Donsol is one of best sites for see whale sharks in the Philippines. The season roughly rough 6 months from December to May. Unlike Oslob (see article here), here they do not feed them, it is a place of passage controlled by WWF. We can go see in snorkeling of course but at Donsol you also have the very rare possibility of being able to make a diving with some whale sharks ! Attention, the diving clubs in Donsol are not numerous, I advise you to book before!
Background: After working 2 months as an instructor at Malapascua, I wanted to do the best diving in the Philippines and Donsol was on the list, of course.
ARTICLE GUIDELINES # Overview # Presentation # Diving with whale sharks # Snorkeling with whale sharks # Info on whale sharks # Seasons and conditions # Other dives # Dive centers # Accommodation # Get to # My diving review
DIVING DONSOL INFO
- Donsol whale sharks season : December to May, the peak being February / March
- Diving in Donsol : on the island of San Miguel (north of Ticao island), only from the macro.
- Snorkeling with whale sharks : see the article here.
- Get to Donsol : go to Legazpi (either by bus or plane) + 1h van
- Where to stay : loan from the Donsol tourist center.
- To know : take cash before (at Legazpi), very difficult to withdraw money at Donsol.
Recommendations by category of divers: > New diver : you cannot baptize with whale sharks. do some snorkeling. Not recommended for open water, too deep, too much current. > Confirmed / Experienced : probably the best site in the Philippines to see whale sharks while diving, but very complicated to access (it takes a long time on a trip) and the other dives are not worth it. Compare with Padre Burgos.
PRESENTATION OF DONSOL
Where is Donsol located?
- Donsol is located on the island of Sorsogon, which is not the most touristy area in the Philippines compared to Cebu or Palawan.
- It is a very small town where there is not much to do except whale sharks.
- There are only 2 distributors in Donsol and they do not work all the time or do not accept some international cards. Bring cash with you !!
- Diving centers and some springs accept credit card payments (+ 5%) or even Paypal transfers.
DIVE WITH WHALE SHARKS AT DONSOL NOTICE
Most people think that one can only snorkel with whale sharks at Donsol but no you can also dive with them ! For this it will be necessary to go to the site Manta Bowl, near Ticao island just in front of Donsol.
- It is 3 dives and it takes the day
- 2 hours to join Manta bowl
- Departure 7h, return 16h
- Rate : 5300 pesos (if you are at least 4) you can pay less (see below)
There are also manta rays in Donsol!
Everyone comes for whale sharks, me first, but there are also manta rays to Donsol! Certainly, not as much as whale sharks, but they are there anyway and all the year!
I also saw 3 white tip sharks during my dives.s
The site: Manta bowl
- Manta Bowl is a huge submerged island between Donsol and Ticao island. Its plateau is between 17 and 25m. The dives are so deep, 20-22m on average and there is always current.
- Basically, you go down to the plateau and you let yourself drift with the current to the end of the island where are you going? hang on a rock (to resist the current) and search around you the passage of whale sharks and mantas.
8 whale sharks, 3 mantas, 3 white tip sharks in 6 dive!
I went may's beginning, so it starts to be the end of the season:
- 1st exit: 2 mantas on the 1st dive, 4 whale sharks on the 2nd and 3 on the 3rd
- 2nd exit: nothing on the 1st, 1 manta and 1 whale shark on the 2nd, 3 white tip sharks on the 3rd
But in season, you can see 10th at the same time!
Dive with whale sharks in the best conditions
- Minimum 4 people to get the best price.
The more you are, the less you will pay dearly. Less than 4 people, you will pay more to offset their transportation costs.
- Book if you come in high season (February / March)!
4 people is the minimum, but 7-8 by boat is the maximum! In high season, when you can see 10th at the same time, there are necessarily more people and the centers are full.
- Negotiate to do the 3 dives at Manta Bowl.
The normal organization is a dive in San Miguel (the small island at the tip of Ticao), then 2 in Manta Bowl. In San Miguel it's mainly macro, nothing special to see. They often do this to test you a bit, especially if you are open water. If you feel ready, do not hesitate to negotiate (with the whole group) to go directly to Manta Bowl and do the 3 dives there.
- Pull the maximum surface interval between the 1st and 2nd dive to the maximum
They do the 2nd dive after 1 hour of surface interval. The profile of the dive being to stay in the 20-22 m all along, your no decompression time will be much shorter than the 1st dive and you will be able to stay shorter on the 2nd than on the 1st, especially if you have a very conservative computer. Do not hesitate to take your time, see to ask to stay a little longer (I had the first day, but not the second).
- Avoid Easter week!
Donsol is invaded by Filipinos on vacation!
- Do not hesitate to dive several times!
If you have not seen anything the first time and if you can (time / money), do not hesitate to repeat a second day, each day is different! I saw a lot on the 1st and much less on the 2nd, it could have been the opposite!
- The best price: instructor with his equipment!
I paid 4000 pesos instead of 5300. If you have your equipment it is 800 pesos less and if you are an instructor / divemaster it is -10%.
SNORKELING WITH WHALE SHARK IN DONSOL
The detail to make mask and snorkel with whale sharks at Donsol in the full article here.
SOME INFO ON WHALE SHARKS
- Cut ?
> of course, are the big fish of the world up to 12-14 m (the size of a school bus!)
> average size observed: 6 to 10 m
> 50 to 80 cm at birth
> females are larger than males
> They feed mostly plankton (almost a ton a day!), but also of microscopic animals like of the krill (from very small shrimps, it is from this way that they feed Oslob), small crustaceans, fish or octopus.
> They filter the water passing through their mouths to keep only the nutrients they need.
> They have about 3000 small teeth (about 6 cm) that do not serve them to eat!
> They use all their body, not just their tail like most fish
> maximum: 5 km / h
> They use all their body, not just their tail like most fish
> maximum: 5 km / h
- Lifetime ?
The oldest specimens recorded were 70 years old, but some scientistsorder to estimate 100-150 years.
- Are they in danger?
Yes, declared threatened species since 1990.
- predators (apart from humans of course ...)?
These only known predators are the killer whales and some opportunistic sharks like the great white shark.
BEST PERIOD FOR DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN DONSOL
They are not there all year, Donsol's whale shark season is from December to May-June.
When to dive with Donsol's whale sharks?
- The best time to see whale sharks in Donsol is February and March, where you are most likely to see them, sometimes dozens together !
- I was in April and I saw 7 in total on 3 dives!
OTHER DIVES IN DONSOL
Donsol dive sites
Apart from whale sharks (and manta rays), Donsol is not a famous place for diving.
There are no dive sites on the Donsol coast. The only other places to dive (except Manta Bowl), are around San Miguel (the island at the end of Ticao, see map). Nothing special there, it's mainly macro.
Donsol dive sites map
DONSOL DIVING CLUB
The best Donsol dive centers
- There are not many centers who will dive on Manta Bowl.
- I dipped with Fun Dive Asia, everything went well, good organization, competent and smiling divemasters, good quality material ...
- There is also Bicol dive center nearby.
French diving club in Donsol
- There are not to my knowledge of French-speaking diving club in Donsol.
- I advise you send an email before to check those who may have French speaking staff.
HOTEL PLONGEE DONSOL
- I had taken accommodation in the "city center" so as not to get bored at night (touristlink or the villa peralta) but in fact there is nothing to do!
- In the end, it is better to take a home near the Donsol tourist center, the dive centers are there, you are next to the beach, it is cheaper and there are more people: the vitton resort or more comfort Elysia.
HOW TO GO TO DONSOL IN THE PHILIPPINES
In all cases, for to get to Donsolit will start to reach the city of Legazpi.
Route Manila to Legazpi:
- by plane : direct flight from Manila to Legazpi (around 50 €), several flights a day
- by bus : 10-12h from Manila Pasay (15 €)
Cebu to Legazpi:
- by plane : direct flight from Cebu to Legazpi (around 80 €), 2-3 flights a day
- by boat + bus : 1 boat per week (Cokalion) leaves from Cebu to Masbate (the island between Cebu and Donsol), leaves at 19:00 and arrives at 9:30 for 890 pesos. Then you have to take another boat from Masmate to Pillar (3 hours, 400 pesos). Finally, Pillar-Donsol tricycle (20 min, 200 pesos).
Donsol to Legazpi
- The cheapest way to get to Donsol from Legazpi, it's taking a collective van.
- They leave the bus station ("Central bus station") is 75 pesos and it takes about 1h. There is no schedule, the van leaves when it is full (yes, you can sometimes wait a little ...).
- The last van leaves around 18h, organize your arrival accordingly!
- If you arrive at the airport, especially do not get fooled by taxis, they will offer to take you for 1,500 pesos! Go to the bus station by tricycle (40 pesos), it is 10 minutes.
MY OPINION ABOUT THE DONSOL DIVING
Donsol is truly a unique place. Have the possibility to dive with whale sharks as easily is fabulous. You do not have not a lot of place in the world where you can do that, especially at this price the. The marine park really takes care of whale sharks and everything is done to minimize their habits. Theaccess is a bit complicated, but if you're in love with the underwater life, you know you won't see whale sharks every day!
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