Where to Swim with Whale Sharks in the Philippines

Where to Swim with Whale Sharks in the Philippines

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Swimming with a whale sharkAs a country with over 7,000 islands that enjoys a tropical climate year-round, the Philippines is home to beautiful beaches and lush forests that make for the perfect vacation destination. However, a trip to the Philippines wouldn't be complete without taking the time to explore the pristine waters that surround the archipelago.

When you go diving in the Philippines, you'll find rich marine ecosystems teeming with all kinds of animals, such as colorful fish, easygoing sea turtles, and gentle whale sharks in the Philippines. Recognizing the country's biodiverse aquatic habitats, the Philippines has been named the Best Dive Destination in Asia, besting other popular countries like the Maldives, Malaysia, and Indonesia. 

Whale shark in OslobAside from diving, travelers can also enjoy the Philippines' biodiversity by going on animal sighting tours and Philippine snorkeling tours. Among the best experiences you can try is undoubtedly a whale shark tour, where you can swim with whale sharks in the Philippines. Locally known as "butandings," whale sharks have become popular among Philippine travelers mainly due to their beautiful spotted patterns, sheer size, and overall gentle nature. 

If you're dreaming of seeing these majestic creatures up close, here is a list of tours that will take you to the best places to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines:

When is whale shark season in the Philippines?

Whale shark Philippines season usually starts in November and ends in June. However, it's best to schedule a whale shark watching tour between February and April, as a higher number of whale sharks pass through the tropical archipelago during these months. Visiting during these peak months also increases your chances of swimming with whale sharks. 

Are whale shark sightings in the Philippines guaranteed? 

While whale sharks are often seen in the Philippines, sightings are never guaranteed since they are migratory animals. Their movements are also influenced by currents, water temperature, and food availability in different areas. When deciding on where to see whale sharks in the country, the top locations are found in Sorsogon, Bohol, Cebu, and other best islands in the Philippines.  

Donsol, Sorsogon Whale Shark Tour

Whale Shark near Mt. Mayon in BicolSituated along the southern coast of Luzon Island in the Bicol region, Sorsogon is a province known for beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes, and Donsol whale shark tours.

Among the area's best-known spots are the towering Mount Bulusan inside the serene Bulusan Volcano Natural Park and the pristine shores of Subic Beach in Matnog. But for whale shark watching, you'll head to the seaside town of Donsol, which is among the top Sorsogon tourist spots and Bicol tourist spots.

Subic Beach in Matnog, SorsogonWhile there are various places to go whale shark watching across the country, Donsol whale shark tours stand out for observing the most ethical whale shark practices in the Philippines.

They also request that guests strictly follow three rules when getting in the water with these gentle giants: do not touch the whale sharks, always keep 3 meters between you and their tails, and never use flash photography. By following these rules, you can make the experience safe for you and the animals, and ensure that they come back during Donsol whale shark season. 

Lila Bohol Whale Shark Tour

Whale shark watching tour


Beyond the usual whale shark watching places to visit in the Philippines, travelers looking for a newer experience should try a Lila Bohol Whale Shark Watching Tour instead. Lila is an emerging dive site off the coast of Bohol, an island province in Visayas that sits to the southeast of Cebu.

While whale shark watching is among the best things to do in Bohol, the province is also home to other popular attractions, such as the Chocolate Hills, Loboc River Cruise and Balicasag Marine Sanctuary. 

Chocolate Hills in BoholWhen you add a Lila whale shark watching tour to your Bohol itinerary, you will take a boat from Lila's shores and sail to an area where the gentle giants are known to feed. After spotting them, you'll be given rental snorkeling gear that you can use to swim close to the whale sharks.

However, always remember to keep a safe distance from them to avoid getting hit by their tails and hurting them accidentally. If you're taking photos during your Bohol tour, you must also keep your flash off as it may disorient or scare the animals. 

Oslob Whale Shark Watching in Cebu

Kawasan Falls in CebuFor the best chances of seeing whale sharks even during off-peak months in the Philippines, going on an Oslob Whale Shark Watching Tour is your best bet, especially during Oslob whale shark season. This seaside town is located in Cebu, Visayas.

It has been hailed as one of the top Cebu tourist spots since it's known for having constant sightings of whale sharks year-round. Although, Oslob whale shark tours here have also gained attention for their possible negative impacts on these sea animals. 

Whale shark watching in OslobEnvironmentalists have criticized many tour operators' practice of luring whale sharks to certain areas by feeding them large amounts of krill. However, this practice has decreased over the years, and many Oslob whale shark watching tour operators now follow strict guidelines to protect these majestic creatures.

Aside from the Oslob Cebu Whale Shark Watching Tour, you can also visit the Kawasan Falls in Cebu and Tumalog Falls, which are both top activities in Cebu which are nearby. You can also check out our Cebu travel guide to find the best places to visit and restaurants to try. If you plan on visiting nearby provinces, our Cebu to Bohol itinerary can give you a preview of the best way to spend your time! 

Puerto Princesa, Palawan Whale Shark Tour

Puerto Princesa Whale Shark Watching Tour Photo from Puerto Princesa Whale Shark Watching Tour 

A trip to Puerto Princesa in Palawan is incomplete without a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, and going island-hopping in nearby Honda Bay, but another activity you can add to your itinerary is whale shark-watching.

Should you book a Puerto Princesa whale shark-watching tour, expect an early morning departure from Puerto Princesa Town Proper. You’ll make your way to the port, where you’ll board a boat bound for Honda Bay. Your boatman will take you to the area that whale sharks frequent. Manage your expectations, as chances of whale shark sightings in Puerto Princesa are not as high as in other destinations like Oslob. 

Puerto Princesa Whale Shark Watching Tour Photo from Puerto Princesa Whale Shark Watching Tour 

If you are lucky enough to chance upon whale sharks in Honda Bay’s waters, you can swim and snorkel near them, but make sure you don’t touch or disturb them. Even if you don’t get to see whale sharks, Honda Bay is still full of other natural attractions that you can see and appreciate during your trip. 

Those who have more time can visit other Puerto Princesa tourist spots like Baker’s Hill for delicious baked treats or Iwahig River, where you can catch firefly-watching tours. For a hassle-free vacation, look for Puerto Princesa tour packages that include tours of these attractions. 

Swim with the gentle whale sharks of the Philippines

Two whale sharksSeeing these gentle giants up close is only one of the many reasons why you should visit the Philippines. After swimming with them in some of the best beaches in the Philippines, you can head to different natural wonders in the country by booking Philippine guided tours or Philippine tour packages.

Whether you choose to go whale shark watching in Sorsogon, Bohol, or Cebu, there are many other attractions to visit during your getaway as well. They are also home to some of the best places to visit in the Philippines, such as the beautiful beaches in Cebu and the picturesque Chocolate Hills in Bohol. You can also book a Puerto Princesa whale shark tour.

For a hassle-free vacation, check out our Philippine travel guide to help you plan your dream tropical getaway! 

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