The Three Best Places To See Whale Sharks In The Philippines

Seeing one of these gentle giants up-close in the wild can be the one of the most memorable experiences of your time in the Philippines
Photo by http://orientwind.com.ph

Seeing one of these gentle giants up-close in the wild can be the one of the most memorable experiences of your time in the Philippines and we have chosen three places that maximise the chance that this will be one of the highlights your stay.

Depending on your location and itinerary in the Philippines any of the places we recommend can be made the object of one or two-day visit and will provide a reasonable likelihood of seeing – and in most cases swimming with – whale sharks.

Whale sharks are migratory creatures and none of these locations comes with a 100% guarantee that you will have a sighting. Sightings are seasonal and going at certain times of the year will increase your chance of success. However this can vary from year to year with sightings being made in other months and it is always best to contact one of the operators listed the end of this article to check on the current situation.

Although whale sharks are not aggressive (they feed exclusively on small organisms such as plankton and krill) you should only get into the water with them if you are an experienced snorkeler and good swimmer. In most areas you must go with a designated guide and follow rules designed to protect the sharks and the environment (for example you should not enter the water wearing sun cream).

Donsol (Northern Philippines)

Donsol in the Bicol region of Luzon is said to have one of the largest congregations of whale sharks anywhere in the world.

Donsol Bay is a whale shark protected area so only snorkelling is permitted in the day itself. SCUBA divers will need to go a little further afield if they wish to do more than snorkel. There is a well-established infrastructure geared to taking visitors to view and swim with whale sharks.

When to go
The season runs from December to June, with the most sightings being between February and April.

How to get there
The closest airport to Donsol is at Legazpi, which has regular flights from Manila and Cebu. Vans run at hourly intervals from Legazpi to Donsol (journey time around one and a half hours).

Honda Bay (Puerto Princesa, Palawan)

Whale shark encounters in Honda Bay, although common, are perhaps less regular than those in other parts of the Philippines. However even if visitors fail to spot a whale shark they will be compensated by sightings of marine life such as turtles and dolphins.

When to go
The season runs from April to October and provides an alternative when other locations have fewer sightings.

How to get there
The closest airport is Puerto Princesa Airport. Tour operators offer transfers from major hotels in Puerto Princesa.

Alternatively take a Bangka from San Lourdes pier.

Sogod Bay (Southern Leyte)

Less well known as a whale-shark watching venue than other parts of the Philippines, Southern Leyte is fast developing a reputation within the SCUBA diving community for big-fish sightings. Its relative obscurity and more remote location mean that you are likely find less-crowded waters – for now at any rate.

When to go
The main whale shark migration season through the waters off Southern Leyte is November to May.

How to get there
Fly to Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban and go on by car (three and a half hours).
Ferry from Cebu there are a number of options that take three to four hours. See Sogod Bay Scuba Resort’s blog (details below) for ferry routes and schedules.

Other options

Oslob (Cebu)

Oslob offers an almost guaranteed opportunity to swim with whale sharks. However it has become a victim of its own success.

To encourage whale sharks to remain in the area the local tour operators feed them on a regular basis – a practice that many environmentalists regards as being unsustainable. Some visitors have reported that the number of boats and crowds of people seriously detract from the experience.

Tabbataha

Tabbataha, a group of atolls and reefs in the Sulu Sea south-east of Puerto Princesa in Palawan, can only be reached by joining a live-aboard diving boat and making a trip lasting several days. As such its main appeal is mainly to keen SCUBA divers or those prepared to pay a premium in time as well as money to avoid crowds.

Useful contacts

  1. Donsol
    Donsol vistor center tel: 0927 483 6735
    Thresher Shark Divers tel: 0917 795 9433
    donsolwhalesharktour.com
  2. Honda Bay
    Dolphin and Whales Travel and Tours tel: 0948 664 1783 / 0908 812 4571
    palawan-tours.weebly.com
  3. Sogod Bay
    Sogod Bay Scuba Resort tel: 0915 520 7274
    sogodbayscubaresort.com

 

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