Swim along with the Gentle Giants of Donsol

Donsol is located in the Province of Sorsogon, in the Bicol Region of the island of Luzon, Philippines. The town’s population is traditionally engaged in fishing and agricultural activity.

The Butanding
Whale shark interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon
Whale sharks, known locally in Bicol as “butanding” are known to grow to lengths of up to 18m, weigh up to 40 tons and live up to 100 years, thus it’s the world’s largest fish. In Donsol waters, typical sightings of butandings are between 4-12m in length. Its massive silhouette beneath the waters is huge enough to carry a boat in its back.
Distinctive characters include: a broad, flat head, 3 prominent ridges on the upper flank, a checkerboard pattern of white spots and stripes on its blue-gray-brown skin. Whale sharks are highly migratory. Their movement may be guided by food availability, water temperature and quality, environmental factors such as weather, currents and winds.

In 2004, Time Magazine labeled Donsol as "Asia's Best Animal Encounter." These days, Donsol revels in its unique reputation as the "Whale Shark Capital of the World."

The Interaction:
Upon arrival in Donsol...

  • Register and log at the Visitor Center and pay required fees
  • Wait for boarding pass and watch briefing
  • Wait for boat assignments and proceed to boats (you should have Butanding Interaction Officer or BIO, a spotter and a boat crew)
  • Discuss your trip with the BIO
  • Check your things: snorkelling gear, sun protection, food and water and research forms.

Interaction tours provide the local community with an important livelihood and visitors the chance to enjoy the butanding in their natural habitats. But the most important consideration is the well being of the whale sharks.

We must remember that we are visitors to the whale shark’s natural habitat, that is our primary responsibility to ensure that our actions do not disturb or upset their natural rhythms. Thus, we must abide by the Code of Conduct in interacting with the whale sharks.

Code of Conduct
1. Do not touch or ride the whale shark.
2. Do not restrict the movement of the shark or impede its natural path.
3. The recommended distance from the whale shark is 3 meters from the tail.
4. Do not undertake flash photography.
5. Do not use scuba, scooters, jet skis or any motorized underwater propulsion.
6. A maximum of six swimmers per shark is allowed
7. There must be only one boat per whale shark.

How to get to Donsol?
There are two ways to get to Donsol, Sorsogon. One is via Legazpi City in Albay, an hour flight or a ten hour bus ride from Manila. From Legazpi City, another hour by hired land vehicle to get to Donsol. The other approach is via Sorsogon city about twelve hours by bus from Manila. Take jeep or van for an hor drive to Donsol. To experience the whale sharks interaction, motorized boats for hire are available at the Tourism Visitors Center.

Where to Stay?
Donsol Accommodations

Amor Beach Resort
Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon
Contact no.: 0921-2454028 Razyl Amor

Vitton Beach Resort
Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon
Contact no.: 0927-9126313 Nora Morales

Woodland Beach Resort
Pangpang, Donsol Sorsogon
Contact no.: 0921-9699544 Maricho Bigayan

Shoreline Beach Resort and Resto
Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon
Contact no.: 0919-4208237 Lizel Idjao

Santiago Tourist Inn
Poso, Donsol, Sorsogon

Hernandez Guest and Pension House
Poso, Donsol, Sorsogon

Dancalan, Donsol, Sorsogon
Contact no.: 0906-3099372; 0920-2739984 Mr. Jun Jun Belmonte

DOT accredited Homestays are available in Donsol. For booking and reservation, please get in touch with Donsol Inn-Keepers Association (DIKA) – Ms. Erna Jimenez 0906-7625955