There is a limit on the number of boats & tourists per whale shark but it isn’t always followed especially when there are limited sightings. As per other tourists, it can get pretty chaotic.
- This activity is best suited for good swimmers. Whale sharks are quick so if you’re not a good swimmer, you might not be able to keep up. If you’re on a private boat, your guide may pull you in a float.
Where to Stay in Donsol
You can find different types of accommodations in Donsol. There are hotels & homestays in the town proper and resorts along the beach. Take note that some resorts are only open during whale shark season.
Here are some recommended ones:
Other Things to Do in Donsol
Whale shark watching is the main activity in Donsol, but there are other things you can do here as well.
- Scuba diving. You can scuba dive to Manta Bowl Shoal in Ticao Island located about 1.5 hours away to see manta rays and different species of sharks. Diving is open all-year-round.
- Kayaking and firefly watching. If you’re looking for a relaxing activity, try going on a boat tour in Donsol River or Ogod River to see fireflies at night.
- Enjoy seafood meals. Donsol is a fishing village, so take this opportunity to eat fresh seafood cooked the Bicolano way.
- Explore the rest of Sorsogon Province. You can go island hopping in Matnog, kayaking in Bulusan Lake, surfing, and more. Here’s a list of Top Things to Do in Sorsogon.
- Take a day trip to other nearby tourist spots. Head to Albay to visit the Cagsawa Ruins which offers a wonderful view of Mount Mayon or Quitinday Underground River which offers spelunking and cliff jumping activities. You can also go island hopping in Tabaco or Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur.
Here are some useful contact information:
- Donsol Tourism Office – Facebook
Has this Guide on Whale Shark Watching in Donsol, Sorsogon, been helpful to you? If you’ve been here, share your experiences below!
What to read next:
Here are our guides about Sorsogon:
- Travel Guide to Sorsogon
- Top Things to Do in Sorsogon
- Island Hopping in Matnog, Sorsogon
- Whale shark watching in Donsol, Sorsogon
Other related posts:
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).