As far as birthdays go, I somehow lucked out to have been born at the height of summer. I was always on vacation from school anyway, growing up, so I never really had to worry about spending the day on doing anything other than exactly what I wanted to do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve wanted to spend my birthday in more special ways. Often, it falls on Holy Week, so it could get either really boring, or really interesting. My parents don’t normally like to do anything during Holy Week, because Manila tends to be emptier than a bimbo’s brain then, and I suppose they really enjoy that.
This was one of the first few birthdays that I insisted on doing something fun for my birthday. I meant to go by myself, to see the whalesharks, but the family seemed to be interested. It probably wasn’t the best idea for them to come, because this was supposedly my Intro to Backpacking course, and I had every intention of roughing it. My poor parents didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. They regretted trusting me, haha!
Donsol is a gorgeous place! It is about 2 hours away from Legazpi, my point of entry. The entire Bicol region is known for its lush vegetation. And I noticed in my photos that everything seems clearer, and a little bluer over there. Sunrises start 15 minutes earlier than they do in Manila, and ohhhh my goodness, what sunrises they are! I managed to catch one for myself during a previous trip to Albay, which is in the same region. And I’ve caught few sunrises in my lifetime, but I can recall three very special ones. This happens to be one of those.
But, I digress. Another thing about Holy Week is that, the reason why Manila is so empty, is because everyone else has gone on vacation elsewhere. And as you can imagine, Donsol was going to be one of those places. One good thing about this is that the local tourism office has managed to systemize the demand for whaleshark diving. The earlier part of the year is the most ideal time to go, you see, and demand was quite high. Our group’s reservation was split into two: a pair for the morning, and a pair for the afternoon. Both on the same day.
My parents went in the morning. They came back three hours later, ecstatic that they had seen two large whales, and a smaller one. Effortlessly. Of course, this excited me! All I wanted was to come and swim with the whalesharks, and they’re popping up in threes! My mom managed to snap a photo with the waterproof film camera that I lent her!
Alas, it is with a heavy heart that I report that to this day, I have yet to swim alongside a whaleshark. Apparently, they go back in hiding in the afternoons. But, they do exist, despite my insisting that they are as mythical as unicorns.
When I do feel like hounding them again, I will return to Donsol. I’ve seen their tourism practices: they repeatedly discourage anybody from getting too close to the whalesharks, let alone feed them. Unlike in other whaleshark interaction sites, Donsol does not baby these creatures; they observe from afar, and are happy to be coexisting with them, without compromising the animals’ wild nature. I can fully support this.
I’ll see you again, Donsol! Don’t think I’m done with you yet!
This having been my first rural backpacking experience, my itinerary-creating skills were a little bit more crude then. I only wrote my notes down.
- AGM Resort
Standard Room (for 2) = P1,900/day
Family Room (for 3) = P2,200/day
+ P300 for an extra mattress
No breakfast included.
It is beachfront, that is true. Not the most amazing facilities in the world, but they do have a tolerable restaurant!
- Airport Transfer from Legazpi to AGM
Option 1: Private van = P1,600 one way
Option 2: Shuttle = P80 on way
- Whaleshark interaction
Option 1: Private tour = P3,500/boat
Option 2: Public tour = P584/person
+ registration fee = P100/person
- Firefly Watching
P250/person, 5 pax maximum per boat
+P100 transportation (tricycle for 2 pax)
Tip: In Donsol, or the Bicol region, for that matter, fireflies are called either aninipot, or tonton balagon.