Whale Shark Tourism in Sorsogon Now Open for Business

Sorsogon resumes its whale shark interaction to revive the province whale shark tourism industry.
A group of tourists swimming with the whale sharks.

It’s been a while since local and foreign tourists had an interaction with whale sharks in Sorsogon. With the easing of Covid-19 alert status in this Philippine province, whale shark tourism is now ready for business.

Whale Shark Tourism Resumes

Sorsogon is hoping to boost its tourism industry with the help of whale sharks. According to Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Office chief Bobby Gigantone, they have resumed whale shark tourism.

Donsol town is now promoting whale shark interaction after a multi-sectoral meeting regarding establishing regulations and protocols. This would ensure the protection of the “butanding” and foreign and local tourists.

Foreign and local tourists in Sorsogon can now swim with the whale sharks. Crystaldive/WikimediaCommons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Sorsogon is now under Alert Level 2, and because of this, indoor activities can accommodate at least half of the capacity. Outdoor areas, on the other hand, can have a capacity of about 70%.

The pandemic caused a huge slump in the town’s tourism industry. Hundreds of workers lost their job because several establishments had to shut down their businesses. However, with the easing of the alert level, Donsol town is expecting an increase in the number of tourists and amount in revenues.

Pre-Pandemic Butanding Festival Hauled Millions of Pesos

In 2019, the Butanding Festival generated a generous ₱448 million in gross revenues. The community got ₱75 million, while ₱3.5 million went to the Local Government Unit’s treasury, based on Donsol Tourism Office (DTO) data. The rest of the amount was utilized for national advertisement and tourism marketing programs. Additionally, that same year, the DTO data recorded 13,000 tourist arrivals.

“With the permanent and temporary closure of tourist establishments such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, hundreds of millions in revenue were lost, and hundreds of workers lost their jobs,” Gigantone said.

Donsol’s whale shark interaction program collaborates with the Department of Tourism (DOT), LGU, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines. This is a joint obligation for an environment-friendly and balanced eco-tourism project.

Best Place and Time for Whale Shark Interaction

Whale sharks traverse Philippine waters from January to May. However, the best place to see these gentle giants of the sea is in Donsol. This is a beautiful town that people never heard of before, until the whale sharks’ arrival.

You can find Donsol in the Bicol region, located in the Philippines’ northern part. Fisherfolks only knew that they shouldn’t catch the largest mammal in the world that lives on the water. They didn’t know that these visitors will bring good fortune to the town. Moreover, Donsol Bay only allows snorkeling and restricts scuba diving.

The Donsol Whale Shark Program

Donsol received some financing for its development as an eco-tourism site. Experts in different specialties helped in establishing a sequence of procedures. They regulated the number of boats used in the tourists’ whale shark interaction. These rules also include:

  • Not touching or riding the whale shark
  • Not confining the shark’s movement or interfering with its natural course
  • Swim 3 meters away from the whale shark’s tail
  • Never use a flashing camera
  • Don’t use jet skis, scuba scooters, or any motorized underwater propulsion
  • Only six snorkelers can swim with a shark
  • Only one boat is allowed per shark

Whale sharks usually arrive in Donsol from November to January. They feast on plankton and krill’s abundant supply.  However, the best time to see them in Donsol is from April to May.

Image Source: Jaontiveros/WikimediaCommons (4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic)