Diving in Donsol – Facts Sheet
Destination : Donsol, Sorsogon
Country : Philippines
Temperature : 27 – 30°C (80 – 86°F)
Typical Visibility : 20 – 35 m (65 – 130ft)
Season : February to May
How to go : Regular flights from Manila to Legazpi City (45 minutes), Taxi or bus from Legazpi City (1 hour)
Types of Dives : Pelagics Dive
Donsol is known as home of the whale sharks. It is possible to see up to 10 whale sharks in under 2 hours of diving/swimming. Many tourists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore travel to Donsol every year to witness the congregation of these magnificent shark specimens.
Originally a fishing and cotton industry region of the Philippines, Donsol has seen huge growth in the tourism industry once word of the whale sharks’ annual visits to the seas off its coast. The gentle sharks visit these muddy waters to feed off its rich supply of plankton.
Whale sharks begin their journey past Donsol from November but to really get the most out of your time in the region it is suggested that you visit from February onwards, when large numbers of whale sharks are seen.
Interaction with the whale sharks is regulated by the local department of tourism which oversees the shark viewing services on offer. Scuba diving is not allowed and swimmers must remain at least 3 metres from the sharks. In reality many of these rules cannot be adhered to as there are a number of sharks in the water and also a number of tourist boats following the sharks.
Tourists are reminded to enjoy themselves without causing harm to the local wildlife.
Donsol is also known for its regular visits by mantas and other sea-life. There are firefly and shrimp-catching tours available throughout the year too.
As with most of the Philippines, the locals speak English reasonably well and are kind and courteous to visitors. Accommodation in Donsol often lacks the refinement of more urban areas of the country although internet and other amenities are available.
Although Donsol is primarily visited for reasons associated with its sea-life, there are a number of activities to be done on land such as the many outdoor activities that makes Philippines a popular tourist destination: camping, hiking, horseback riding and so on.
The butanding (local word for whale sharks) are respected by the locals and as such, they aim to preserve the sharks’ natural habitat and avoid harming them. Tourists are often so pleased with the personal experiences they share with the sharks that donations are given to the local preservation societies.
Don’t forget that in addition to the phenomenal shark-viewing, firefly tours and scenic beauty that Donsol has to offer, there is also the famous Philippine sun, sand and sea to relax in!
There are a number of bars and restaurants to visit, although not all are aimed at tourists. In all cases the prices are very reasonable and most establishments offer a wide range of food, drinks and cocktails.