02 July 2020

Donsol: The Whale Shark Capital of the World

What makes Donsol the whale shark capital of the world?

  1. The highest concentration of whale sharks
  2. Guaranteed whale shark sightings
  3. Trip packages
  4. Responsible tourism with high environmental awareness


Whale sharks are the largest fish species in the world. They can grow up to 40 feet (12 meters), that’s about the size of a school bus! Although they are massive in size, these fish are harmless and graceful. And you can see them up close! Donsol, located in the Philippines, is a municipality in the Sorsogon region in Bicol. What sets Donsol apart from any other location in the whole world is its abundance of whale sharks or what they call the Butanding. In fact, it is identified as the “Whale Shark Capital Of The World.” What was once residence to a local fisherman, is now additionally one of Bicol’s hearts of tourism and home to whale shark interactions. So if you’re planning to embark on a one of a kind experience, this is the place where you should go. There are a number of places in the world that offer whale shark sightings, but for many immeasurable reasons, Donsol is the most praised area, here are the reasons why:


Highest Concentration Of Whale Sharks

The highest concentration of whale sharks

Back in 1999, Donsol was just one of the small fishing communities around the area, beside Donsol Bay and the Donsol River. These areas are abundant in plankton and krill, the main food source of whale sharks. This is one of the main reasons why these gentle giants come back and migrate to feed and birth their pup every year. Apart from this, Donsol’s healthy waters also bring the ideal water temperature to them. Over the years, many people, scientists, and conservationists have started to discover the immense quantity of whale sharks in the region. Which brings us to this day, where countless tourists choose Donsol to be their prime choice for a whale shark experience. Works to preserve the Whale Shark have boomed in the area since then.

In fact, according to this article by Rappler, in the first half of 2019, there were over 100 new whale sharks spotted in the area. It brought the total number of whale shark sightings to 676 since WWF began monitoring them in 2007.


Guaranteed Whale Shark Sightings

Guaranteed whale shark sightings

Some places in the Philippines offer whale shark sightings, but Donsol has had the most, so far. It is one of the few places in the world that can almost guarantee sightings when in season. Although the figures vary, the numbers are still impressive, even during slow months. Most say that sightings reach up to an average of five different whale sharks. However, if you want to get the perfect glimpse of whale sharks in Donsol, it’s best to plan your trip between the months of April and May. These are the months where they peak in numbers. These are also the times of the year when the weather is best, and when you can visibly and perfectly see the whale sharks because plankton is reduced.


Trip Packages

When you’ve finally decided to take that trip to Donsol to interact with the whale sharks, a tour guide or a trip package is a must. This makes everything so much easier and safer for your experience. Also, because of the Donsol Whale Shark Program, it is a requirement for tourists and visitors to abide by some rules that are regulated by the local Department Of Tourism Office. But don’t worry, because there are several trip packages that you can search for online.


Responsible Tourism With Environmental Awareness

Responsible tourism with high environmental awareness

Responsible tourism and environmental awareness are arguably some of the best factors for the whale shark experience at Donsol. As stated above, there are rules that are regulated by DOT and WWF guidelines that should be observed, not only for your safety but for the safety and well-being of the whale sharks. Donsol is highly maintained and controlled. For one, they limit the number of boats in use at a time. And since this is a whale shark protected area, only snorkeling is allowed here.

As you get to the area, the Donsol Visitors Center should be your first step. Here, you will meet your Butanding Interaction Officer or your BIO, which will specifically explain and brief you on the rules and regulations. You will also be asked to sign waivers and statements confirming that you conform to their rules. Some of the rules include: not touching or riding whale sharks, the recommended distance of 3 meters from the tail, no flash photography or any motorized underwater gadgets, a maximum of 6 snorkelers per shark, and only one whale boat per shark.

Interactions and initiatives in Donsol prove that there will always be ways to combine successful tourism, environmental awareness, sustainable eco-tourism, and respect for underwater life.


Key Takeaway

Want to see a whale shark up close and personal? Take a visit to the whale shark capital of the world, Donsol. Here, you won’t only have a one of a kind experience, but you will also be a part of an initiative that promotes eco-tourism.