Local Philippines Travel Stories

Zestful Getaways!

Tour Package Inclusion: 3D/2N room Accommodation, Roundtrip Zest Air Tickets, Roundtrip Land Transfers, Daily Breakfast, Taxes and Service Charge.

Come To Donsol, Stay For The Butanding

While there are literally hundreds of holiday destinations in the country to choose from, beaches and theme parks are so predictable these days that they rob the excitement for those who seek a change from the usual, overused and overexposed itineraries. Deeming you have reached the point where being surprised is a thing of the past, then be surprised that there is still a place where you can relive the spark of anticipation: Donsol.

With the recent discovery of hundreds of whale sharks (locally known as Butanding) feasting in the plankton-rich waters of Donsol, the municipality has transformed from being an unknown town into a word-of-mouth staple among tourists exploring the country. The presence of the world's biggest fish has impacted Donsol's economy dramatically, for tourist arrival meant livelihood for the people and income for travel operators. Measuring from 15 feet up to 40 feet in length, the Butanding is the biggest fish in the world. The giant fish's body is mostly grey, with a white patch on the belly area. Characterized by three prominent ridges running along each side of its body, the whale shark also has a checkerboard pattern of yellow spots and stripes. The Butanding feeds on plankton and krill by straining these food particles from water. It is harmless, gentle and can be very accommodating, allowing people to swim and interact with it. The Butanding's official season starts from February and up until the end of May. It is when the sea is clear and calm (just the way the Butandings like it). Getting to Donsol If you're coming from Manila, you can ride an airplane from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Legazpi City International Airport. The town of Donsol in Sorsogon is approximately 1 hour drive from Legazpi City. Worry not of the road conditions as the highways all the way to Donsol are well-paved and very accessible. There are several taxis available, which make daily routes from Legazpi to Donsol, Sorsogon. What to Bring Although food is available at various areas in Donsol, you can bring your own food, should you plan for a picnic. On the other hand, if you want to experience Donsol's local cuisines, you need to check with the Donsol Tourism Office for accredited eating establishments. Snorkeling equipments, like masks, snorkels, fins and water vests, are must-brings when going to Donsol. If you don't have any of these gears, check with the Donsol Tourism Office as they provide equipments for rentals. Don't forget to bring your swimsuits, towels, camera, SPF lotions, sunglasses, spare clothes, slippers and plastic bags to keep valuables. The Whale Shark Encounter When you arrive at the site, local tourism officials and professional divers will brief you with the guidelines on proper whale shark watching, which is designed to maintain safety and to defend the gentle giants from exploitation. After that, you're good to go. What You Need to Do: * Hire a boat * Hire a spotter * Find a whale shark * Slip in the water alongside the creature * Enjoy! With such a phenomenon only happening in Donsol, we are truly lucky to have these gentle giants congregating, cavorting and capering in their most numbers in Sorsogon. This event is unheard of and cannot be found in other parts of the world. In fact, Donsol is now dubbed as the "Whale Shark Capital of the World". Take a visit today and experience one of nature's most amazing spectacles only in Donsol. ----------------------------- Article by Rodrick Guarin. Rodrick likes travel, food, and adventures. In his spare time, he watches travel and culture documentaries.

Manila-Puerto Princesa Express Sale

3-Day Palawan Sights and Thrills

Day 1:

We arrived at Puerto Princesa, Palawan before 9am on a Friday. Our van took us to the pension house we will be staying at. The house was nice. Beautiful garden, gazedo, rooms are clean and the attendants welcomed us warmly. The first on our itinerary was Honda Bay island hopping. We got to the wharf at around 11am and was told to wait because all the boats were booked already. Apparently there are no lean seasons on Honda Bay. Tourists come every day of the week to go island hopping. An available boat finally came after an hour and a half wait. We were taken to Pambato Reef to snorkel. The floating bamboo pathway and house was surprisingly nice. Visitors stop by for a couple minutes of snorkeling. Swimmers have to float or use a life vest so as to not step on the coral reefs, which is prohibited, the boatmen said. My companions had fun exploring the reef and playing with the fishes. I had fun taking photos of everything. Next stop was Snake Island. Named for its snake-like shape. The island has white sand and is surrounded with mangroves. In this island, you don't have to go deep in the water to be able to see the fishes. School of fishes are swimming in huge numbers near the shoreline. If you are fast enough, you can readily catch one or two in the palm of your hands. But that, again, is prohibited. "Take nothing but pictures", states an old tourism quote. After snorkeling and before leaving the island, we bought some "bibingka" being sold on one of the island store. It was delicious and filling. Not bad for 5 pesos a piece. Day 2: Our Saturday was for the Underground River tour. We were told we have to be at the river by 8am. From the city, that was a 2-hour ride, so we left by 6am for Sabang, the gateway to the Underground River. At Sabang, people were lining up for the boat ride to the river. But we were on a package deal so we got the boat to ourselves and we didn't have to wait. On the shore of the Underground River, our photos were taken for the souvenir shot and we still had to register before moving on to the cave entrance. A few minutes wait and we were on the boat for the Underground River tour. One of my companion got to sit up front and hold the flashlight. We had a blast listening to our guide, who can definitely moonlight as a stand up comedian. He pointed out all the interesting stalactites and unusual rock formations; mushroom, holy family, naked lady, two black cats, dragon mouth, among others. There were also a lot of bats on the cave ceiling. Some flew over our heads. The cave trip was less than an hour. But it felt shorter than that. Maybe its because we were awestruck by everything in there. Or maybe its the guide, who talked non-stop while we laugh non-stop althroughout. We had lunch at Sabang when we got back from the cave. The buffet meal costs 200 pesos. The menu consisted of pork, fish and chicken viands, with fresh vegetable, soup and coconut juice, straight from the trees, for drinks. On the way back to the city, we stopped by Ugong Rock for the zipline adventure. The trek to the top of the mountain was through the rock cave, so we ended up spelunking first. We were out of breathe when we got to the top. The trek up, via spelunking, was more tiring and took longer than the the zipline. The zip was not that high, not that steep, but can still scare you stiff when you are at the edge of the mountain waiting for your line to be released. The final stop was View Deck, which had an amazing view of the mountain ranges and the beautiful beach of Palawan. Day 3: The last day, Sunday, was for the city tour. We decided to check out of the pension house so we can go directly to the airport after the tour. The tour began with a visit to Plaza Cuartel, where several American POWs were torched, tortured and killed during WWII. Next was Baywalk, which was still undergoing renovation. It nonetheless had a nice view of the beach and looked like a great place to hang out during the night. We dropped by the local market and stores for the souvenirs, dried "pusit", "danggit", cashew nuts and inexpensive pearls. Afterwards, we went to the vast Mitra Ranch and Baker's Hill, famous for its "hopia". Last on the itinerary was Crocodile Farm and Nature Park. We got to see pint-sized baby crocodiles on the hatching area of the farm. Then we moved on to the monstrous and hungry-looking adult crocodiles, that were all asleep when we passed over them on the ledge. The back part of the farm is where the other not-so-scary animals were. We saw some ostrich, hornbill birds, "binturong", talking mynah birds, the wild and the bearded pig. Finally, tired but very happy, we headed off to our last destination: the airport. ****************************** by Florie Lyn Masarate, for Local Philippines.