Donsol, Sorsogon, is the town where I came from in the Southern Philippines. It is the place where you can see a lot of the friendly Whaleshark or locally known as Butanding.
Donsol had been a town known for its existence as a popular tourist destination where, in the bordering sea, whale sharks can be seen. Donsol is considered the unofficial 'Whale Shark Capital of the World' with the largest number of recorded sightings of these gentle giants anywhere in the world. Swimming with whale sharks had been ranked as the Best Animal Encounter in Asia by Time magazine in 2004.
These creatures can be seen all-year round except when there is currently a typhoon, their presence is peaking between February and May.
Interaction with the whale sharks is regulated by the local department office. With the help of WWF strict guidelines were developed to protect the sharks. These include limiting the number of swimmers per boat (six), no scuba divers and staying further than three meters from the sharks. In practise this rule is almost never applied. As many as 14 boats at a time may 'mob' a shark, with up to 30 or 40 swimmers following the shark on the surface.
In recent years the number of male sharks have out-numbered female sharks by 20:1. The females that are seen are generally large mature adults in the 7m ~ 9m range. Increasing numbers of sharks show propellor marks on their backs. Anecdotal evidence from local fishermen suggests that prop strikes are from fishing boats in the off-season, rather than from tourist boats in the main Jan ~ May tourist season.
In 2006 five sharks were found dead on the surface, within 30 miles of Donsol. They had all been shot at close range. One shark had 13 bullet wounds to the head. The locals blame this on commercial fishermen shooting the sharks if they are caught in their nets. Mantas, which are also protected in the Philippines, are also over fished and sold in local markets in the Sorsogon area.
Tourism continues to develop slowly in Donsol. This is mostly due to the lack of any real tourist infrastructure. Groups from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines make up the largest groups of visitors. Most book guided tours with dive centers familiar with whale shark interaction.
Below are photos when we first went for a vacation in my hometown with the kids. My husband and son have celebrated their birthdays there and we went and tried diving and swimming with the Butanding or whalesharks.
The photo I took of the whaleshark isn't really clear but it's god enough.