Tag Archives: bicol

The Donsol Experience: Swimming with the Whale Sharks

The anticipation is messing with your head. You could have sworn your heart was right next to your ear, as you hear the thumps bang against your eardrums. You glance at your designated spotter squinting at a distance, before swapping Bicolano with the other boatmen. You nervously fidget with your snorkel mask. Wait, did he just say… ‘Jump!’?

And you jump, right into the chilly beryl deep. After a few chaotic seconds of flailing limbs underwater, you compose yourself and catch sight of what you came all this way for: the magnificent leviathan of a fish, nonchalantly passing by in all its 8-metre spotted glory. Everything else fades into the background. You feel that it’s just you, and the giant. It takes all self-control not to reach out and hold on to its fin, ala-Free Willy.

We were blessed with a sunny day in Donsol; all in all, we spotted 4 whale sharks. It’s said that in season, it’s actually rare NOT to see at least one. Some of them glided slowly, letting you bask in its graceful splendor; some of them will really make you work your fins. During the interactions, the guides will remind you to stay at least 5 feet away from the whale sharks, as to not spook them or more importantly, not to get swatted by its tail. At one time, I was gliding along on top of the whale shark, when I noticed the spots getting larger by the second. I soon realized it was trying to surface. In my head, I was going like ‘5 feet! 5 feet!’ at the titan. My friends who dove in with me saw this as well. They swore that given a few more seconds, I could have gotten a free ride on the back of the whale shark. He plunged into the deep again after a while, and once the nervousness wore off, the thought of that rare close encounter still gives me smiles up to this day.

Close encounter of the BIG kind.

Donsol is one hour away by land from Legazpi City, Philippines. There are a lot of sites offering information on how you can organize your own Donsol whale shark experience; here’s one from the regional tourism site.

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Kaladkarin Gets Charmed by Bicol

The best thing about this picture? Not the sun. Not the beach. It's sharing the shot with friends as awesome as these guys.

There was no way I was leaving the land of glorious beaches without one last trip. Since Jan already had a trip set with her high-school++ friends, Alex, Ralph & I invited ourselves to Jan’s hometown for the Holy Week break (hehe =P).

8 hours on the bus + 1.5 hours on the back of a pickup + 2 hours on a boat = sore butts. By noon, we find ourselves arriving at Caramoan, with a welcome lunch waiting for us prepared by Caramoan’s parish priest. After several bouts of conversation about boat trips, islands, sharks and malunggay, we proceeded to a house in a barrio by the seaside to settle. It was nice to be reminded of the trips I had before HP happened — where electricity and a shower were luxuries, but nothing could beat the sights and calm. Roselyn, Jan’s HS buddy, was an awesome cook and led the troops in the kitchen. After dinner, we literally laid down on the road right outside the house, chatting the night away under the stars with beers at hand. This is the life. Continue reading Kaladkarin Gets Charmed by Bicol

from team bugsy to team bagyo

From jam’s rat-up-your-pants surprise during the ride going to Irosin, I knew this trip was going to be eventful.

Surely enough, Caloy greeted us with rainfall on our arrival. Here we were, an overexcited bunch on a getaway five years in the making, and we were welcomed by the rainy season’s first storm.

Caloy does not know us very well yet. A storm’s not enough to get us down. As soon as we settled at Mig’s house, we went off to Bulusan Lake to, well, to see the lake and Mt. Bulusan. Next stop was the hot springs, which never fail to spark a discussion about Dante’s peak. Add some of Irosin’s giant ensaymadas and you get a lot more grins.

Since I just got my wisdom tooth pulled out, I stocked up on soup mixes, thinking I would have nothing but soup. But the moment someone mentioned ‘Bicol Express’ and ‘Tinuktukan’ during dinner, I knew that thought was out the window. Yum!

The storm brewed during the night, with a wind that went ‘whoosh’ and rain sprays through the window that go ‘haha! basa ka na!’. It was house arrest for us during the 2nd day, with no electricity nor water. Kamusta naman ang buhay probinsya? But with true self-entertaining Bugsy spirit, we passed time with our friends Poker, Psycho Game and Pinoy Henyo. (Btw, probably 70% of our photo ops were made inside our room. Haha.)

The third day brought light… literally. I couldn’t help but gasp, ‘SUN!’, once awake. We trooped the Dorotan private beach. My last days as a dependent were actually had a lot of firsts for me. For those who don’t know me, I’ve always had this morbid fear of the sea. For some reason, although I love Dory, sea+corals+fishes+me = love<->hate relationship. But thanks to Tidoy, Dana, Migs, Mace and the whole troop who put up with my whining, I actually got to dive and sea the marvels underneath, even if just for a few minutes. It was also the first time I got to play frisbee with my bikini-clad friends (sorry guys, you missed out). It was also my first beach-MTV (haha! eto nagagawa ng nawawala sa sibilisasyon!).

Fast-forward to day four: It was also my first time to attend mass in Bikolano. We were leaving Irosin that day, onto Donsol where the butandings await, commonly more known as whale sharks. No, they’re not whales, they’re sharks. For a sea-coward like me, this actually means a whole lot. What the heck was I doing swimming with sharks? Yes, they only devour planktons, but who said they haven’t got any other shark friends?!?!

But once our butanding spotter shouted ‘Go!’, all thinking stops and you find yourself jumping off the boat. You look down and sea the butanding swimming under you. Ayos! For those going to Sorsogon, you simply have to do this.

Then off we go home. The stop at Casagwa wasn’t originally in the itinerary, but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The sight of Mt. Mayon was enough to dwarf anyone. You know that tiny church tower peeking from the ground in Mt. Mayon postcards? I never expected to see that up close anytime during my life; that really made my day.

Never mind that I almost niffed my first day at work. Never mind that I arrived 6 am at home to my frenzied family worried about the 9am shift I had that day. It was all worth it.

Here’s to Team Bugsy and to more adventures. :o)