Before the turn of the millennium, Donsol was unknown to the Filipino tourist trade, but this sleepy village transformed overnight when an intrepid diver shot footage of whale sharks teeming in the water.

These days Donsol is one of the Philippines‘ most popular tourist destinations, and the whale sharks deserve all the credit. These gentle creatures arrive seasonally, trickling in November until their numbers peak between February and April. They are a protected species in the Philippines as it is no secret that they are a boon for tourism.

The visitors’ center has plenty of information on the whale sharks, and the staff can also set you up on a guided tour. Visitors are taken to whale shark waters where they can strap on a mask and snorkel (no scuba gear allowed) and swim with these giant animals. During peak season, the whale sharks are everywhere and everyone who joins a spotting tour will see them.

Tourists have to register for whale shark watching tours. Complete packages include charted boats, a whale shark interaction officer (to see to the animals’ safety) and a spotter.

Getting There & Away

Donsol is in Sorsogon Province about 30 miles south of Legaspi, where there is a domestic airport with regular connections to Manila’s international airport (45 minutes). From Legbaspi it is possible to get to Donsol by minivan in 1 hour. Long-haul coaches from Manila to Donsol take 11 hours, 30 minutes.

Things to Do

Donsol Attractions

Swimming with whale sharks

Donsol’s star celebrity is locally known as the butanding and can be viewed be visited by swimmers on guided tours.

Watching fireflies

Watching fireflies may not be as mesmerizing as swimming with whale sharks, but an evening boat ride through the mangrove forests while fireflies light up the trees is still worthwhile.