Located on the southern tip of the Philippines' island of Luzon, Donsol is an hour flight followed by a two hour road transfer from Manila. Until the bay of Donsol became known as the 'whale shark capital of the world' it was a sleepy coastal village. Whale sharks frequent the bay in numbers from February to May, peak season being March to April when the number of whale sharks in Donsol bay is as high as anywhere in the world. The month of April is dedicated to the ‘big fish’, known locally as 'Butanding'. The ButandingArribada 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 whale sharks come to the Donsol area from January to May to mate and feast on large concentrations of plankton. Whale Shark encounters out of Donsol are snorkeling only. Ticao Island is the best place to be based to dive San Miguel Island and Manta Bowl, the site to see manta rays in the Philippines. Its also possible to encounter Thresher Shark, Whale Sharks and the occasional Hammerhead Shark.
DIVING SEASONS IN DONSOL
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. Air temperature ranges from 22°C during the coolest month to 35°C during summer. Average temperature is 27°C.
Prevailing winds are South easterly up he strait but ease off between March and April and shift around from June. This means that prior to March travel to and from dive sites can be choppy until. Expect good currents at sites like Manta Bowl until end April, 3-5 knots after which they slacken off. The protected nature of San Miguel island means currents are mild to non existent on sites here.
THINGS TO DO IN DONSOL
Firefly watching on the river (Only three countries in Asia offer this kind of firefly tour)
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.