Sogod Bay offers arguably the finest whale shark watching in the world. Situated on the southern coast of the island of Leyte in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines, this area is comparatively unknown, little visited and still devoid of major tourist developments.
Whale sharks have been frequenting Sogod Bay for generations and, sadly, were abused before they became a protected species. Probably their saving grace was the fact that their meat is quite unpleasant to eat, and so they were not hunted into extinction. With the arrival of some small scale dive operations, the rarity, beauty and value of these magnificent creatures began to be appreciated. About 10 years ago a group of enlightened and enterprising local fisherman formed a co-operative to protect and guide visitors to watch the whale sharks, and that operation continues very much unchanged to this day. This co-operative is very sympathetic to the whale sharks’ environment and does its very best to ensure visitors cause the minimum possible disturbance.
Whale shark watching in Sogod Bay is usually available from November until May and offers several advantages over other, better known, locations:
- visitor numbers are low, and it is extremely unusual to find more than 3 boats looking for whale sharks at the same time, and often there is only one (or none at all).
- no articifical feeding or other incentives to attract the whale sharks is allowed, and the whale sharks are at peace in their natural, and very beautiful, habitat.
- water visibility is usually excellent, allowing visitors to watch a whale shark for prolonged periods – 30 minutes or more is quite common.
- other activities are possible during a day’s whale shark tour – dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling and a visit to the the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines being the most popular.
Most visitors who come to see the whale sharks stay in or near to the small and peaceful town of Padre Burgos on the western shore of Sogod Bay. A range of accommodation is available there in basic pensions, low key dive resorts and more upmarket boutique hotels. Access to Padre Burgos is straightforward, although time consuming, either by ferry from Cebu or overland from Tacloban airport which provides many daily connections from Manila.
The comparative remoteness is likely to preserve the undeveloped and ‘off-the-beaten-track’ nature of the area for some time to come. As a result visitors who make the journey are treated to a truly unique experience of swimming with whale sharks in an idyllic and peaceful environment.