PHILIPPINES – One of the top destinations in the world where travellers can swim with whale sharks is the Philippines. You can even find them on the back of a ₱100 bill! But where do you go and which is better? I’ve been to two of the most popular whale shark sighting areas: Donsol and Oslob. Let me break it down!
How to get there: From Manila you can head to Legaspi by plane (50 minutes) or bus (a long time). Take a ₱60 public van to Donsol (2 hours).
₱6000/$100CAN per boat (max. 5 passengers) including a guide, a safety guy, and a few spotters
₱300/$9CAN registration fee for foreigners, ₱100/$3CAN for Filipinos
₱300/$9CAN for mask & fin rentals
Time: 3-4 hours on the boat, the spotters will tell you when to jump off
|• Whale sharks are in its natural environment
• Boats try not to crowd the animals
• Monitored by local government
|• Seasonal sightings, with higher from chances January to March
• Larger boats
• Lower number of average sightings
• Very few other activities available in town
How to get there: From Manila, fly to Cebu City. Take local bus to Oslob for ₱150 (3 hours). Tell your bus driven you’re going to the whale sharks so you can get dropped of right at Barangay Tan-awan, conveniently near the highway. I came from Panglao,Bohol and hired a private banka to charter my friends & me across the Cebu Strait. Not recommended so prepare your self for a long, choppy ride.
Price: ₱1000/$30CAN registration fee for foreigners, ₱500/$15CAN for Filipinos. Mask & fins included. The boat is a tiny canoe-like vessel with one guide.
Time: 30-40 minutes in the water
| • More whale shark sightings in larger numbers
• Smaller boats (banka)
• More intimate encounters
• Pretty much guaranteed sightings
• Plenty of beaches and waterfalls along the way
• Your guide take will take photos for you
|• Forced feeding by local fisherman caused
the whale sharks to change its natural migratory patterns• Whale sharks constantly get hit by boats• Overcrowded
Although Oslob may seem like the winner in terms of experience, the fact that the whale sharks are there because of forced feedings is enough to trump all the pros. Recent TripAdvisor reviewers have witnessed cuts on the animals because of boat injuries. It’s very sad! If you have the option, my suggestion is to head to Donsol instead. Your chances of sightings are lower, but at least you know the animals are less prone to abuse.
• Do not wear sunscreen, wear a rash guard or wet suit to prevent sunburn instead
• Try to get there as early as possible to increase your chance of spottings
• Remember to tip your guide – ₱50-100 goes a long way
Photo credit: Klaus Stiefel [pacificklaus.com]1