Every April, Donsol town in Sorsogon holds an annual festival that ushers in the butanding (whale shark) season. Like most festivals in the country, a street parade highlights the festivities. The main attractions, however, are eco-trips into the sea organized by trained tour operators and guide for visitors who wish to see the butanding.
Despite their fearsome name, whale sharks pose no harm to humans, though they sometimes measure more than 10 meters and weigh over a ton. The sea near the shores of Pilar, Donsol and Magallanes towns in Sorsogon and Pioduran in Albay is considered a “freeway” and migratory park for butanding.
Although the whale shark watching season starts from April to December, a dozen of whale sharks can be seen in coastal villages in several towns straddling the Sorsogon Bay all year round, say local fishermen. Officials in these towns compete for tourists. They train local folks on how to take care of the whale sharks and the proper way to entertain visitors.
But it was Donsol that enjoyed a boom from the butanding eco-tourism trade due to its easy access from Legazpi and Sorsogon City and the proactive stance of its people.
During this season, giant whale sharks take refuge in Sorsogon Bay where they fatten themselves on “balaw” (small prawns).
History of Donsol
Donsol was just a barrio in Quipia (now Jovellar, Albay) until 1668 when it became an independent parish. Donsol got its name from “donsolanon”, an old Bicol word, meaning anvil. In the old days, according to old folks, a skilled black-smith had his “donsolanon” in Dancalan which was well-known for its quality products, so much so that people who needed metalware were invariably referred to this place. Donsol became an independent municipality under Albay in 1800. Its first gobernadorcillo was Don Mariano Adrian. The present site of Donsol used to be known as “Barra”. The town was transferred to this site on July 11, 1831. The old town site is now known as Banuang Gurang.
How to get to Donsol
There are two ways to get to Donsol, Sorsogon. One is via Legazpi City in Albay, an hour flight or a ten-hour bus ride from Manila. From Legazpi City, another hour by hired land vehicle to get to Donsol. The other approach is via Sorsogon City, about twelve hours by bus from Manila. Take jeep or van for an hour drive to Donsol. To experience the whale shark interaction, you can either register in the form here or go directly to the Tourism Visitors Center.
Other places to visit
See the numeous male fireflies flashing lights to attract female. Local fishermen will paddle you along the wide Donsol river to witness the dazzling display lights made by thousands of fireflies.
The Grotto Chapel is situated in Barangay San Antonio, Donsol, Sorsogon. It was built in 1976 by Mrs. Lydia Apuyan-Tagle as the fruit of her strong devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. It stands on top of a hill overlooking the pathway of more or less three hundred (300) steps. It is often visited by town folks for public viewing and as a pilgrimage site in adoration to our Blessed Mother Mary. It could be reached by land fifteen (15) minutes ride from Donsol town proper. The feast day is celebrated every 11th of February.
Catundolan is Donsol’s landmark where pinnacle of rocks and vast coral formations are found. The water in this area is the deepest part of Donsol coastline where numerous whale sharks could be seen.