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Located on the southern tip of Luzon Island in Philippines, Donsol is the best area to interact with whale sharks. They are believed to have dwelled the waters for some 60 million years. Such a phenomenon cannot be found in other parts of the country, or even in other parts of the world. It takes about an hour flight from Manila and 2 hours drive from Legaspi airport to get to there. The bay of Donsol during the high season becomes the whale shark capital of the world, the perfect place to snorkel with these gentle giants. Whale sharks are frequently seen here from February to May, the peak of activity is in April when the number of whale sharks in Donsol bay is higher than anywhere else in the world. Scuba diving with whale sharks is not allowed in Donsol, only snorkeling and skin diving. Donsol has a population of 44,000 inhabitants and used to be sleepy coastal town in Sorsogon. Nobody knows Donsol except for, of course, its local inhabitants until a few years ago when tourists from all over the world began to flock this remote place to get a look-see at the largest fish on earth: the whale shark. The whole month of April is dedicated to the ‘big fish’ as a thank you to the prosperity they have bought to the local community. Indeed, to welcome the return of the Butandings (whale sharks), which usually come in droves during this time of the year, and to officially signal the opening of another high adventure season of Butanding Interaction, the Butanding Arribada Festival is held every first week of March in Donsol town. Similar to all other Philippine provinces, the Filipinos are warm and friendly, and willing to help you with just about anything.
The Philippines has two main seasons – wet and dry. The dry season is from December and May, with the Philippine summer during the months of March to May. During the wet season the Philippines has daily monsoon rains and the occasional tropical storm. The wettest months are from July to September. The weather, water conditions, and diving opportunities are still great from July to October, although it is possible to get a bit of a rain shower. Temperature ranges from 22°C during the coolest month to 35°C during summer. Average temperature is 27°C.
Donsol is the best base to dive in San Miguel Island and Manta Bowl, the site to see manta rays and the occassional whale shark in the Philippines. Indeed, if you want to dive in Donsol, a popular local dive site is the nearby Manta Bowl. Here you have the chance to see whale sharks while scuba diving as well as other pelagic visitors including manta rays, thresher shark and occasional hammerheads. They are also the only PADI facility in Donsol and the surrounding provinces. It has Grade A air and Nitrox and It is much simpler as they are very close from the shore The diving is mainly concentrated around the whale sharks and manta rays that can be seen here. The whale sharks come to the Donsol area from January to May to mate and also because then there are large amounts of plankton. You don't need to be a diver to enjoy these fascinating creatures, you can embark on your adventure with just your snorkeling equipment.
You will find a wide range of accommodation in Donsol. The backpackers and budget travelers can find cheap home stays in the city centre or basic bungalows by the beach. There are also comfortable hotels and resorts, most of them propose “Eco Tours” to spot the gentle giants. Donsol also has a limited number of accommodations as Donsol’s development is intentionally being limited for environmental reasons. And since the whale sharks are only in Donsol for a limited time, rooms can be a challenge during the whale sharks months. Please note that all resorts in Donsol are basic and an air-conditioning unit and hot shower would be the only luxury available in the rooms. Tourists can now avail of rooms that cater to all financial budgets, from the backpacker to the family. We encourage you to book early to ensure accommodations, most especially if you are making a booking for a large group or if you will be visiting during a major holiday (i.e. Christmas, Easter).
Firefly watching on the river (Only three countries in Asia offer this kind of firefly tour) River kayaking Mountain trekking/Biking (abundance of hilly areas and fields) Discovering local culture Shrimp-catching night tour
During town fiestas, there are beauty contests that you can watch and dances that you can join. As Donsol is a sleepy coastal town, the only nightlife to be had are small beach bars which are also great for relaxing and having some cold ones as the sun goes down. Don’t expect clubs or big bars as this is a rural coastal town. Tourists just do the Night River Fire Fly watching. It’s a great experience for city slickers especially those who haven’t seen a firefly. . Restaurants and bars - BARacuda, Mediterranean style cooking, nice selection of wines and cocktails. Beachfront. Butanding Bar and Restaurant, varied menu.