Donsol was once a sleepy sea side village until the discovery of Butandin (aka the Whale Shark) started making waves. Now from the months of November to May Filipinos and foreigners alike flock to this site to experience these gentle giants. One of the beauties of this experience is that you don’t even need a dive tank. These whale sharks conveniently enjoy cruising around the surface and with a simple mask and snorkel you too can swim along beside. The first time you are thrown out of the boat and approach the creature the sheer size is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks. But by the time you’ve had your third or fourth sighting you will have perfected the best way to swim beside the giant and marvel. Sadly it’s impossible to keep up with them forever though! The operation is really impressive with all the local banca boat drivers involved, who pride themselves on their keen eye for whale spotting. You instantly get the impression that the discovery has changed the area for the better with many locals employed in the tourism industry, as well as the realisation that their whale sharks need to be protected, not destroyed.
Where to stay
A range of accommodation is scattered along the coastal strip. Vitton Beach Resort is one of the closest to the action, located right next to the visitors centre. In peak season it is worth noting that accommodation fills up fast, so book ahead! If you want something cheap and cheerful there are a few home stays available, just have a thorough search around on the net before you go. You will inevitably have to travel a bit further to get to the visitors’ center if you choose this option. Giddys is another popular choice located in Donsol town, however again you will have to travel slightly further to get from here to the visitors centre.
Things to do
- Whale sharks: Need we say more?
- Scuba Dive: As is common in the Philippines, there are some great dive sites around. It’s not a bad place to relax on the beach for a while either!
- Barracuda: Grab yourself some really tasty fish and pasta from Barracuda owned by a fantastic Filipino lady who has spent time as a chef overseas. She’ll bring prawns and fish to your table so you can choose whatever takes your fancy. This place also has some of the cheaper rooms (with shared bathrooms) along the Donsol strip and is only a short walk from the whale shark area.
- By Road: From Legaspi take a van to Donsol which takes about one and a half hours. Vans will await you at the airport, or for a less touristy price try the van terminal in Legaspi town. Or if you’re a fan of the lengthier South East Asian bus trip, get a bus all the way from Manila.
- Fly: Take a speedy flight from Manila to Legaspi. You can also fly from Cebu.
(see Boracay section for information on Philippines airlines)
Where to go next?
- Naga/Bagasbas: (2 hours from Legaspi) for some surf and beach time.
- Cam Sur wakeboard park: Only 5 minutes from Naga airport, Camarines Sur is actually the number one tourist destination in the Philippines, despite the fact that Boracay gets more foreign tourists. The area has made a real effort to support the development and the results really show!
- Caramoan: The set of US hit show ‘Survivor’, the Caramoan Islands are making their way onto the backpacker map and epitomise the idea of island hopping.