Updated February 18, 2019
- We were here: 3 days in February 2016.
- Number of days: if you go, at least 1 day.
- My score: sorry to say this but I give it a 1/5, do not go.
I’ll explain why: Donsol became in few years from being a fishing village without the least tourist attraction to one of the main destinations in the Philippines for a reason, whale sharks. The discovery that the world’s largest fish fed for months in waters near its shore attracted a huge stream of travelers eagering to experience what it feels like to swim alongside such imposing animals, and that is precisely part of the problem:
- Locals boast proudly that they respect the environment and natural habitat of the sharks. They are not attracted with food, they find the animals while they feed themselves in nature.
- Or they don’t find them, because as long as they do not attract the sharks and the boats have no sonar or other technologies that allow their detection, the way of detecting them is the classic one, a sailor in the highest part of the boat, so they may find any shark, or maybe not.
- This is partially remedied by the fact that there are hundreds of tourists, which means dozens of ships and dozens of sailors watching.
- But not only is this system not as efficient as feeding them or using detection equipment, but when they see one, there is no longer respecting the habitat, there’s only fast and furious. Every boat starts racing to get to the area where the shark is before the other 10 or 12 boats. Once the shark is literally surrounded by a wall of boats, the guides give the signal to jump into the water; it is said they do not make everybody jump at a time not to overwhelm the shark, but this is just an excuse, everyone do not jump at a time because only those who are closest to the shark jump as it tries to escape the circle of boats.
We went to Donsol instead of Oslob for a reason, we wanted to respect the fish habitat, but upon arriving there we realized that:
- It ends up harassing the animal much more than if it were fed and, once it was eating quietly, groups of tourists were allowed to approach it in an organized way, precisely what is done in Oslob.
- In the end you have traveled half a country to see the whale sharks and barely if we could see the tail of one after two days of trying.
So my advice is: whale sharks are one of the most amazing creatures in the world, go and see them, but no matter if it is in Australia, Okinawa, Yucatan or Oslob; Donsol it’s not the best place. Seeing only half a 8 meters long shark passing just below you is an impression that is never forgotten.