Donsol just South of Legazpi in The Philippines is the only place in The Philippines where you may be lucky enough to swim with a WILD WHALESHARK or as they are locally known, BUTANDING.

Well Miky and I were lucky enough, the most exhilarating, magical experience so far in my little life! & a tick off the Bucket list!


There is one Butanding diving specific tour operator in Donsol; with five working boats, ferrying 6 people each, (when busy) out to sea to try and catch a glimpse of the illusive, magical creatures. The “whale shark season” is generally from Dec to May, so we are actually a bit late by arriving in June. The price for the boat tour obviously does not vary depending on your luck of seeing the Butanding, and we were warned that its been over 5 days since the last sighting. The man behind the wooden desk assured us we wouldn’t see a whale today! But considering this was the soul purpose (originally) of our visit to Donsol we decided to give it a go anyway!

A “spotter” was balanced carefully on the boats bamboo “look out station” searching the seas for the shadow or the spurt of a whale. After over two hours charging along the empty seas, we had both caught up on our sleep, eaten two freshly picked mangos and become friendly with the other  passengers. The boat stopped, and our guide encouraged us to jump in the water to snorkel as (despite being unable to spot a whaleshark) we would be returning soon. The black sand and dark water made visibility poor, but I quickly noticed there were many fairy like jellyfish floating centimeters around me.. all around me! I started flailing my arms around, drowning poor Miky in the process of trying to scramble frantically back to the boat. After this disappointing snorkel experience we headed back to base. I was contemplating the depth of my disappointment about not seeing a whale shark when without warning, the lookout starts SCREAMING, LOOK LOOK! BUTANDING, A WHALE SHARK!

“GET READY GUYS!!” our guide excitedly ushered us toward to head of the boat, before I knew what was even happening everyone else was in the water, they had jumped from the moving boat. I saw the flip of a giant fin, and jumped in too! DSCN4198

Miky was waiting for me whilst everyone else was splashing their way toward the last sighting of the fin, flapping around and trying to secure my snorkel mask whilst avoiding potentially painful jellyfish stings when the guide looks back at us shouting “LOOK DOWN!” I looked directly below me, nothing but empty blue sea, but to my right, only millimeters away from brushing against our bodies a nine metre whale shark. His gleaming eye linked with mine, caution wary waved over me as I looked down the length of the animals body. Could this guy swallow me whole? (no)

DSCN4200“WAHHHOOOOO!” the other swimmers had joined us now and were whooping and shouting as the whale passed us. The white spots on his skin individualizes him like our finger print. Within moments the creature had again disappeared into the depths. Our guide summoned our boat back just as my adrenaline levels returned to normal and I became aware of the eerie darkness if the sea around us. Ten minutes later this whole event happened again, sudden shouting, a rapid jump into to sea, and another encounter with the same nine meter gentle giant. Have you ever been in the wild swimming directly beside a five meter sea creature? Genuinely breathtaking, these moments will live on in my memory forever. Its so refreshing to have first hand experience and understanding of the respect that these animals deserve! When we finally returned to the centre the staff there clapped and cheered us, we were the only boat lucky enough to see and swim with them this week.


Feeling extremely grateful today!


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  1. Donna
    June 8, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    What an incredible experience Krystal, you must feel genuinely privileged to have swam with these immense creatures. Xxx

    • Jam
      June 9, 2014 at 7:30 AM

      I just love reading about your adventure, keep the blog coming sounds and looks amazing x x x

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