Swimming with Whale Sharks in Donsol


  • Swim and snorkel with wild whale sharks.
  • Go island hopping to see the beautiful beaches, lagoons, coral reefs and waterfalls of Ticao.
  • Spend an evening on the spellbinding Firefly River of Donsol.
  • See the perfectly cone-shaped Mayon Volcano.


Donsol gets the largest congregation of whale sharks in the world. Every year the gentle giants come to the waters of the sleepy fishing town to feed on plankton and they stay in the area longer than any other place on the planet – typically from November to June. The whale sharks feed on plankton on the surface of the water and, if undisturbed, peacefully go about their business paying little attention to any tiny humans swimming beside them. With truly wild animals that range from camper-sized juveniles to adults bigger than a bus, Donsol is the best place in the world to get an authentic and natural whale shark experience.

Other places, such as Oslob in Cebu, have become popular in recent years because they guarantee the presence of whale sharks all year round. This is because they have adopted the environmentally irresponsible and damaging practice of feeding whale sharks to attract and keep them in an area. Feeding whale sharks results in a number of environmental problems. The animals get accustomed to being fed by boats and are conditioned to approach all watercraft. As a result they often get injured by propellers. The whale sharks become dependent on humans for food. Instead of migrating naturally in search of plankton they stay in one area and rely on people to survive. The water in the feeding area gets polluted due to excess food that is uneaten. The whale sharks also get skin parasites because of the contaminated water and uncontrolled direct contact with people.

Not only is the practice of feeding whale sharks harmful to the animals and the environment, watching these semi-domesticated animals being fed is also unsatisfying compared to the experience of swimming with wild sharks. Whale sharks that are fed stop beside a boat, go in a vertical position with their tails down and mouths to the surface (something they never do naturally), and wait for people to scoop krill (small shrimp) down their throats while hordes of tourists harass them from all sides.

Wild whale sharks, on the other hand, feed while swimming, filtering the plankton-rich water with their huge mouths. They usually have a posse of fish with them, and the sight of this moving behemoth and its entourage is truly amazing. In Donsol we set a limit to the number of people that can swim with a particular shark so that the animal can go about its business without feeling like a celebrity desperately trying to escape from paparazzi. People are not allowed to touch the sharks and must keep a two-meter distance away from them. These rules make for undisturbed, healthy and happy sharks while providing a richer experience for the people who observe them.

In this adventure we not only give you the best whale shark experience but also show you the other natural wonders of the Donsol area. You spend a day visiting the various islands of Ticao, with their spectacular rock formations, beaches and lagoons. We also spend a surreal evening floating down a river lined by trees full of fireflies. And throughout your adventure the awe-inspiring Mayon Volcano will serve as the backdrop.

We offer this trip from January to May which is prime time for the whale sharks. Note that since the animals are wild and we do not have a contract with them, seeing them is not guaranteed.

Interact with whale sharks in a natural and environmentally responsible way. Enjoy the islands, beaches, waterfalls and lagoons of Ticao. Float down an enchanting river lined by trees ablaze with fireflies.

  • Day 1 - The islands of Ticao

    Your adventure begins at the Legazpi airport where you immediately get a stunning view of Mayon Volcano. From there you drive 1.5 hours to Donsol and hop on a boat to visit the islands of Ticao. You spend the whole day snorkeling coral reefs, enjoying white sandy beaches and admiring limestone rock formations. Highlights include swimming in beautiful lagoons with crystalline waters and seeing the magnificent Catandayagan Falls that empties straight into the sea.

    In late afternoon you head back to Donsol and spend the night at your beachside accommodations.

  • Day 2 - Whale sharks and fireflies

    After breakfast you listen to a briefing on how to properly interact with whale sharks then get on your boat and start looking for the animals. A spotter scans the water and when he sees a shark the boat approaches to within 15 meters (50 feet) or so then you and your guide jump off and swim towards the animal. You can get up to 2 meters (6 feet) of the shark but you need to be careful not to touch it or get in its way. The sharks stay at the surface to feed on plankton. If you don't touch or disturb it, it will continue feeding and swimming at the surface without paying any attention to you. If it gets spooked by people, however, it will dive and disappear. If a shark dives then you go back on the boat and look for more sharks. You spend the whole morning looking for and swimming with different sharks.

    After a tiring but unforgettable morning you spend a relaxing afternoon on the beach. In early evening we drive you to the outskirts of town where you get on a small boat to float down the Firefly River.

  • Day 3 - Back to Legazpi

    After breakfast you say goodbye to Donsol and drive back to the Legazpi airport.

  • All land and sea transportation for the duration of the trip.
  • Two (2) nights accommodations with breakfast.
  • Lunch for Days 1 and 2.
  • All fees associated with the specified activities.
  • Guiding service.
  • Use of snorkeling equipment.
  • Airfare to Legazpi.

Important Information

This adventure involves a lot of time in the water. You don’t need to be a great swimmer (life jackets are provided) but you should be comfortable in the water for you to enjoy this trip fully.

Yellow fever vaccination is required for entry to the Philippines if you are coming from a yellow-fever infected country; if you are not, this vaccination is unnecessary. The following vaccinations are recommended:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Typhoid
- Japanese encephalitis
- Measles, mumps and rubella

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