Swimming with Donsol’s Whale Sharks

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Swimming with Donsol’s Whale Sharks

By Gavin Parsons

Non – Divers like to ask questions. What’s the deepest you’ve been? Where’s your favourite place to dive? Have you seen any sharks and were you scared?

Most of the time my answers are understandable by even the biggest landlubber, but when someone starts talking about scary sharks, I always stop them and point out I’m way too big to worry about being eaten by my favourite shark. The whaleshark is the biggest fish in the sea and the unscariest shark you could meet.

Donsol Whale shark by Gutsy Tuason

Donsol Whale shark, by Gutsy Tuason

read on…

When I started diving there were only a handful of locations where whalesharks could reliably be found. The Maldives, Belize and the Cocos and Keeling Islands. Other encounters with whalesharks were seen as lucky encounters. That view is as out of date as wearing a top hat and carrying a can now. Whaleshark gatherings have been discovered in several more places across the tropical world and one of the best is located within a strait in a tucked away part of the Philippines. Donsol was, until whalesharks were discovered, a sleepy fishing village, now it is one of the whaleshark watching capitals of the world. April is peak whaleshark watching in Donsol as the sharks gather to feed in the calm rich waters of the strait between Donsol and Ticao Island. Ticao Island Resort is Planet Dive Holidays’ resort of choice and it’s easy to see why. The tropical beach front location is dripping with lush beauty and the resort is staffed by a friendly welcoming team. The resort is away from the bustle of Donsol town and a perfect place to relax and unwind. Whalesharks can be found in the area reliably from January to May, although, as I said, April is peak whaleshark season in Donsol. Known locally as Butanding, the world’s biggest fish is celebrated in the area and Donsol has its own festival just for whalesharks. Called the Butanding Arribada Festival, it happens during the first week of March to celebrate the arrival of the big fish.

Not all about whalesharks

Whaleshark watching, while awesome, is done on snorkel and for those craving a bit more nitrogen absorption, the waters around Ticao and Donsol don’t disappoint. The diving here is beautiful and the area has a massive plateau which manta rays use as a cleaning station. The visibility may not be oceanic in its clarity, but it is plankton rich meaning life here is incredible. There are dive sites aplenty around the islands bordering the strait and they are not just coral gardens either. There is a good diversity underwater with interesting walls, bolder reefs and a glassfish filled cavern.

Manta diving from Ticao Island Resort

Manta diving from Ticao Island Resort

There’s a pretty good video showing the diversity of the diving at Ticao and Donsol at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ4qAJtdsWk

The Philippines is relatively unknown to UK divers. It offers a friendly relaxed lifestyle, English is widely spoken and they are always pleased to see visitors to their land. Typhoon Haiyan passed south of this part of the Philippines, so damage was minimal and the area is revived and welcoming visitors as before.

You can find all the details about the area at Planet Dive Holidays website at http://www.planetdiveholidays.com/resorts/philippines/donsol/