If you study where travel the Philippines you are bound to learn that you can see whale sharks. There are 2 places very well known for this: Donsol and Oslob. The two places are very different, Oslob they feed them… while at Donsol the snorkeling with whale sharks is more natural because it is a migratory passage. AT Donsol you also have the option of plunge with them on the site of Manta bowl on Ticao island.
Context: 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 # Snorkeling with whale sharks # Diving with whale sharks # Info on whale sharks # Best dive season # Accommodation # Get to # My diving review
SNORKELING DONSOL INFO
- Whale sharks season : December to May, the peak being February / March
- Snorkeling (mask and snorkel) with whale sharks : every day, 3 departures possible, avoid weekends and Easter week.
- One provider : the Donsol tourist center
- Diving with whale sharks : the full article here.
- Get to Donsol : go to Legazpi (either by bus or plane) + 1h van
- Housing Donsol : not in the city center, in one of the resorts / hotels near the Donsol tourist center.
- To know : take cash before (at Legazpi), very difficult to withdraw money at Donsol.
PRESENTATION OF DONSOL
Where is Donsol located?
- Donsol is on theisland of Sorsogon, which is not the most touristy area in the Philippines compared to Cebu or Palawan.
- It's 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.
SNORKELING WITH THE WHALE SHARKS OF DONSOL AVIS
Donsol whale shark info
- One place to do it : the Donsol tourist center. No independent agency is allowed.
- 3 departures per day : 7h30, 11h and 14h
- 6 persons by boat
- Price : 885 pesos
- The hard ride about 3h
The organization for swimming with Donsol's whale sharks
- Basically they leave in the Bay (10 min from the coast) and put watchmen on the roof who are looking for whale sharks.
- As soon as he spots one, they position the boat on the path of the whale shark. You just have to get in the water and try to follow it!
They try to do boat by boat, but sometimes you have 2 see 3 groups at the same time on the same whale shark ...
My snorkeling experience with Donsol's whale sharks
I saw between 10 and 15 sharks (we saw walls the same several times)
- I went there at 7:30 a Saturday (and yes I did not know that we should not come on weekends :() and the 18 boats are out.
- I had a group of 6, all good swimmers
- I went to the water between 10 and 15 times (I lost count), so I saw between 10 and 15 whale sharks because sometimes we managed to catch up with the previous one.
- Visibility was not great, a few meters, but apparently it's often like that.
- In the beginning, all the boats are scattered and as soon as a whale shark was spotted, nearby boats organized to put the divers in the water each turn.
- But during the last hour and a half, the boats got closer and so there was many more people around the same shark. We did not see them very long because, with the influx of people around, they descended very quickly deeper to be left alone…
Best conditions for snorkeling with whale sharks in Donsol
- The best advice: go with as few people as possible!
I know it's not always easy to organize, but trust me, the fewer people you can enjoy (read my opinion ...).
- Don't necessarily go there at 7:30 am!
Everyone tells you to go at 7:30 because you have more chances to see them, it's not necessarily true. I spoke with the WWF members, they spend in the bay all day ... It's mostly a story of organization for them.
On the other hand, if you come at 11:30 am, be sure to be at least 6, otherwise you will pay more (they have a fixed price per boat which they divide by the number of people)!
- Do not go if there are more than 10 boats!
You just need to quickly count the number of people: 1 boat = 6 people.
They have 18 boats, or 108 people possible. Of course everyone is not in the water at the same time, but it increases the potential number anyway.
I went there at 7:30 am as I had been advised and the 18 boats left. It was the fair in the water!
- Do not go there on weekends!
Filipinos also want to see them and come on Saturdays and Sundays to Donsol
- Absolutely avoid Passover week
Donsol is invaded by Filipinos on vacation!
- The second good advice: form a group with bad swimmers!
If you have the choice of your group, I would try to take "bad swimmers" ... like that when the boat drops you off, the "bad" will stop very quickly and you will have more time with the whale shark. I know it's not very nice but it's effective…!
If I had to do it again, I will organize myself to find a group of 6 people (the day before or at 7:30 am), preferably with 2-3 "bad" swimmers and I will go at 11:30 am.
DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN DONSOL
If you are a diver, do not hesitate to go diving with them, it's a fantastic experience and much more rewarding what to do with snorkeling with them and 10th of people around.
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!
SOME INFO ON WHALE SHARKS
- Cut ?
> of course, are the big fish of the world reaching 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 (very small shrimps; it is elsewhere by this means that they feed them 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
- Lifetime ?
The oldest specimens recorded were 70 years old, but some scientistsorder to estimate 100-150 years.
- Are they in danger?
Yes, declared Threatened since 1990
- predators (apart from humans of course ...)?
These only known predators are killer whales and some opportunistic sharks like the great white shark.
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
It is still quite complicated to go to Donsol, you have to start by arriving at Legazpi.
Getting to Legazpi
In any case, it will be necessary to start to reach the city of Legazpi.
Route Manila to Legazpi:
- Manila to Legazpi by plane : direct flight from Manila to Legazpi (around € 50), several flights a day.
- Manila to Legazpi by bus : 10-12am from Manila Pasay (15 €).
- Cebu to Legazpi by plane : direct flight from Cebu to Legazpi (around 80 €), 2-3 flights a day
- Manila to Legazpi journey by boat + bus :
- 1 boat per week (Cokalion) leaves from Cebu to Masbate (the island between Cebu and Donsol)
- Departure 19:00, arrived at 9:30 for 890 pesos.
- Then take another boat from Masmate to Pillar (3h, 400 pesos).
- Finally, Pillar to Donsol by 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"), 75 pesos and it takes about 1h.
- There is no timetable, the van leaves when it is full.
- 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 1500 pesos! Go to the bus station by tricycle (40 pesos), it is 10 minutes.
MY REVIEW ABOUT SNORKELING IN DONSOL
If you are not diving or are a new diver, you go love Donsol. Being able to see whale sharks is a unique experience. Then if you are a diver with a little bottle like me, you will probably not appreciate… It was so factory and not natural that I did not come out of there with a huge smile as I hoped… I had a lot more fun diving where I got them in the end best seen, I could stay more time with them and appreciate them at their true value without a string of snorkelers around me! I'm not even talking about adrenaline when we are looking for them by ourselves and we see one coming in its direction!
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