Jun 27, 2011 - Sorsogon    No Comments

A Close Encounter with Sorsogon Whale Sharks

Make your next vacation be more than just beaches and poolside sun bathing and when planning a vacation in the Philippines, don’t miss seeing the gentle spotted giants enjoying their plankton diet. This place at the southern tip of Luzon made a break on the country’s falling tourism: Sorsogon whale sharks.

Thousands of visitors arrive each season in Donsol (once a “never heard of” town with economy reliant to fishing and cottage industry) to witness and swim with whale sharks which the locals had been fishing before, and since this plankton-rich waters are now home to congregating whale sharks, and efforts were done to boost the tourism industry and safeguarding the now breeding ground for these giant fishes locally called Butanding; Donsol, Sorsogon will surely be the next most visited tour capital of the Philippines.

Whale shark

Whale shark—Photo courtesy of scubasigns.org

The official season starts from February and runs until the end of May where the Donsol Sea is clearest and calmest. These gentle Sorsogon whale sharks arrive as early as November in the Butanding capital of the Philippines that has now been declared as also a breeding ground for these friendly spotted giant fishes. The town of Donsol is a one hour drive from Sorsogon and slightly the same from Legazpi City. These two cities are jump-off points to Donsol. There are decent accomodations and transporting facilities in both Legazpi and Sorsogon. There are few Lodging houses in Donsol, and snorkelling euipment rentals are scarse. You can bring your own snorkeling gears and prepare a packed lunch if planning to last for a day in Donsol.

Over the seasons, local tourism officials and proffesional divers established guidelines on proper whale shark watching for the safety of the observers and to defend the creature too from over exploitation. An average of fifteen sharks are spotted per day from February to June. The best time to go is from March to April when these whale sharks are most present. A minimum of eight to ten Butandings in two hours will make you swim with them and experience their sociable behavior. Cameras are not allowed in Donsol, so save the best memories and don’t stop relaying the word: a close whaleshark encounter in Donsol, Sorsogon. Each day, the sea vessel leaves after breakfast and is headed for a morning fun in search for the Sorsogon whale sharks. There is a lunch break, and off again for the afternoon adventure.

Here’s a sample itinerary from an online tour package starting from Manila:
1.Day One: Airport Transfer for 0700 flight to Legazpi City
2.Lunch at the Resort and Whale Shark orientation
3.Afternoon whale shark tour
4.Day Two: Full day whale shark tour, lunch at the resort
5.Day Three: Full day whale shark tour or optional diving at the famous Ticao Island Manta bowl.
6.Day Four: Transfer to Legazpi. Arrives Manila about 1000a.m.

Inclusions
1.Round trip airfare Legazpi-Manila
2.Round trip private transfers Legaspi-Donsol
3.Three night twin share AC room Donsol resort
4.Breakfast, lunch, dinner at the resort
5.2 1/2 days Whale shark interaction (snorkeling) includes park fee, boats, spotters and marine park ranger

Extras
1.PADI Whale Shark Awareness distinctive specialty – includes the opportunity to record the whale sharks for conservation purposes and includes certification and instruction – $50. This specialty can be counted towards the PADI Master Diver rating
2.Convert one day of whale shark watching to diving. Two dives with tanks weights boat and guide. Subject to weather this will be to the famous Manta Bowl on Ticao Island. Surcharge only applies for full group diving (six people) and does not include rental equipment +$45. Two dives for one or two people only, +$75
3.Airport terminal fees (about $5), drinks, single supplement (about $60), dive rental gear if required and other incidental charges.

When already in Donsol here are the things you need to do:
1.Proceed to the tourism office for registration, orientation and arrangement
2.Prepare some cash for the boat fee and assistance fee. Each boat can accommodate five to seven persons which costs Php 2,500, and can be shared individually. Registration is Php 300 each person. Be sure to arrive before eight in the morning to avoid delays, this time seawater is smoother and calm. If the waters are calm, whale sharks get close to the surface and more chances for interaction is expected.

Your special someone would surely be excited with your Sorsogon whale sharks treat. It’s a perfect getaway stopover for a high spirited explorer like you. Make your Philippine tour this memorable, never miss your Donsol, Sorsogon adventure.

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