Our second stop on our Philippines trip was Donsol. We went there for one thing and one thing only - to find the Whale Sharks! We didn't know too much about Donsol other than it's the best place to see these big friendly giants in their natural environment; we were blown away by how much we loved Donsol and the greeting we had when we arrived. The countryside is something we'd never seen before, even having spent some time in Southeast Asia we were overwhelmed and constantly stopping to take photos. Like everybody we met in Manila, the people of Donsol just couldn't do enough for us - Filipinos will do anything to make you feel looked after.
Things to know
Population - 50,000
Typical Transport - Tricycle/Scooter/Minivan
ATM - There are 3 in the town centre but we had trouble withdrawing money so bring plenty of cash to Donsol!
Closest Airport - Legaspi (About 1h30m from Donsol and a 1 hour flight from Manila)
How to Get to Donsol
First thing's first, you're probably thinking 'how the f*ck do I get to Donsol?' Don't you worry kind friend, we've got your back! You've really only got 2 options. You can either get on a bus from Manila which will take around 12-14 hours OR you can save yourself a day and get a flight from Manila to Donsol. We booked out flights with Cebu Pacific Airlines as they always came up the cheapest for flights around the Philippines. When you land at Legaspi Airport you're going to need to get to your hotel or hostel. There are two ways of getting to Donsol from here.
You can either take a tricycle from the airport (about 50 Pesos) and tell the driver to take you to the Legaspi Central terminal and you can either take a van or bus to Donsol for about £1.10/75 Pesos p/person. It will probably take some time as the vans and buses have to manoeuvre around the tight winding roads but you can't complain for that price!
Take an air conned mini bus straight to your hotel. They usually charge around £22-£30/1,500-2,000 pesos for a one way journey. It's much more comfortable and you get dropped off right at your hotel.
Once you get to your gaff in Donsol you can get around by tricycle which is super cheap about 50pesos per journey or you can rent a scooter for about £5-7/300-400 Pesos per day.
What to do?
The most obvious option of things to do in Donsol is whale shark diving. The first time we visited we didn't actually see any... it was the start of the season and there were little to no whale sharks in the bay so make sure you're there at the right time of year (between April and May). The second time we visited at the end of our trip however we saw LOADS of whale sharks and we loved it so much we went out on the boat two days in a row!
Other options of things to do include Firefly tour where you take a boat down the river at night to see the fireflys buzzing about like maniacs (apparently it's quite relaxing). You can also dive with Manta rays which we only found out after we'd left - that looks incredible!
Our favourite thing to do there was just rent a scooter and blitz around all the little towns and the stunning countryside. Some of the locals were so shocked and surprised to see two pale kids riding around on a scooter they screamed in shocked and waved and smiled frantically like we were aliens. All the farmers were really happy to have us photographing their incredible rice paddies and animals too which was great. I also had the best hair cut I had on my whole trip which cost about 70 Welsh pence! Whilst I was having a chop Aimee went shopping and got herself three bathing suits for 20 pence each!
Where to Stay?
Both times we stayed in Donsol we stayed at different resorts. The first place we stayed at was Elysia Beach Resort and it was bloody marvellous. Not only are all the staff really friendly, the pool was ace and it had the best food in town! Even when we stayed elsewhere we'd still get a tricycle here to eat the banging food (with a few vegan options too!) This resort was quite close (5 minute walk) to the Donsol tourism office (where you set off for the whale shark tours) which was great. It's also right on the beach so you can see the sunset after you've been swimming your tits off all day.
On our second visit we stayed in Giddy's Place which was in Donsol town. The rooms were huge and the staff again were super friendly. There was also a pool in Giddy's and they offered diving courses with instruction in there pool before you head out.
So there you have it - a quick guide to Donsol a 100% MUST DO if you're visiting The PH.