Watching wonderful creatures of their natural habitat could make you appreciate Mother Nature’s awesome gifts. This is more apparent after you experience whale shark- watching in Donsol in the province of Sorsogon, Philippines.
Donsol is often a quaint coastal fishing town about 600km from Manila, the country’s capital. Located inside the southwest coast in the island of Luzon, it’s been frequented for decades by “Butanding” or whale sharks. This is the city’s best-kept secret until a small grouping of foreign divers brought it to public attention in 1998. Unfortunately, people of dubious intentions took advantage of the find. Poachers were all within the place following your news with the Butanding migration broke out. But thankfully, the Philippine government immediately took action to protect the whale sharks, declaring them as protected species. But just why the waters of Donsol special to the whale sharks in the first place?
The sea waters within this town provide the right temperature for your Butandings when they migrate between your months of February and June. Aside from the favorable hot and cold levels, these sea creatures would also feast around the rich fish food during these parts. The abundant planktons give you the Butandings sufficient sustenance because of their long stay.
Every time the whale sharks begin to arrive, the town transforms into a busy place filled with local and foreign tourists. People from different parts in the world tummy flatness, although to Donsol only to watch these incredible creatures swim and roam underwater. This year alone, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) noted the existence of 165 Butandings on the coastal waters of the area. Some of them were even able to come as close as 20 meters in the shore. With this exciting activity, it is no wonder that this amount of tourists that usually flock the town each year raised to 20 percent.
Most of the hotels in Donsol organize activities for visitors, such transportation arrangements as an illustration, although sometimes there’s another fee aside from your standard price. One from the places within the area that can’t be missed is Giddy’s Place PADI Dive Resort. This resort supplies a number of exciting activities including diving and kayaking.
For whale shark interaction, you must register on the Visitor’s Center, that is located at Barangay Dancalan. Whale shark watchers and tourists are assigned a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) to steer them. For the safety of the tourists as well as the Butandings, there are also some strict guidelines that must be followed. The center provides tour boats combined with the BIO. There are resorts inside an area that offers to pre-book for your tour, albeit, for a minimal service fee. Standard prices are PhP 300 for that registration and PhP 3500 per boat, which can accommodate around 6 people.
From Manila, Donsol is accessible by a plane going to Legaspi. From there, a public van or private pick-up may take you to the coastal town itself. Fees kind of vans usually cost around PHP 1500 – PHP 2000 per van. Private rent-a-vans are available just away from the airport’s vicinity. If you prefer public vans, you must ride a tricycle through the airport towards the terminal. You also need to wait for your seats to be filled before you can go on your way to Donsol. Naturally, public vans are cheaper than the private ones – they cost around PhP80.
You will be dropped off in the bus station inside the city center. From there, you must ride another tricycle likely to Dancalan. Alternatively, you are able to reach Donsol by land via bus from Manila either right to Donsol or via Legaspi.