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“An experience of gigantic proportions!”

Donsol Whale Shark Interaction
Ranked #1 of 8 things to do in Donsol
Certificate of Excellence
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Attraction details
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed February 18, 2015 via mobile

This is one to add to the bucket list!

If you are lucky enough to swim with these gentle giants, it is truly an unforgettable experienced that would be difficult to match.

We left Naga at 4am to be at Donsol at 7am for the registration ($300PHP for tourists and $100PHP for citizens) and briefing. You can either share a boat with others or have your own private one for around $3000P. Snorkel gear will set you back $300P. Your crew consists of two spotters a diver and a driver. Your boat will depart between 8am to 8:30am and will be out on the water for 3 hours.

Once you are on the water your crew kick into gear and when they spot a Whale Shark, they will tell you to get your equipment on and get ready to jump. If you are one of the lucky ones, a few seconds after you hit the water, you will soon see a great mass of white spots heading your way in what I can only describe as an breathtaking experience.

Our crew were fantastic and they spotted 10 whale sharks for us. We jumped in the water 10 times and were able to swim with 9 whale sharks. The one that got away was just too quick!

If you are terrible with disappointment and handle it like a sulky cry baby, then this experience may be too risky for you. There are no guarantees that you will be able to swim with them. If you are adamant about swimming with them, then stay a few nights in Donsol and head out for a couple of days. We were willing to take our chances and it exceeded all our expectations.

- If you can afford it, get a private boat. You can decide what you want to do and can extend your time if you want. You also don't have to be 'polite' about getting in and catching a glimpse or swimming with the whale sharks. No "after you, please", just get in and swim then get back on board and boast about who got the best footage! Having a private boat means you can get familiar with your crew and the good ones will offer to take videos and photos of you with the whale shark - No need for awkward underwater selfies while you struggle to breathe!
- If you must share, get familiar with your fellow tourists and gather a group of 6 before you register. This way, it isn't left up to the office staff to put you in a group and this means you are on the boat and water sooner. Plus you can make some new buddies.
- Having a good crew is important. I know this is out of your control and is simply luck. We had an excellent crew and were stunned to hear that groups that went out during the same time we did, only saw 3 whale sharks compared to our 9.
- Invest in a quality underwater camera. The GoPro worked a treat!
- If you're not a great swimmer, use the life jackets they provide. You will have to tread water A LOT! And you will need to be fast to keep up with your diver and obviously the whale shark. Once you are in the water, you're on your own, though the divers will have float devices you can cling onto as they drag you along.

Overall, a wonderfully awesome experience!

5  Thank milana_mk5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"amazing experience"
in 28 reviews
"whale shark interaction"
in 32 reviews
"bucket list"
in 15 reviews
"gentle giants"
in 10 reviews
"eco tour"
in 9 reviews
"good luck"
in 9 reviews
"wild animals"
in 9 reviews
"other places"
in 7 reviews
"their natural habitat"
in 7 reviews
"registration fee"
in 7 reviews
"few seconds"
in 11 reviews
"once in a lifetime"
in 10 reviews
"murky water"
in 6 reviews
"boat fee"
in 5 reviews
"got lucky"
in 5 reviews
"orientation video"
in 5 reviews
"magnificent creatures"
in 4 reviews

178 - 182 of 384 reviews

Reviewed February 11, 2015 via mobile

All I can say that not been said already that once you are on the boat be ready to jump! Because it could be so surprising when the guide says " Jump now "!!! that if you a bit hesitate and jumping 2 seconds late you can for sure miss the whale shark...
So be prepare to jump on time!
And enjoy its an amazing experience

Thank adimeidan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 9, 2015 via mobile

This is a once in a lifetime experience you should not miss. We went out to see the whale sharks twice and only caught a glimpse of one of them the first day. But the second day it seemed liked they rewarded us for our patience and for not giving up. We saw three different butanding (whale sharks) and went in the water seven times. You can swim alongside with them, take amazing pictures and it is just breathtaking.
Also the guides are very good, very kind and these wild animals are treated with all necessary respect. Also the prices are more than reasonable. Highly recommended!

1  Thank Oliver T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 7, 2015 via mobile

We planned our trip through fundive Asia dive centre and can't thank them enough. They try to get 6people in each boat to reduce the cost (P3500 split by as many people in the boat) plus and equipment hire. Around P300 if all the gears required. An additional P300 park fee is also on top of this. We paid P1000 each for everything. We set of from Legaspi to Donsol that morning at 05.30. The local minivans go from 05.30 but only set off once full or have the 15xP75 they need. We ended up splitting costs between 4 of us so we weren't late. It takes around 1.30. we didn't set off until a whale had been spotted but we had no joy seeing anything for 3 hours. The guides however didn't give up and we were rewarded right at the end by a 8mt young male. It was a highlight of the holiday.

1  Thank AndyTaylorUK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 2, 2015 via mobile

We mainly came to Donsol for the whale sharks despite it being quite early in the season. Each boat costs 3500php and can take 6 people so if you want to keep it a cheap as possible you need to arrive at the visitor centre early (7-7.30am ish) so you can grab enough other people to make a 6. If not you can just pay for the boat yourselves. Fins and masks/snorkels are also available to rent for about 150php each. We were staying at the Elysia which is just 5minutes walk away but if you are staying in Donsol proper it is a 10-15 minute trike ride.
Once on the boat the guide tells you the rules and the spotters start watching out for the whale sharks. Our first time trying this we jumped in the water once but the whale shark had already disappeared. Our second time around we got lucky! We saw a huge 10m whale shark that stayed with us for over an hour and we got to swim with it around 6 times - nothing can prepare you for how big and awesome these creatures are!
Although there are rules surrounding the interactions they are obviously open to interpretation. Despite being told it was 1 boat at a time and a maximum of 6 people around the whale shark at once as soon as one is spotted all the boats race to the area. One boat is close with the others circling and then it's a bit of a leap frog action - as one group finishes another is in the water to intercept. It is a craze of people (definitely more than 6), limbs, cameras and fins - if you're not a decent swimmer then be careful! The guides do come down hard on people getting too close and trying to touch the sharks especially if they are diving down deeper (presumably because they're fed up with the chaos of limbs above them).
Despite the chaos (I definitely wouldn't do it in peak season) these animals are magnificent creatures and the locals obviously hold them in high esteem. Swimming with them has been the highlight of the holiday and I would definitely recommend it (and I would recommend staying in donsol longer too - there is a lot more to do than just the whale sharks!).

3  Thank Sarah G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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