Underwater adventurers know Donsol very well largely because of the discovery of whale sharks permanently residing off its coast. This destination is definitely something to be added to the bucket list as divers from all over the world visit this area in the Philippines so they can swim with these gentle giants.
Donsol is a rural town located near Legazpi, Sorsogon. In 2008, the world came to know of this small fishing village because of its gentle butanding or whale sharks. Now a popular destination among divers who want to experience swimming with the largest known fish species.
From Manila, there are daily flights going to Legazpi via Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific. The flight is about 50 minutes long, after which you can take a public van, private van or private pick-up to take you to Donsol. The land transfer is about 1 hour and 30 minutes long.
For those who want to travel by sea, you will need to take a plane to Masbate from Manila that takes 1 hour and 15 minutes, then take a three-hour ferry ride to Pilar. From Pilar, you can already take a 20 minute ride via jeepney or van going to Donsol.
For long, relaxed rides, there are buses from Manila directly going to Donsol, which takes about 13 hours. For more trip or schedule options, you can take a bus going to Legazpi, then take a private van or pick-up to take you to Donsol.
The usual transportation is the tricycle that can take you to different spots in the island. The standard cost for transport from the city center to Dancalan Visitor’s Center is PHP20. Other options like jeepneys and vans (UV Express) are also available.
The number one activity that Donsol is known for are the whale sharks, which is more commonly known in the area as butanding. From November to June, all the whale sharks gather and are being taken care of by the locals in the island.
For the geology fans, there is the famous volcano, Mount Mayon, which you can see from the whale shark viewing area. There are also other popular activities in the village such as cockfighting.
Swimming with whale sharks is of course a must when you visit the village and of course you cannot leave the island without the obligatory profile picture pose. The peak of the season is from February to May. Due to the high demand of the activity, it is suggested that you book the tour in advance or arrive at the venue at 7 in the morning. While you are at it, might as well continue with scuba diving and enjoy the clean blue ocean and check out the reefs.
In you still have not gotten enough of the water, you can head over to Manta Bowl and visit the manta rays.
Another must-try is the firefly watching, which is done at the Donsol River or Ogod River. This is when a boat takes you to a river cruise to see fireflies light off entire trees at night.
After all the activities in the day, you may want to wind down and relax at D’Spa, which offers a wide range of massage services.
In Donsol, you will have your fill of fresh seafood day and night. Visit Butanding Bar and Restaurant at Clemente street. The place is popular for the beverage and refreshments mostly and is open until 1 AM. Another destination is the Sadtong Panawn Restaurant, which gives you a feel of the old world with all its antique furniture. For the seafood “lamang dagat” feast, you can visit AGM Beachfront Resort Restaurant in Barangay Dancalan that serves freshly caught seafood and fresh vegetables sourced from nearby farms.
Of course when you eat at any of the restaurants, do not forget the famous Bicol Express, which the whole region is known for. If you like spicy curry, this is the Filipino-Bicolano version of the dish.
One of the more popular night life spot is the BARacuda, that opens at 5PM until late in the evening (or early in the morning). What’s special about this is that during the day, the owner goes fishing and serves what was caught at the restaurant at night. A very cozy place to chill with seafood and cocktails to match.
Though the general population have early lights out, the place is still known for its accommodating night life. Very often there are town fiestas (feasts) or you can simply subscribe to the firefly river cruise then after visiting various lounges and bars to relax and conclude an adventure-packed day.
There is now a wide range of choices for tourists going to Donsol. From backpackers, to vacationers or are there for the longer haul, surely you will find an accommodation that suits your requirements.
If you want to go for the more popular resorts, you can check out the Amor Farm Beach Resort and the Donsol Bay Resort. There are other choices such as Casa Bianca Beach Resort or Elysia Beach Resort, which brings you closer to the sea. If you really are more for the adventure and out most of the day, there are available places such as Alexandra’s Transient House and Donsol Home Stay.
Since the island is still quite new, bring cash because there are destinations that do not accept credit cards.
Plan your schedule ahead, list down all the activities that you want to experience and plot it per day.
Check for the weather on the days that you will be visiting the place, make sure that forecast is mostly sunny so you can fully enjoy the Donsol experience.