WHEN TO GO
- Climatology. As in the rest of the Philippines, the climate is tropical. Daytime temperatures do not usually fall below 28ºC at any time, being the highest between May and June. Humidity is extreme throughout the year, which increases the thermal sensation. The rain is as always in this country the main conditioner; the least rainy months are from March to May, but the probability of daily precipitation remains between 25 and 30%. From December to March there are fewer cloudy days, although the possibility of clouds is around 50%.
- Whale sharks are most frequent between the end of February and the end of April, but they could be seen from November to June. The same goes for stingrays.
Therefore, indisputably between March and April is the best time to go, since it is when there is less rain and more sharks. Obviously, being high season, accommodation will be more expensive, but it is worth making sure to come in the best time.
Donsol was a musty fishing village until the discovery of sharks in 1998. Today it has a little more life, but there is no airport nor rail connection.
Plane: the nearest airport is Legazpi, 60 km by road northeast of Donsol. There are only direct daily flights to:
- Manila, 8 a day, from 2700 PHP, 1h15min.
- Cebu, 2 a day, from 1900 PHP, 1h10min.
We took a flight with a stopover in Manila from Puerto Princesa. Although it is worth saving time, we should remember that Cebu Airlines and its subsidiary Cebgo air companies may be the worst in the world, with cancellations and delays as the norm. In fact, after having met in Palawan testimonies of travelers who had seen the sharks in Oslob and Donsol, we were wishing that they had canceled our flight (as it had already happened 2 times in 2 weeks) to have changed to Bohol; but for once it did not happen, they annoyed us even for that. To get from the airport to Donsol:
- There are direct minivans from the airport; They take an hour and a half, although they say that they take an hour, they cost PHP 75 and they leave when full. We took it on the way back, we were comfortable and had air conditioning.
- When we arrived we wasted time to pick up our backpacks and buy in a store; When leaving the airport, a minivan had just gone and we were only 4 people left, we would have had to wait until the next flight arrived. So what we did was to hire a private vehicle, which was not an official taxi at all. We got together with a German couple and it cost us PHP 250 per person (we had to negotiate the price). If there were no private vehicles or taxis, you can hire the complete minivan, but we will hardly pay less than 1500 PHP.
- There are jeepneys that go via Pilar, 60 PHP, they take twice as long. It is preferable to take it just to Pilar and change there to another jeepney or minivan.
- There is one direct from Philtranco company from Manila, 850 PHP, 13 hours.
- There are many direct from Manila and other destinations in Luzon to Legazpi, where we can change to a transport to go to Donsol. From the bus station there are also minivans, jeepneys and private vehicles, with frequencies and prices similar to those of the airport. For more detailed information, check the post TRANSPORT IN MANILA: HOW TO GO TO THE AIRPORT FROM CITY CENTER, AND HOW TO GET BY BOAT AND BUS
Except the private vehicles, the others will stop at Hernandez Street terminal, in the southwest corner of the town.
Boat: there are no ferries, but we can go back by road to Pilar, where there are some to Masbate (unusual destination for non-Filipinos) and from there to Malapascua Island.
Getting around in the village: the town itself is let’s say anything but beautiful. With the boom of tourism, accommodations began to develop in Dancalan area, where boats are also taken to see the whale sharks, between the beach and the road in Pio Duran direction, west of the town immediately across the bridge. This area is much more recommended, but it is some distance (up to 4 km) from the town itself. A tricycle from Dancalan to the village should not cost more than 20 PHP.
WHERE TO EAT AND SLEEP
The previous section already said it, we must avoid the town like a plague and stay in the very pleasant Dancalan area, where although we may not see a shark, at least we will be in a nice place and we will have beach. We stayed at Amor Farm Beach; for the price it was little more than acceptable, and the restaurant was not the best. Most accommodations close between June and November.
DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
- Donsol is a very small and quiet town, the chances of suffering robberies or any violent circumstance are very low, but it is recommended not to leave valuables in the bungalows in Dancalan lodgings.
- Diseases, especially those related to food poisoning are, as almost always in the country, the main risk in this area.
- The biggest disadvantage in Donsol is having to depend on the fauna being seen. It is what happens with animals or natural phenomena, that sometimes they are not where you want. We stayed 3 nights to be sure we could see the sharks; the first day we saw the shark taking the fin out of the water, and once in the water we barely saw the tail; As we thought that was not enough, taking into account the effort to get there, we repeated the tour the next day, and saw nothing at all, we did not even get to throw in the water. We had to settle for seeing the fireflies. As already mentioned in the introduction and in the article on shark sighting, we do not advise coming to Donsol for this, but it could be advisable for those who decide to dive in Manta Bowl, since the best time coincides with that of sharks, or that you are interested in visiting the Mayon volcano area.
- There is only one ATM, in the center of town, and it is not easy to change money. It is preferable to come carrying cash.