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Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

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San Francisco, CA
posts: 136
reviews: 34
Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

THought I would post some info after my trip since I still had a lot of unanswered questions going to Donsol.

1. Whale sharks are AMAZING. The peak really starts in March though. We went early Feb, and were lucky to see 3 different whale sharks. The day before, we heard that some folks didn't see any at all. The problem is that b/c there are not that many, all the boats surround and share 1 whaleshark, despite what they say about 1 boat/1 whaleshark. The guides are great, and help those who are not great swimmers to get right up there and swim on top of the whaleshark. Even our 4 year old got to see them.

2. Some folks have asked whether it's possible to do this spending 1 day in Donsol. The answer is yes, if you are lucky to see the whaleshark that morning. You can fly in the day before, spend the night, do the whalesharks from 8-11:30 (when our boat headed back in), and then make it to the airport in time for a 2:45 flight back. We scheduled 2 nights, in case we did not see any the first day then we would try again the second day. Luckily, we did not need to do this.

The whale sharks swim fast, so I would recommend getting a personal boat, or having a second guide (extra 600 pesos) on the boat to help pull you to the whaleshark. Our guide was amazing, and he had us take turns 2 by 2 to take us out. He would somehow manage to position us exactly where the head would be coming, and then yell "look down" and there was the head of the whaleshark sure enough every time.

I would consider buying your own snorkels and bringing it there. They rent for 300pesos there, and are not very good. The entire town is monopolized (good for them to coordinate) so no use shopping around for different prices for things having to do with fireflies or whalesharks.

3. Even though we LOVED the experience, we did not want to do a second day. It is a little crazy with all the boats surroudning the 3 whalesharks in the water, so I dont know if I would spend the extra time in Donsol in order to do this twice. Plus, it is expensive.

4. I thought the firefly tour was lame. It is not like the river is completely lit up with fireflies, but that you would go to a tree, and one tree would be lit up with fireflies. and then you woudl go to another tree down the river and same thing. I would recommend it for people who have never seen a firefly before, but if you grew up with fireflies, I would consider skipping it.

5. We stayed at AGM, and outside our hotel was a long stretch of sand bar where we hung out and played on our second morning. It was a ton of fun and very relaxing. You can also see the whale shark boats driving around, and it was exciting to see how close you are just swimming to the whalesharks (based on the location of the boats).

6. You can do laundry by weight - our hotel charged us around 50Pesos/kilo which I thought was very reasonable.

7. You can go into town and walk around their market. It is very local and not touristy at all. You can buy fruit, or buy pastries and bread at this yummy bakery (on the outside of the square). We bought out these rolls that were like the portuguese sweet bread - each for 5pesos.

All in all, a great time!

Manila, Philippines
posts: 142
1. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

Thanks for the tips! Very helpful.

Will be heading there in a couple of weeks.

Oxfordshire
posts: 92
reviews: 34
2. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

Thank you so much for your tips.

We are there the first few days in March, so fingers crossed. There are 4 of us, do you suggest that we have a boat to ourselves? Do you pay a boat rate or a person rate? Will they let just 4 of us go out on one boat? I assume that this can only be arranged via the official centre there in Donsol?

Thank you very much

Suzanne

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Philippines
posts: 14,536
reviews: 627
3. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

Thank you very much as this will be very useful to travellers to this region.

Tommo

Luzon, Philippines
Destination Expert
for Philippines, Bandar Seri Begawan
posts: 13,393
reviews: 184
4. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

Thanks for the trip report. At least you answered your own questions a number of week ago. It's so generous of you to share what you experienced. I already added this thread in the "Top Questions about Donsol" tab.

Edited: 11:28 am, February 11, 2011
Manila, Philippines
posts: 271
reviews: 20
5. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

I'm intrigued with the bread in #7 :D

San Francisco, CA
posts: 136
reviews: 34
6. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

@Suzanne - each boat is 3500 pesos, but each adult also has to pay a "registration" fee. For 2 adults, the trip ended up being around 4100pesos, if I remember correctly. You can choose to share a boat with strangers, and I think the tourist office will place folks together in a boat who want to save money. If you can afford it, I would suggest getting your own boat for 4 people. We found the guide extremely helpful as we had kids who were not strong swimmers, and he would pull the kids while we tried to keep up. If there is 6 people to 1 guide, I can see either having to "fight" for his attention. The guides really do know exactly where to swim to to see the whaleshark from head to toe.

@travholic - the bread is a lot like the hawaiian sweet bread that is a little sweet. We loved it but unfortunately were not able to find any in the bakeries in Manila where we went next. We also unfortunately did not get the name. The bakery also had other pastries (like small cookies or cakes) for 1 peso each. Very local market where they haven't jacked up the prices for the tourists yet.

Have fun!

Oxfordshire
posts: 92
reviews: 34
7. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

Thanks Sfgirl3, can't wait

Manila, Philippines
posts: 142
8. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

We went to Donsol last week and swam with the whale shark. Amazing experienced!

Boat is 3500PHP and there will be around seven people max on each boat, basically you will split the cost of the boat with other joining groups or you can pay for the boat yourself and have your own "private" boat.

Registration fee is 300PHP for foreigners and 100PHP for locals.

Our group didn't had to "share" a whale shark with other boat/groups, if there's less whale sharks out feeding then you will probably have to "share" the whale sharks with other groups as OP mentioned.

They limit the amount of boat out on the sea so be there early, around 7-8am. Otherwise you will have to wait for almost 3 hours for the next available boat or worst wait 'til the next day.

Whale sharks DO swim fast so I would rent out a fin. Snorkel + fin rental is 300PHP (150 each). The snorkel they rent out was pretty good, maybe the OP just got a bad one...

PS. Don't do the Mayon trek and then the whale sharks the next day. Not fun trying to catch up with the whale shark with aching legs LOL.

Hope that helps.

9. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

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Melbourne, Australia
posts: 29
10. Re: Amazing time there- some tips that I hope are helpful

Thank you for putting all this up!

We are going to the philippines on the 1st May, and planning on going to Dorsol, El Nido, then Boracay for some R&R (after being in Borneo for 2 weeks trekking and climbing and diving, we are going to need it)

We will certainly be taking your advice, so thank you for sharing it!