“Butanding” and Ecotourism

I am from Gubat, Sorsogon. I have heard of a place called Donsol but have never been there and thus knows nothing about what’s in there. Until in 1998, I saw a documentary on local TV about the whale sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon.

Donsol used to be an impoverished fishing village. Now its ecotourism industry has brought additional income to the municipality. A good thing that people like Ruel Pine (project manager of the community-based ecotourism and coastal resource management project of the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines in Donsol) is there to make sure that the whale shark and its habitat is preserved.

Luz Rimban of the Investigative Reporting Magazine notes:

Known as the gentle giants of the deep, butanding had been sighted — and slaughtered — in some coastal towns of Sorsogon, but in greater numbers off Donsol, as far back as local residents can remember.

Photo Credit: Karina Escudero, PCIJ.ORG

Related links for those interested:

Sorsogon Tourism
Be sure not miss the site’s Whale Shark Interaction Guide.

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  • indo

    No question that our Butanding is the best animal encounter
    in Asia, not just by Time Magazine but from the chronicles from the thousands
    that visited our town. doing this blog. Even for us locals, we are fascinated every
    time we swim with our Giants.

    We have difficulty last year. The sightings are poor. So far
    today, the new administration put in place several restrictions not to scare
    our Butanding. Very hard for us to pinpoint the cause of its decline..

    So far today we are optimistic, the sightings are pretty
    good compared last year. 70 to 80% of chance to see the Sharks.

    For more info about our sightings and everything here in

    mail me at [email protected]

    ring me 63-908-273-5747

  • gt

    Too bad, last week they accidentally captured one in Abuyog, Leyte and they ate that poor Butanding.

    This town also loves to eat Carabao.

  • I am very proud to all sorsogueños from having this whale shark known as “BUTANDING” in Donsol. Sad to say that I am a sorsogueños but im not been there in Donsol to see this kind of beautiful nature. I’ve been there in some places like tagaytay, hidden valley, baguio city and places here in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia like Aramco and Prince Sultan beach resort but I really like to see butanding. Maybe after I come back home from my second adventure in other country, I will visit there to my root of origin to see what is butanding was.

  • andrea

    we will be in Bicol next month,and we want to go to Butanding and stay overnight, is there any cottage or hotel , and how much is the rate

  • ronald

    hi all,

    if you have an inquiry about domestic package you can call me 410-6279/84 or 721-5141 EMJ travel or my email:[email protected]



  • Paula

    we flew from manila to legaspi (got it cheap through cebu pacific’s go fares. two way cost me P2,300 + terminal fees.

    then for the whaleshark interaction, it’s P3,500/boat maximum of 6 but many people will be with you. one BIO (butanding interaction officer) man, one butanding spotter, one lifeguard and 2 boatmen.:)

    it’s good for 3 hours. you also need to pay P100/person for the boat/dive pass.

    you need to watch a 10 minute video before going to the ocean but i assure you its a very wonderful experience 🙂

    as for hotels, the one nearest to the DOT office is called vitton beach resort and it costs P1,500/2 per night. the room is decent with aircon. there are other resorts that are much cheaper. amor resort can house 4 people for only about P1,000 but it’s non aircon.

    you should also try to firefly watching. it’s P1250/boat maximum of 4 or 6 i think.:)

  • fely

    we visited the place twice and we had a great time and a wonderful experience. I’m from Bikol, from Iriga City to be exact and you bet guys how did i know about this “Buntanding Monster fish”??? DISCOVERY CHANNEL!!! when i saw it in TV i told my husband that we will definitely go whale watching in Donsol. Our second time was absolutely an experience to remember, we are about to gave up when i asked the “captain” of the boat to stop the boat so we can enjoy the water in the middle of the sea. all of a sudden we just saw more or less 15 BUTANDING swimming around us, and they are all looked like a MONSTER with a big mouth!! so sometimes it is worth waiting!!

    I think we paid more or less 3,500 pesos for the boat with a capacity of 6 persons plus the registration fee they charged in the Tourism office. But i warn you guys the road going to Donsol Tourism Office is pretty bad. But from Legaspi Airport to Sorsogon(some part of donsol), you’ll have a smooth drive.

    When you plan to visit the place please go directly to the Tourism Office because they will give you an orientation about the Whale and they have contacts with the boat owners, and “certified” tourist guide.

  • Most philippine travel enthusiasts have discovered why Sorsogon whale watching has created a following of its own. Whale shark tours give travellers a chance to swim with whale sharks (Butanding) in the quiet, idyllic town of Donsol.

    Worry not in finding the exact location of Sorsogon – we are at the southernmost tip of Luzon, ensconsced between verdant hills,virgin forests and the wide expanse of the sea.

  • madz

    i’ve been to sorsogon last summer and it was a very wonderful experience though i did not have a chance to swim and to look over the butanding because actually i do not know how to swim

    and when we went there, there is only 1 butanding, the BIO said that because of the storm few days ago, the butanding went to other place and because it was already the end of may — off season (january to early may is the season of butanding) but we were very lucky that the butanding always pass under our boat =)

    we paid, 3,500 for the boat along with the BIOs and the other expenses, i do not know how much did we pay all in all
    but people interested to go might check

  • jen
  • Chris


    Can anybody tell me how I can contact Ms Karina Escudero?? I met her in year 2000 while she was in Boracay. We were sailing together on a paraw called “RED PIRATES”. I have been in Thailand for the last 5 years and am moving to the Sipadan area in Sabah, East Malaysia in a few days. I am quite impressed with what has happened to the Tourist Industry in Donsol. Please send her my regards and if possible I would like to get reaquainted to help out her cause.



  • jefferson E. Cañon

    Im from bentuco,Gubat Sorsogon,
    I want to be ther at Donsol,B coz I want to see the wwhale shark”butanding”

    I am proud to be sorsogeneos….

  • patrick

    How do we reserve a boat to swim with the whalesharks? Do we just show up? We’re flying from Europe, and we’d like to know who we contact.
    they have a Tourism office at the site which provides information and also boats

  • ruel punongbayan

    hi. would you know where and how can i contact ms. karina escudero (underwater photographer). i’v been wanting to communicate for her for the longest time. thanks

  • Pingback: Filipina Soul » Home Sweet Home()

  • Lisa

    How do we reserve a boat to swim with the whalesharks? Do we just show up? We’re flying from Europe, and we’d like to know who we contact.

  • I also had to pay extra for the boatman and the “spotter” who is the one who spot the whalesharks. He is also the one who will dive with you. You also need to pay for the rental of the snorkel equipment. And yes, they expect a small tip.

  • angelicum

    2,500 – boat
    800 per night – shelter (up to four per room)
    300 per day – food
    1,800 – manila to legaspi and back
    200 each person from legaspi to the resorts

    if you go by eight you will just have to divide the boat and the shelteer! malaki matitipid.

    the best!

  • yung boss ko nagpunta last summer, if i’m not mistaken less than two thousand pesos lang yung bayad sa boat na sasakyan papunta dun sa area na may whale shark. (prices could have changed since then, puti yung boss ko kaya malamang mahal nasingil sa kanya) may ilang resorts daw dun na puwede tulugan for the night. resort na hindi touristy type ah…very undeveloped pa rin daw yung place. ni walang night life. which is good kasi eco-tourism nga promote nila. ang mahal lang na babayaran mo ay yung airfare puntang legaspi. pero kung magbus ka, 1000 lang one way 9aircon, pa-sorsogon)

  • Magkano kaya budget mag whaleshark interaction? i sent an e-mail sa website ng sorsogon, unfortunately nag bo-bounce mailbox nila