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“Misibis to Donsol, Off-season surprise!”

Donsol Whale Shark Interaction
Ranked #1 of 6 things to do in Donsol
Certificate of Excellence
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Attraction details
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Quezon City, Philippines
Level Contributor
17 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Misibis to Donsol, Off-season surprise!”
Reviewed November 24, 2013

November 22, 2013 (Off-season)
We stayed at Misibis Bay Resort and hired a Grandia van for PhP7,500/6hours plus PhP1,000/additional hour. Best time to view whale sharks is in the MORNING. The boats leave at 7AM & 9AM.
It was a 2-hour travel from Misibis to Donsol so we left at 5AM to catch the first tour. Misibis gave us PACKED MEALS: choice of sandwich/tocino (cured meat) /longganisa (Filipino sausage) with garlic rice & sunny side ups.
First stop was Donsol Visitors Center where we completed registration forms and watched a video. We paid PhP3,500 for the boat, Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO), spotter, and the crew; PhP100/person for registration, and PhP150/person complete snorkelling gear. Our BIO was OMAR Nepomuceno, the best in Donsol who has 16 years of experience. He briefed us about whale shark or Butanding (Filipino) as we were enjoying the boat ride.
The tour certainty did not disappoint. Within a short time, our spotter spotted our first whale shark. Each snorkeler has his/her own guide who led us towards the direction of the shark. Omar and his team swam and guided us atop the whale shark so we clearly saw the entirety of the fish. It was an awesome interaction!
This is my first time snorkelling, but it is easy to learn. When underwater, breathing through the mouth becomes instinctive.
PLUS, we saw a school of flying fish on our way back!
TIP: To avoid going home disappointed, inquire first with locals or tour agencies if there are already sightings of whale shark or butanding. Our tip came from Cyrel of Your Brother Travel & Tours.

Visited November 2013
Helpful?
4 Thank bsy2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Makati, Philippines
Level Contributor
172 reviews
48 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 93 helpful votes
“Where the Bigger Ones Still Reside”
Reviewed September 5, 2013

There are few places sprouting now to be new habitats of whale sharks -Oslob tops the list. However the whale sharks in Donso [I went to both] are still bigger compared with the ones in the latter place. Though it is harder to find in Donsol compared with Oslob where the sharks are preconditioned by feeding to approach the boats, Donsol whale shark by far can give you the best experience. I did the interaction for so many times. and when you are lucky, the experience spells the BIG difference. =)

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
2 Thank Raphael Emerson B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Manila, Philippines
Level Contributor
15 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Whale sharks of March”
Reviewed August 9, 2013

In March we went, early morning by plane from Manila to Legazpi, then by jeep to Donsol. Comfy ride, courteous native folks.There are several resort inns, and they have lunch for guests.
After a little rest, to the water we go. The animal interaction is well-organized, a briefing is given on what to do when we meet the butanding
When the spotters give the signal, we jump off the banca.
Giant animals, swimming casually. They do not mind i was there at all. The whale shark was so near me I could almost touch it. I did It was a marvel to be close to such a gentle animal.

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
4 Thank adeleojeda
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ghent, Belgium
Level Contributor
104 reviews
59 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 83 helpful votes
“One of the best experiences in my life so far!”
Reviewed July 9, 2013

Three months before I came to the Philippines I read an article in a magazine about the ‘butandings’ of Donsol. But it was only in Manila one of my friends convinced us to take the plane south and give this experience a try. We didn’t book any accomodation in advance and just left. We took an early morning flight and arrived at sunset in Legazpi. From here it was still 1-2 hour to the coast.
Dropped of at the ‘main street’ of Donsol, we went directly to the whale shark centre and made reservations for the next day. Afterwards we searched a resort a little outside of town. I noticed the guests were mostly young Americans who obviously also came exclusively for the butandings.
On the day of days we left before noon (it was partially clouded and the water was dark) in a boat which was filled with only my friends and I. We were briefed in advance, but it was more a short documentary than instructions. It took us only fifteen minutes before the first whale shark was spotted by another boat (there were six other boats on excursion) and the crew urged us in the water. First I did not feel like jumping into a dark ocean filled with sparkling fellow-tourists. I feared the worst as in the beginning, every single boat concentrated around one whale shark and swimmers (many of them in lifejackets) were almost pushing each other to see a glimpse of a tail or fin. Still my adrenaline and heartbeats were pumping as we jumped off the boat.
The first whale shark I ever saw was swimming 10 feet under us. The white sparkles on his back were clearly visible but he was already gone before we knew it and it was impossible to even take the effort to follow him in the splashing crowd. We got back on board and sailed further. Afterwards we concluded this first ‘meeting’ gave every boat the opportunity to split up because other whale sharks were seen in the area. Meanwhile the sun broke through and the sea became very clear.
Five to ten minutes later the crew spotted a second shark. This was our moment. The strategy was to manoeuvre the boat ahead of our target, jump in the water and swim in the opposite direction to meet him. We repeated this strategy with the same whale shark three times. Sometimes he increased slightly, almost unnoticeable, his speed and we could not cope the tempo. Therefore we lost the big ‘butanding’ after a few minutes. (Don’t underestimate the inertia of these friendly big boys: once you swim right next to them and experience the force in the huge tail, you’ll notice they go pretty fast.) But on the other hand we also swam five to ten minutes with the same one. For me personal this was an unforgettable interaction. I could literally read the shark’s eye! I moved besides, above, under and behind its huge body. During the briefing the video mentioned not to touch the animals so in respect for them, I did not. After the session we were utmost satisfied!
The rest of the afternoon in the resort we spend chilling, playing soccer and nipping cocktails, but to be honest, there isn’t that much to do. So the next day we left the little town and continued our journey through Southern Luzon.
Overall I reckon me and my friends were very lucky to have seen four different whale sharks. Especially because we decided last minute to take the plane from Manila to Legazpi and afterwards a minivan to Donsol with the only purpose to see these beautiful creatures. Those days indeed it was not a matter IF you saw them, the question was HOW MANY. Therefore I know this review may not be representative anymore because we did this almost 2 years ago. However the fact I’m still taking my time to write this and remember the experience in detail proves how incredible and impressive these animals in their habitat truly are. Also my friends are still talking about it nowadays. For this reason it hurts me to read the sharks seem to abandon the coast and relocate elsewhere. These circumstances will probably have excessive effects on Donsol as it is heavily relying on the tourism and there really is nothing to see downtown.

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
4 Thank WouterVG7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
84 reviews
57 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
“whale sharks, where are you?”
Reviewed July 1, 2013

For something so big, it was hard to find, smack in the middle of whale shark season... I really, really wanted to see them in Donsol. After Donsol I went to Cebu, but I didn't plan a whale shark dive there. All my hotels and activity were booked, couldn't squeeze it in. But the whalesharks are in Cebu.

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank butterflyexistence
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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