The area around Donsol is best known for one of the greatest concentrations of whale sharks in the world. The number of sightings varies: during the peak months of February to May there’s a good chance of seeing ten or fifteen whale sharks a day, but on some days (particularly early or late in the season, which stretches from mid-November to June) you might strike out and see none. Holy Week is extremely busy and best avoided.
At the Visitor Centre you can complete all the formalities of hiring a boat for a whale shark-watching trip. Queues can start to form before the centre opens during peak season, particularly at weekends, so arrive early.
Tourists are not allowed to board a boat without first being briefed by a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO), who explains how to behave in the water near a whale shark. The number of snorkellers around any one shark is limited to six; flash photography is not allowed, nor is scuba gear, and avoid the animal’s tail because it can do you some serious damage. Some boatmen flout these rules in order to keep their passengers happy, but this risks distressing the whale sharks and should not be encouraged. Check that your boat has one of the mandatory propeller guards.