Swimming with whale sharks tops most bucket lists. There are only a few destinations around the world that offer this one-of-a-kind experience, though, and the Philippines happens to be one of the places in Asia that does, specifically Donsol.
Donsol is a premier tourist destination and should not be passed up when you explore the beautiful islands of the Philippines. What’s particularly special about Donsol is that it offers you the RIGHT way to swim with the whale sharks (or butanding, as they are called locally).
Unlike in Oslob, Cebu where the whale sharks are fed and stay in a definite place (which alters their natural behaviour and consequently their ability to reproduce), Donsol allows you to search for them in the wild before jumping in to interact with these gentle giants.
Donsol is supported by he World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) with its ethical approach to respecting the nature of the whale sharks.
The first step to start your whale watching experience is to go to the Donsol Tourism Centre where you fill out forms and pay for boat fees, rent gear, get briefed and watch a video on the correct way of interacting with the whale sharks. Boat rental is Php3,500 (6 people per boat are allowed), registration fees range from Php100 – Php300 (local/foreigner), and mask-snorkel-fins cost Php300.
Experiencing this will just blow you away. Our 7-year-old kids were also able to jump in the water and watch the butandings. The Butanding Interaction Officers (BIO) only takes 3 people at a time from the boat into the water to ensure it doesn’t get overcrowded and so they get to watch over you properly. If you’re scared that you can’t swim that well, that’s totally fine because floaters/buoys are provided for you to hang onto. All you have to do from there is look down when the B.I.O. says so. I’m so happy the kids were able to take away precious memories in their young minds with the interaction.
Because there was a sense of search first, finding the first butanding made everything even more exciting. We were able to interact with 3 different whale sharks on our hour-long boat trip. Take note that the best months to go swimming with the whale sharks are from December to May.
Here’s a little homemade clip to document it :
A more professional one :
And if you’re looking for comfortable place that will give you value for your money in Donsol, check in at the cozy Vitton and Woodland Beach Resorts.
How to get to get to Donsol.
Take a Manila to Legaspi flight – 50 min.
Take a van from Legaspi to your stay in Donsol – 1 hour 3 minutes
Bus / Car :
Manila to Donsol – 11-12 hours
A little on the side adventures would be the firefly watching at the nearby river (a rare sight for this generation) and the beautifully symmetrical Mount Mayon (one of the worlds most perfect volcano) with a taste of chili ice cream at the Cagsawa ruins about 2 hours away from Donsol.
What are you waiting for? Schedule a trip to Donsol between December to May, start ticking this off your bucket list and discover that there’s so much to fall in love with in this beautiful country.