If you’re from Luzon, you don’t have to go as far as Oslob, Cebu to see the majestic gentle giants of the sea. It’s the season of whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon!
Sorsogon is located at the southernmost part of Bicol. There are different bus lines that travel directly to Sorsogon such as DLTB, Isarog Bus Line, RSL, etc. Bus fare ranges from P600 – P1200. You can also opt to take a plane to Legazpi, Albay and travel another couple of hours to Sorsogon via van commute.
Whale sharks are considered as the world’s largest living fish in the sea. They could grow as long as 12 meters and as heavy as 21 tons. Their big mouth can open as wide as 4 feet. They are the only shark species which feed on planktons. They also feed on nektonic prey such as small crustaceans and small fish or squid.
During the months of January to June, whale sharks appear in the area of Donsol, Sorsogon for feeding. The peak season of the whale shark interaction is between March to May. This is when they get the highest assurance of whale shark sighting. However, there’s never a 100% guarantee that you will see a whale shark on your trip because the interaction takes place on their natural habitat and their behavior could still get unpredictable.
Donsol’s Butanding Interaction Office only allows 30 boats at a time carrying 6 passengers per boat. The passengers will be accompanied by 4-5 Butanding Interaction Officers (BIO) per boat. They can release up to 4 batches of boats depending on the surge of tourists. Each batch have a 3-hour limit for interaction. The first batch of boats that go for butanding interaction leave around 7am or earlier.
You will need a snorkeling gear during interaction. Wearing fins is also recommended so you can swim easier and faster. You can rent these from the stores near the Butanding Interaction Office. Make sure you also wear sunblock for protection as you will be staying under the sun for a long period of time during the interaction.
On the boat ride going to the spot for butandings, the boatmen will give you a briefing of what will happen during the interaction. You have to be alert as things happen pretty fast when there is a butanding on sight. You have to jump in the water and swim fast in order to catch up.
The most important thing is to listen to the kuya BIOs for instructions and to always stay calm and do not panic. If you’re not a good swimmer, there are life vests available so you can just safely float around while chasing whale sharks. Staying in the boat is okay too. You can enjoy the sights of butandings whenever they pass by the areas of your boat. You can still see them from above as they swim very shallow (1-2 meters below the surface) and waters are clear.
You will forget the long travel and waiting once you finally see the butanding. The excitement starts when kuya BIO finally shouts “Talon!”. After jumping on the waters, you have to swim fast towards the direction where the butanding is headed. Once kuya BIO shouts “Tingin!”, you know it’s about to get real.
My first sight of the whale shark felt crazy. I’ve read about this animal lots of times before but I still fell on complete awestruck when I saw one alive in front of me. It was gigantic. It looks vicious yet it was calm, gently swimming on its natural habitat.
This is how close we got to the butanding! Still no touching though!
Look at those huge gills!
The whale shark we met got a wounded fin.
Swimming with whale sharks is surely an exciting experience you shouldn’t miss! The Philippines is truly blessed for having an abundance of natural wonders. It is our duty to take care of this wealth in order to sustain the lives of the beautiful things brought about by nature. Let’s all practice responsible tourism whenever we visit the natural wonders of the country.
Come and visit the butandings in Donsol, Sorsogon and see for yourself the majestic gentle giants in their natural habitat. Book your trip with Weekend in Bicol Travel and Tours for your fun and convenient trip to Bicol!
Weekend in Bicol Travel and Tours
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