Swimming with Whale Sharks in Donsol

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
70 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 50
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
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How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
123rd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 40% SUMMARY RATING: Superb


Spending a day or two on one of the Banka outrigger boats, chilling in the sun, enjoying the tropical bay and jumping into the water to snorkel with Whale Sharks.  It’s a great experience and Donsol is one of the very best places in the world to do this.  The only downside is that despite everyone, including the captains, sitting through a video in the visitor centres emphasising the rules and how important it is for only one boat to approach each Whale Shark, there is a mad rush from the various boats to approach it and a similarly mad rush from everyone to jump in the water to swim with the shark.  The unsustainability of this (the Whale Sharks tend to see all the people and dive to get away from them, leading to fewer Whale Sharks), and the general mass tourism feel do, unfortunately, take the shine off the experience a bit


That being said, the rules are said to be now tighter observed and, if you’re keen to swim with Whale Sharks and are unable to scuba dive, this is a far better option than the likes of Oslob (in the south of the Philippines where they feed the sharks and change their behaviour) – both for the Whale Sharks and your experience


#1 The moment when you jump in the water, get your bearings, and see a whale shark . . . priceless . . . and sadly without photo!

#2 Spending the day in the outrigger, chilling and generally enjoying being on the water

#3 Taking some time to do some easier snorkelling in the beautiful clear waters closer to the shore

Travel Tips

  • Give yourself couple of days to avoid disappointment and be prepared not to use the second day if the first has been a success
  • Bring a good book – there is a lot of sailing around looking for the Whale Sharks
  • Don’t necessarily jump and swim where everyone else is jumping.  I actually, by accident, swam the other direction to other tourists (who have just about as little idea as you do for where the Whale Shark is) and found a Whale Shark swimming just below me.  This was by far the highlight of the trip as I had it to myself for a wonderful minute or so
  • March – April is the best time to try and see the sharks, as the visibility is best.  Although they start to arrive as early as November
  • You can only snorkel with the Whale Sharks ie no scuba diving.  But, you can scuba dive nearby at Ticao Island in the Manta Bowl, where you have a good chance of seeing Mantra Rays and Whale Sharks
  • We stayed at the Elysia Beach Resort, which was nice

Experiences nearby

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone