Donsol, Sorsogon

Travel Blog by Jen
March 26, 2007

I have always wanted to see the whalesharks in Donsol ever since they have gained popularity among local and foreign tourists. I think it was good that I had no expectations whatsoever because the experience became unique for me :)

Donsol, Sorsogon can be reached via Legazpi City, Albay.   Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines fly to Legazpi City and the travel time is just one hour.  Vans for hire bound for Donsol are available at the Satellite Market for another one-hour ride.  For this trip, I had already pre-arranged our transfers and accommodation through the Donsol Municipal Tourism Office.  

Our guide, Jeffrey Adrao, suggested that we proceed with the whaleshark encounter already.  The weather was good and it was still early enough to get a boat.  He said that it's better to take advantage of the good weather then so that if we don't get to see any whales that day, we still have the next day to catch them.  It made sense. 

We arrived at the Vistor Center at about 9:30 am. Tourists are required to fill out registration forms and pay the required fees at the counter. An audio-visual orientation followed soon after in the viewing room.

The Visitor Center

My brother filling out the Registration Form

We were then introduced to our BIO (Butanding Interaction Officer), Omar Nepomuceno, who gave us a few tips and instructions about the dive.

With Omar Nepomuceno (center), our BIO

He said that the most important thing to remember is to TRUST HIM and to HAVE NO FEAR! When he says jump, dive, paddle, swim --- just do it, or we might miss the opportunity of a close encounter!  

And so we set forth on our adventure, with our BIO, our guides and our spotter.  Since we were all nervous and scared to do this, our BIO said that he'll swim with us one by one.  We all decided to wear life vests first, as a precaution.  And so we waited for the whaleshark...

Spotters standing high up on the boats in search of whalesharks

all set!  *jitters inside!*

waiting, searching...

When the spotter sees a whaleshark, the boatmen will position the boat in an intersecting point ahead of the whalesharks.  It is thus very important that when the BIO signals for you to dive, that you really follow him... or else, you might be too late.

jumped from the boat and now chasing the whaleshark

When I was already in the water, I couldn't see anything because of the bubbles the jump made and the greenish color of the water.  I spun myself 360-degrees looking out for the whaleshark.  Still nothing.

And then just a few minutes later, I was staring at this huge mouth, slightly opened, heading towards me.  OH MY GOD.  Totally freaked out, but my BIO was there and signalled for me to swim alongside this gentle giant. 

its spotted head

its fin

I was just by its tail when our BIO posed for the camera!

The encounter was amazing!  Truly a very unique and thrilling experience to commune with the largest and gentlest shark in the world.  We had 7 sightings;  some of the butandings  were mature, while some were still very young.  We ended the the encounter at 2:00pm.  We could have actually continued if we wanted to but we were all so tired and hungry already from all the swimming!

The Vistor Center issued us a Certifcate of Recognition with the details of the encounter:  our names, date, time, and the number of whaleshark sightings!

This is us after:  tired, hungry and oh-so-thrilled with
the Butanding Encounter!

In the evening, we took the Firefly Watching Tour. Hundreds of fireflies inhabit the mangroves that stand along the banks of Donsol River.  During the short boat ride, we saw fishermen catching crabs/shrimp in the dark.  It is just too bad that my camera did not capture decent enough pictures of the fireflies to post here. 
* * * *

We stayed in at South Coast Resort in DonsolIt is a very simple property with only 2 rooms being rented out to tourists at that time.  The room smelled of fresh paint, clearly indicating that we were probably one of the first few guests who have stayed here.

South Coast Resort

The room we occupied was basic yet clean. It had a working air-conditioner and a private toilet with no hot water though. There was also no television. South Cosast doesn't have an on-site restaurant but the ladies of the house will gladly cook whatever you request within reason. The best thing about this resort is its location. It's a few minutes away from the Visitor Center, where people register for the Whaleshark Encounter. If one were to do several whaleshark encounters, it is ideal to arrive at the Visitor Center early. As there is a limit to the number of boats sent out to sea per day, it is good to be ahead of the rest.

the very simple room

cottages outside that overlook the sea

We asked the women of the house to cook lunch for us.  Our only requests were seafood and laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) -- a traditional Bicolono dish.  We had our lunch on a floating raft just by the resort's beachfront.  It was a nice finish to the day's major activity :)

our own "floating restaurant"

Our lunch:  Fish, Shrimp, Binagoongan and Laing
* All photos are Skycab's own. 

For rates, please send us an e-mail.