Why did we go to Donsol yesterday?
When you enter Vitton Beach Resort, you will see immediately the reason, why most tourists come to Donsol, Sorsogon. 😀
No idea what that is? That´s a whale shark. Not a real one of course. But Donsol, in the region of Sorsogon is famous for its whale shark sightings.
Swimming with Whale Sharks was featured as the Best Animal Encounter in Asia by Time Magazine in 2004.
The Whale Shark season is from November to June peaking between February and May. Every year in this period the Whale Sharks come to Donsol Bay and stay there around 6 months to eat rich nutrients coming out of Donsol River.
What is so special about Whale Sharks?
The Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the world. It can get up to 12 metres long. It is not really dangerous to humans as long as you comply with the instructions given by the staff of the boat. Whale Sharks belong to the group of endangered animals. So who knows, if we will be able to watch them in the far future.
Whale Shark Interaction Donsol
The tours offered are only snorkelling trips, To get there you need to go to Donsol Tourist Center. As we arrived late the day before, we don´t really know this location and ask the hotel staff. They advise us, it is right next to the Hotel. And indeed: Only 400m walk from our hotel and we are there. 😀
The best time to see some whale sharks is in the morning hours.
When you enter from the main road, you pass some souvenir shops and equipment rentals.
The first thing you need to do is register at the counter and pay the fees:
- general fee 300 (foreigner), 200 Php (Filipinos)
- fee for boat 4500 Php
4500 Php sounds expensive, but the boat can be shared between 7 passengers and the duration of the interaction is 4 hours. So well worth the money.
Luckily we found another 3 guys who were willing to share the boat with us.
After that you need to get some equipment:
- snorkeling mask and snorkel
The fins are very important, as you have to swim fast, if you want to enjoy the whale sharks. There is a small fee for the equipment rental.
Life Vests are provided on board the bancas, for those who do not feel safe to swim without.
We also bought some water in the souvenir shops.
After the registration process and getting your equipment, you have to watch an induction video. The do´s and dont´s are explained as well as some history about the whale shark.
Only a certain number of boats is allowed to sail at the same time. A lot is done, not to disturb these giants. We like that.
Let´s go and look for some whale sharks.
We are quite excited, as the staff tell us to board the boat.
On the boat we are accompanied by a look out. His job is to find the whale sharks.
From up there he will see the shadow of a whale shark once it is passing by. Usually they swim only a few metres below the surface.
There is another staff called the BIO, the Butanding Interaction Officer. Butanding is how the locals call the whale shark. He will give you commands and joins you into the water to give you directions. So there is absolutely no need to worry. We feel taken care of well. If you get into distress, the BIO will be there for you.
The BIO will give you the command to get ready.
That means, put your mask on, put your fins on and sit on the railing ready to jump.
When he says jump, then you need to jump into the water immediately, locate the whale shark and swim as fast as possible. The whale sharks are not sitting still in the water and wait for you. So you have to swim after them, which is almost impossible without the fins.
There is some traffic today, but not too much.
We were a bit worried, as other tourists from the hotel have told us, they had not seen a single whale shark for one week.
You need to be aware of that before you come to Donsol: There is no guarantee that you see one. But the chances are quite high!
We were lucky as it takes only 5 minutes of cruising as we hear the BIO shouting “juuuuuuuuuump”.
So we jump. 2 metres away from us we see this little sweetheart.
In total we see 4 giant whale sharks. Amazing. You can´t describe the feeling when you are only 2 metres away from the biggest fish on this planet.
We made a small video about this day. Enjoy. 😀
Within 3 hours we see 4 Whale Sharks. After number 4 they seem to be gone. We can´t find any more so we decide to go swimming and do some snorkeling.
After the 4 hours Whale Shark Interaction tour, we are happy and tired. It is quite exhausting chasing these animals over 3 hours.
We go to our room and enjoy this beautiful sunset after a refreshing shower.
Donsol in the evening
As the food in the hotel is quite adjusted to westeners´taste, we decide to have our dinner in Donsol Town. We read in Tripadvisor about a restaurant called Zoeylicious.
In order to get to Donsol town, just take a Tricycle which will cost around 50 Php. Donsol town looks very busy, as a lot of people are in the streets. Although we don´t see many tourists.
After strolling around for a while, we head to Zoeylicious Restaurant and enjoy a great dinner.
Pancit. We love it. For this and a few drinks, we pay around 500 Php. In the hotel we wouldn´t get that much food for this price. 😀
How to get to Donsol
The day before, we went from Caramoan to Legazpi, where we enjoyed an ATV Tour to the stunning volcano Mayon and then travelled on the same day to Donsol.
- From Manila or Cebu take the plane to Legazpi.
- from Legazpi it is best to take a mini van to Donsol. It will take ca. 1 hour van drive.
- if you come from Naga City, take a van to Legazpi and then further to Donsol
Things to consider
There is only one ATM in Donsol town. You need to pay the hotel room in Vitton Beach Resort and the Whale Shark Interaction with cash. So make sure you get enough. Also be aware that this only ATM can be out of service. So to avoid any trouble, get enough cash latest in Legazpi.
A day full of great new experiences. If you are in Bicol, check out Donsol. It is worth it.