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Whale Shark watching at Donsol, Sorsogon


Whale Shark (Butanding) is known as the biggest fish in the world that can grow up to 46 feet and weigh 60 tons. It is not surprising to hear that this humongous fish frequents some fishing villages in the Philippines as the country is full of rich natural resources. In 1998, it was found out that whale sharks swim freely in the coast of Donsol thus making the province an official sanctuary of whale sharks as declared by the Philippine Department of Tourism.


Tourists follow a huge whale shark, near

Photo Credit:

The whale sharks may appear frightening because of their size, but they are actually gentle creatures that you can swim along with. If it will scare you too much to swim with them, you can just watch them right beside you since they usually swim by the side of the boat and sometimes on the shallow surface of the water. The best time to see whale sharks is on the months of April and May. There have been sightings of the Butandings in Donsol recently; the latest report is on April 22, 2013.

This might be the right time to go watch whale sharks swim in action as the Butanding Festival 2013 is just around the corner. The three-day affair will happen on May 17 to 19, which will exhibit the opulent history and culture of Donsol in the province of Sorsogon.


How to get to Donsol, Sorsogon:

Travel by Plane

There are flights bound for Legaspi that are available daily via Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific (1 hour travel time). From Legaspi, you can take 1-2 hours ride via bus/van/car to Donsol.

Kindly contributed by Anna Stiva


  1. Hi… How was whale shark this season in Donsol? I went exactly a year ago today (2012) but we saw no whale sharks. We were told sightings were no longer every day as in previous year. Would you know if this is true this season? I looked Donsol website but it’s apparently under construction or something. Thanks.

    • Roanne Santos says:

      Hi Tanya,

      Thank you for reading our blog. According to reports, sightings are quite unpredictable this season. Sometimes the whale sharks would make appearances for consecutive days but other times they are nowhere to be seen. Raul Burce, the project manager at the World Wildlife Fund’s Donsol Project, said in a phone interview with GMA News that there was a time when whale sharks were gone for 12 days; they appeared a short time after, but then gone again for four days. The season started early this year — the whale sharks were sighted as early as November.

      Bicol Tourism Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said that the climate change might have something to do with the irregular presence of whale sharks as it affects the production of their food, making them move to deeper portions of the water.

      But you can take your chances as there were people who saw them this month of May. Good luck!

  2. Hi Roanne!

    Thanks very much for your response. I’d take a trip to Donsol even with sightings not being every day during their season. But the thing is, I have some friends coming from abroad specifically to do that and I’m not sure I’d advice them to come all the way here if sightings are not as they used to be. I don’t want them to be disappointed again like last year.

    Would you know people on the ground and their contacts that I can ask info from? Thanks and I really appreciate your reply.

    • Roanne Santos says:

      Hi Tanya,

      Great to hear from you again! Same as you, we’ve gotten much of our info from their website and from some friends who have gone there recently; unfortunately, those friends were not able to see whale sharks as well as they were really unpredictable.

      If Donsol’s butandings are still elusive by the time your friends arrive here, perhaps they’d want to check out whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu and in Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte. There were reported sightings last week.

      I wish you and your friends the best of luck!

    • Climate change is really screwing this part of the world, isn’t it?? Grrr.

      So…before summer is best?

      Thanks, Roanne!

  3. Graham Gulliver says:

    Apparently tourist arrivals for the 2012/2013 season were way down on previous years. The decline in sightings is affecting local people who rely on tourism for their livelihood. Let’s hope it’s temporary and the whale sharks return in their previous numbers.

    Tanya, I also hear the season is starting and finishing earlier as well.

  4. Whaleshark Adventure & Tours says:

    Big hello from Donsol Whalesharks

  5. Whaleshark Adventure & Tours says:

    Big hello from Donsol Whalesharks