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January 25th 2012
Published: February 16th 2012
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Just three weeks into the New Year and already another adventure lined up, go, go, go! Next stop: Donsol, Sorsogon!

Donsol is most popularly known for the locals, no, not those from Sorsogon, but the whale sharks (butandings, as they are locally called)! Every year they come back to the waters of the Bicol Region by the dozens! The most exciting part is that you can actually swim with them! After visiting many aquariums around the world, seeing aquatic life from behind a glass, this excited my heart more than anything (and also scared it, to be honest!).

It’s quite a trip away from Manila. It’s an hour plane ride to Legazpi, Albay then another hour by car to Sorsogon. I was half-asleep and disoriented for most of the trip, plus it didn’t help that the weather was very gloomy. We couldn’t even see the slightest silhouette of the Mayon Volcano! (Make sure you have a picture with it before leaving Albay! It’s said to be the most geometrically perfect volcano in the world!) I woke up in our hotel, Vitton (not in any way affiliated with the luxury brand!), which is so conveniently located right next to the visitor’s center. My sister, her friends and I wasted no time, we brought our gear (which you can rent there) to the main office. We registered, watched the orientation video and headed out on a Bangka.

The weather didn’t change at all, probably got gloomier, but we took our chances. It was both rewarding and yet so stressful! We were freezing, it started to rain, the wind strengthened, it was miserable! As bad as it was, our struggles were well worth it when we saw the butandings, 6 sightings to be exact! It was amazing! At first I didn’t know what to expect, the water was murky because of the plankton and the rain (plus competing with 20 other tourists doesn’t really help!). I saw white dots, that’s about it, the top of their heads.

I was a little let down, in my head I was expecting to be right next to them like in an aquarium, minus the glass. I jumped in again, expecting the same experience, and WOW. The first time I put my head underwater, it was like he was staring right at me. It was such a surreal experience and I wish I could have taken a photo. It then hit me how huge this giant is so I freaked out! I backed up a bit and again entered the water, I was treading as still as I could to just watch and appreciate its grandeur. Amazing, this world is just amazing.

We headed back to shore after a couple of hours and spent the afternoon eating by the pool. Food in the Bicol region is characterized by hot spice and coconut, in everything. The food in Vitton is delicious, do not miss out on their specialties, Bicol Express and Laing. We relaxed and bummed for the rest of the day. The stillness of the sea made for an absolutely beautiful sunset. It was so pretty, definitely a must.

Later on, early in the evening, we set out to visit another Donsol native, the fireflies. I’ve always been fascinated with fireflies, of course highly romanticized by what I’ve seen on tv and the movies. It was such a surprise what we saw though. I tried to gather all my photography skills and still ended up empty. Even the pictures on google did it no justice, so let me try to paint you a picture. We hopped on a Bangka in the middle of nowhere. It was pitch black and we seemed to be in a river. It was actually pretty scary. There were no lights whatsoever, but the stars were so many it was so beautiful and mesmerizing. It felt like a Disneyland ride! We turned a corner and there were trees glowing. It was much like that scene from Avatar, just glowing. We managed to get a lot closer and saw that they were fireflies, millions of them, just hovering over the trees! It was actually hypnotizing, we were just watching in awe! I really can’t explain in exact detail, so I suggest this goes on everyone’s bucketlist!

This trip made me appreciate the simple things in life. No matter how advanced man is there are so many things we’re missing out on. This world is so beautiful sometimes only you can experience it for yourself and I hope everyone gets a chance to.

Additional photos below
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21st February 2012

Great Butanding Experience!
I can really relate this one kasi the donsol whale sharks are really great! Those butanding are so cute and I really want to express my gratitude for the people in donsol, they are so friendly and for the tourists, hopefully everybody should go there!

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