Donsol is a little town in the region of Bicol in the Philippines, that has been put on the map for its whale shark swimming adventures. Every year the town becomes busy with tourists who flock there to swim with the famous Butanding (whale shark in Philippino)
I must admit though, the only reason I traveled to Donsol, was to swim with the whale sharks, being the biggest fish in the sea and so high on my bucket list how could I not go! If you want to read more about my crazy experience with the sharks you can read all about it here. And although I only knew Donsol for just the whale sharks, I never knew there was more to offer.
With one of the most famous mountains in the Philippines and also close to Donsol and Legazpi, is Mt. Mayon, which, at the right time, you can hike up. Which I really wanted to do, however it was closed the time I visited due to the dormant volcano (M.t Mayon) still coughing, making it too dangerous to climb. This is something I will certainly be heading back to do once the volcano becomes safer to hike. It is a majestic mountain and I have heard it’s a beautiful hike to the top (its on the bucket list).
Another cool adventure which I had no idea even existed, was seeing the fireflies. Each night there are river cruises you can take which educate you on the fireflies, their mating patterns and everything you need to know about them. The guide we had was very informative and the best thing about this adventure was it was just me and my two buddies, whom I met on the boat. Which was super cool because we could cruise off to a separate trees full of fireflies in the pitch darkness of the night and watch them all to ourselves. Come to think of it now, it sounds a little lame but in all honesty it was actually one of the coolest things I have done on my travels. And I too wasn’t convinced before I went that it would even be worth doing it. Turns out it is! So if you’re heading there or anywhere else in the Philippines and get a chance to see the fireflies, don’t look past it.
To hire the boat it was about 1250 PHP (AUD 30) including the guide (very informative) and to get the river via trike is about 100 PHP (AUD 2.45).
What you need to know about the Whale Sharks
This was close to being one of the best days of my life. I got to dive with 7 whale sharks, which was a record for that season and exceptionally good because the prior season there were basically none seen at all. One of the larger ones we saw was gigantic measuring about 15m long, being one of the biggest if not the biggest seen in that area. If you can free dive and hold your breath you will be in luck as most of the tourists stay at the surface and the sharks dive down to get away from the splashing on the surface. So if you can do some free diving you will have an awesome time and can swim side by side with the sharks on your own (my favorite part).
They say there is one boat per shark and 6 people per shark but that’s a bit of BS. Although if you want to see whale sharks in the wild here is the place where you have the highest chance of seeing them in basically the whole world.
Food and Accommodation tips
I stayed at the Woodland Beach Resort, which has really nice staff, great food for decent prices and it is only a short 5 min walk max to the ‘tourist center’ where you take the boat out to see the whale sharks. The accommodation cost me 500 PHP ($12) per night. Food per meal averaged around 120-300PHP (AUD 3-7) per meal.
There are not a whole lot of places to shop or eat in the town but you can get there for 20 PHP per person.
To everyone who is heading there to swim with the whale sharks, have a blast! it really is amazing!
Philippine sunsets go unbeaten, Donsol