Our flight reached Legazpi, Albay [from Manila] at around 12 noon. My partner and I decided to take our lunch at the airport canteen. We ordered what our friends say “must-try airport tapa” but unfortunately it was no longer available. (must’ve been really yummy!) We just landed on our second choice, Porksilog for 100 pesos per plate. It could fairly satisfy a hungry stomach but nothing much different with the taste.
After lunch, we decided to go directly that afternoon to Donsol, Sorsogon to start our trip with the famous Butandings or whale-sharks. In order to get to the VAN Terminal en route to Donsol, we hired a tricycle in the airport for 60 pesos. It’s a 20-minute ride, on the estimate.
🙂 The Pili Tarts (my favorite!) from the airport canteen are priced at only 125 pesos per pack of 20’s which I think is a great deal! Also, their pili nuts cost 25 pesos per pack while the downtown or other shops sell it for 3 for 100 pesos.
😦 Tricycles charge like taxi cabs!
Upon, arriving at the van terminal (GT Express), we had to wait ’till the van reached its full seating capacity. A good 30 minutes of waiting. ( Maybe if we go straight there from the airport we will not have to wait since many people who disembarked like us were also there for the Butandings! But then we have to help ourselves with bread lunch. There was an across-the-street Savemore Supermarket in the Van Terminal by the way, if that helps! ) At about 2:30 in the afternoon, the ride to the Butandings finally started! The fare is 65 pesos. It was 1.5 to 2 hours ride from Legazpi to Donsol, Sorsogon. The road was a bit zig-zag. From the Donsol Terminal, we hired again a tricycle for 50 pesos to bring us to the hotels near the shores for the ultimate whale-sharks encounter. This time around the 50 pesos was justifiable. 🙂
My partner and I stayed for the night at Woodland Resort, a good 10-15 minute walk to the Tourism Office where we will need to register for the Whale-Shark interaction and Firefly Watching. The room with AC is 1,700 pesos per night. The room was big but empty. A nearby sister-hotel Vitton is I think more expensive but nearer to the Tourism Office. We had “Binalot” for our early supper. It’s a bit costly than its normal price, 100 pesos per order and 65 pesos for a 1.5 L of soda. At 6pm we took a tricycle to bring us to the firefly watching assembly area. That’s right after a bridge and it cost only 30 pesos with an estimate of 15-min. ride.
At 6:30 pm the river cruise started. It was a calm and relaxing twilight. The tour guide kept talking about fireflies and whale-sharks. She seemed to exert a great deal of effort for the foreign guests
on the boat to be satisfied. I like her for that. Frankly, though, she needs to be trained more if they want positive feedback from the foreign dudes and she/they should speak in straight English if there are foreigners aboard.
By the way, the cost of the whole Firefly Watching Cruise was 1,875 pesos per boat with a maximum capacity of 6 guests. You can split the bill with strangers. The cruise will last for at least 2 hours. There were fireflies yes and if there’s any luck you can gently touch them. But, I was not very much impressed, so sad to say. I have imagined seeing Christmas lights composed of fireflies. We’ve only seen a few, gathering on some trees. I found out later that there are 2 locations for the firefly watching. The other one might be the one I chanced upon a TV special where fireflies were so many and were more or less within reach by the passing boats. Because there were other boats who’d lined up for our position, we had to go back already and also, there’s nothing much to do anymore. Another tricycle to bring us back to our hotel, another 30 pesos and we called it a night then.
The sunset view of the Firefly Watching assembly area.
We pre-registered to the Tourism Office before we went to the fireflies and as per advice, we went there the next day as early as 7:20 AM. It’s because we had to hunt for boat mates. We were lucky to find 2 foreign couples. It’s 3,800 pesos per boat. (Forgot the capacity). Plus a registration fee of 100 pesos per head (200 pesos for foreigners). We brought our own snorkels but you can rent them for 150 pesos. Flippers are also for rent for 150 pesos. At 8 AM, the FUN begins!
Must-bring: WATER, energy bars, sunblock, underwater cam (a 575 pesos Kodak manual disposable camera will do!), swimming skills & full-head stamina for you to keep up with the Butandings
Within our first 15 minutes, we had our first sighting. It was quick encounter though. More of a warm-up. The whale-sharks are quick. Didn’t I say we’re lucky to have foreigners on the boat? The guide did not need to guide them that much. That makes us, especially me spoiled! 🙂 We had another 2 interactions, the last being the most beautiful. I was able to swim just above its head, then side by side until it dove down. It was a magnificent sight, a very gentle giant sea creature! The first encounter actually was a bit frightening and intimidating. It dwarfed us, who can blame me? 🙂 It was almost lunch time when we headed back to the shore.
The hunt for the Butandings.
Butandings: The Gentle Giant of the Sea
Guide to Butanding (whale-sharks)
We had our lunch at the hotel and I tell you it is pricey, very pricey for its quantity (and quality IMO). So I suggest you order some takeaway from Binalot again. It’s better and more affordable. Tricycle from Tourism Office to Woodland is 30 pesos. We just walked in the morning and it was okay but after meeting a few dogs on our way, I got really scared so I’ll just pay a tricycle for whatever it’s worth!
After taking a shower, lunch and a few pictures, we headed back to Legazpi City, Albay. A tricycle to bring us to the Donsol Terminal cost 50 pesos. A 2-hour van ride for 65 pesos and we’re in Legazpi! That’ll be part 2 of the chronicles of our Bicol getaway.
Airport – Van Terminal 60 pesos
Legaspi-Donsol (van) 65 pesos
Donsol terminal-Woodland 50 pesos
Woodland Room w/ AC per night 1,700 pesos
Woodland-Firefly assembly area 30 pesos
Woodland – Tourism Office 30 pesos 😦
Firefly watching (max of 6 guests) 1,875 pesos / boat
Registration fee for Butanding encounter 100 pesos / head
Butanding Interaction (4 hours) 3,800 pesos / boat
Softdrinks 65 pesos / 1.5 L
H2O 35 pesos / liter
Binalot Order 100 pesos
Definitely a great experience especially for a water enthusiast like me! 🙂 Lots of foreign guests you’ll encounter. I really think that Donsol is one of the Philippines’ most promising tourist spots, as long as the Butandings stay there. Btw, peak season is from February to May. Locals have it that whale-sharks love summer. 😉
If you’re planning to visit the place, say hi the Butandings for me! 🙂 AND… GOOD LUCK! May you encounter as many as possible.