SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN DONSOL!

After I quit my job in November, I went on a 25-day trip in the Philippines with Marc. We didn’t really plan out the whole itinerary, we just chose the places we wanted to go to and booked our flights. Every decision was done at the last minute. When he arrived in Manila on Nov 23rd, we flew to Legazpi that same morning.

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Our first stop of the trip was Donsol, cause we wanted to see whale sharks. This activity, you can do either in Oslob or Donsol. We opted to do it in Donsol cause of the force-feeding in Oslob and we didn’t want to be part of any of that. We booked our flight to Legazpi and stayed in the city overnight for some shopping, movie night and just to see the Mayon Volcano. After coming back from Cagsawa Ruins, we went to the Grand Bus Terminal and took the van to Donsol. The fare was PHP98 and the trip lasted for 1.5 hrs. We checked in at Giddy’s Place, which is actually way more than our budget. It’s for PHP2000 a night and we stayed for 2 nights. I think we made a mistake here cause it was really far from where the resorts are. I thought that staying in the center was better but I think the only advantage is that it’s close to the van terminal and the ATM.

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The resorts are actually around 3km from town. Most nice restaurants and the tourism center are also there so each tricycle ride set us back to PHP40. Giddy’s has their own restobar but November is an off-peak month so it was closed the entire time. There weren’t a lot of guests either and the only people we saw there in 2 days were the 2 staff. LOL. The room was pretty nice though, huge twin beds, there was a safe box and a balcony where we spent drinking our beers (that we bought from the sari-sari store next door).

Ok, I think I need to talk about the ATM situation for a bit. Before coming here, have enough money to pay for everything. There’s an ATM at the LGU but unfortunately, our cards didn’t work. I have a BPI debit card and my friend has an international card. He was able to withdraw money just using his credit card. On Monday, the rural bank was opened (the ATM is located inside the bank so we couldn’t do that on weekends) so I was able to withdraw money but since it’s a privately owned bank, there’s a fee for every withdrawal depending on the amount. It was PHP38 for PHP5000. So yeah, make sure you have enough money before coming here cause the ATMs are not dependable.

We went to the Baracuda Restaurant since it was rated as the #1 restaurant in Donsol on Tripadvisor. It’s a really intimate beachfront restaurant and they only had lamps for lighting. They have a limited menu that I think depends on the catch for the day. We had a great dinner actually while drinking some cocktails and beer. The calamari salad, prawns and fish were really delicious. My friend had the tomato pasta and it was really nice, too. I can say I really enjoyed the food and the chillness of the place but it was really expensive. My friend paid PHP1400 for a dinner for 2. That is a lot. There was no more tricycle when we finished at 9pm so the host asked the bartender, John, to take us back to Giddy’s using his motorcycle. We just paid him the fare instead. Can I just say though, the host is really talkative and she makes sure that everyone feels comfortable at the restaurant. Sometimes too much though LOL. I think there were jokes that shouldn’t have been said but I’ll keep that to myself.

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We got up at 9am the next morning and tried our luck with the whale sharks. We were a bit pessimistic because most people go early to wait for other people who want to come as well. Also because there was a typhoon the previous week, there were no sightings of whale sharks for like a week. Nobody came after us and we were also waiting for some good news from the boat that left in the morning. Since we haven’t eaten yet, we walked to Amor Farm Beach Resort cause I know that they have a restaurant. We had lunch there and we ended up liking it so we went back there for dinner the same night. Also because there’s no decent place where we can eat in the town. We learned from our mistake the previous night and asked the tricycle driver to come back for us at 8:30pm. We went to bed early cause we really needed to wake up early for our 2nd attempt at seeing the whale sharks.

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We had to be at the tourism center at 7:30am so we woke up early and took a tricycle there. Luckily, we were able to find two other couples and the maximum number of tourists on the boat is 6. I spent roughly PHP900 for this tour. The boat rental is PHP3500 (I thought it was PHP3000), the registration fee for locals is PHP100 (I think) and PHP300 for foreigners. Also, you need to rent snorkeling materials and fins – without them, it would be pointless to even go. LOL. So that’s the minimum you’ll need to pay to see the whale sharks in Donsol. You have 3 hours on the boat to wait for the spotter to see a whale shark. We were actually very chill on the boat when the spotted screamed “Seen!” We were in a hurry to remove our clothes and put on the fins and the snorkeling gear. I was the only one who didn’t swim well (also only one with a life vest) since everyone else on the boat were Europeans. So I stuck with the guide and jumped with him. Lucky for me though, I had the best view. We saw quite a small one, a baby whale shark that is about 3 to 4 meters long. But I still feel lucky cause doing this at Donsol is kind of a lottery. It feels so unreal to be in front of such a huge creature.

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We asked for an hour extension to give us enough time to shower and fix our things before checking out of Giddy’s. The van terminal is just a few minutes walk from Giddy’s Place so it was easy for us when we were on our way back to Legazpi. The original plan was to spend 2 days in Matnog but a part of us didn’t want to take the van ride for 2 ½ hours. But I think that’s a bad decision cause we were really bored when we went back to Legazpi.

 

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