Travel Expenses: Donsol 2008

After several months of planning, I finally made it to Donsol. Actually, I didn’t really make any plans or did any research. I just signed up for a trip already organized by Owen, from my PEX mailing list. (He’s also organizing a couple of trips to Coron, Palawan. Anybody interested?) It was great to just show up at the airport and have somebody else tell me where to go. Given the busy weeks I’ve had, I haven’t had the chance to read about Donsol, except for that small bit in the Lonely Planet Philippines book.

The trip wasn’t *that* cheap. It could have been much cheaper if: 1) I bought my ticket during a Cebu Pacific promo and not one and a half weeks prior to departure; 2) We moved to the Donsol town proper or to Legaspi for cheaper accomodations on the second night, and; 3) I went for cheaper food options in Donsol. Of course, this is when I realized that I *am* a flashpacker, and not a backpacker, as I’ve always said I was. Indeed, I am just a backpacker wannabe.

Donsol Whale Shark Experience
February 23 – 25, 2008
Cost Actual
Air Tranfers (for one person)
Cebu Pacific
Regular Go Fare Php 2,690.00 Php 2,690.00
Manila Domestic Terminal Fee Php 200.00 Php 200.00
Legaspi Terminal Fee Php 30.00 Php 30.00
Amor Farm Beach Resort
Php 1,200/night/room Php 2,400.00 Php 1,200.00 1
Aircon room ensuite toilet and bath
Without breakfast& transfers
Manila – To and from Airport Php 435.50 Php 435.50 2
Donsol/Legaspi – To and from Airport Php 205.00 Php 205.00 3
Lunch, snacks, dinner, drinks Php 851.50 Php 851.50 4
Firefly Tour Php 1,100.00 Php 220.00 5
Whale Shark Interaction Fee Php 100.00 Php 100.00 6
Whale Shark – Boat and Guide Php 3,530.00 Php 530.00 7
Snorkel Mask Php 150.00 Php 150.00 8
Books Php 225.00 Php 225.00 9
Souvenirs Php 295.00 Php 295.00 10
Total Php 7,102.00
1 There were two of us sharing the room, so the room cost was divided in two
2 I took a combination of jeep, bus, mrt and taxi to the domestic airport in Manila. Go me!
3 This involved a tricycle ride and an hour-long ride inside a van with no airconditioning
4 I hardly left Amor. Food in their restaurant costs an average of Php125 per meal
5 One banca costs Php1,100, arranged by the nice people at Amor. Since there were five of us in the boat, the cost was split 5 ways
6 Filipinos pay Php100, foreign visitors pay Php300
7 The Php3,530 includes a boat, boat crew and one Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO). Only seven passengers are allowed in one boat. You can easily ask other tourists to share the boat with you. Since there were 7 of us in the boat, we only had to pay Php530 each.
8 Snorkel mask and fins are readily available in almost all of the resorts and in the tourist centre. In our resort, the mask costs Php150, the fins another Php150
9 National bookstore is ebil.
10 I bought Php240 worth of pili goodies, and one butanding magnet
RELATED:   Traveling with people with travel gnomes

Download: Donsol.xls (14k)

There you have it. If you have any questions about the budget or the trip, just post them in the comment section :)

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 31 Comments
  1. Lizeth says:

    hi nina. it’s time that i came across your site. we’re going to legaspi/donsol next month. how was your butanding enounter?

    what’s the firefly tour? :D

  2. Lizeth says:

    *i meant it was good timing that i came across your site :) i also do accounting for every single trip of mine. Lol just so i know where ive spent my money :)

  3. nina says:

    Hi Lizeth! The butanding encounter was awesome! It was overcast that day, so visibility was poor. Luckily, the whaleshark was swimming fairly close to the surface, so we were able to see it clearly.

    There’s no guarantee that you will see a butanding. We were really lucky. There were about 20 boats out at the same time, and not all of us were able to see the whaleshark. Everybody in our boat saw the butanding, but other boats weren’t able to, even if we were in the same area :(

    Have you settled on your accomodation yet? Amor is a good choice, I recommend them :) Another good choice is Vitton, which is right next to the Tourism centre. The resort is fairly new and looks great. The restaurant service was really slow though, according to people who stayed there.

    If you have other questions about Donsol or Bohol, just ask! :)

  4. freeze says:

    hi nina! lucky you… we spent 6 hours at sea but seen only its shadow. we’ll schedule another trip hopefully in summer. (i’m the one you met at the airport with owen & arranged the boat) ;)

  5. nina says:

    Is that you, Sarah/Chara/Ciara/ Idon’tknowhowtospellyournameright? ;) It’s really such a shame that you weren’t able to see the whale shark :( Ang weird no? Or maybe our guide was always so gung ho about jumping off the boat lol

    Goodluck on your next butanding watch! Hopefully, the weather would be so much better then :)

  6. davidd says:

    You saw a whale shark? I AM SO ENVIOUS!!!

    Your entire weekend getaway, including airfare, hardly cost more than one stinkin’ snorkel or scuba boat dive here in Hawaii… where there’s nothing to see because the reefs are all dead from sediment runoff and pollution.

    I hope you continue covering beach getaways with snorkeling and diving.

  7. nina says:

    David: Not only did I see them, I swam with them ;)

    Yes, there will be more beaches, snorkelling, and quite possibly, diving to come. I’m focusing on going to the places in this list, and maybe more. Now, if only I can stop myself from buying Pinky St dolls and manga and eating out so much…

  8. wanderlass says:

    Hey Nina,

    I sent you a PM at CS before finding my way here. He he. So disregard it nalang.


  9. nina says:

    Hey Li! I saw the CS message before I saw this. I replied there na rin :)

  10. Ryan says:

    Ok, so this is on the list of places to see as well. It’s really cool you got to see the whale sharks! I wonder if there’s a time when it’s good to go see them, like in bohol its suppsedly most advisable to go dolphin and whlae viewing in April-May.

  11. nina says:

    Hi Ryan! Donsol is a very relaxing place. This is the season for whale shark watching. January – April/May is the best month to visit daw, because there’s plenty of sunshine and visibility is quite good.

  12. ajay says:

    Congrats, you made it! Pictures? Yeah, pictures!

  13. dyanie says:

    yeah, pics pics pics!!! ;)

  14. Ferdz says:

    Uy! Great timing din. Will be going to Donsol sometime in April as well. Thank you for this breakdown

  15. Lizeth says:

    Hi Nina!

    Thank you so much. I really appreciate your help and emailing to make sure I get your reply. :)

    A bunch of colleagues from work went to Donsol during the 3-day weekend at the end of February, so I was able to ask stuff too. We are going to book at Woodlands. I heard that visibility was poor during their trip too. Sayang! I hope it’ll be better this month.

    Nina, what’s the firefly tour?

    Thanks a lot!! :D


  16. estan says:

    ang mahal pala. buti na lang when I went there with my staff a few years ago, libre kami :-)

  17. nina says:

    Ajay and Dyanie: Pictures coming up! But I wasn’t able to take any photos of the whale shark though :(

    Ferdz: Uy, have fun in April! Take lots of photos of the whale shark ah :D

    Lizeth: The firefly tour is just a boat ride up the river right after sun down. May mga trees right by the river na sobrang pinupuntahan ng mga firefly. Para syang tree na may Christmas lights.

    Estan: Ehehe, magastos lang talaga ako. Haha. Pero you’re right, walang tatalo sa libre!

  18. […] nina: Ajay and Dyanie: Pictures coming up! But I wasn’t able to take any photos of the whale shark though :(… […]

  19. […] trip to Donsol, Sorsogon for the Whaleshark experience. Previous posts in this series includes the budget for this Donsol trip (download Excel file here), and my musings about being back in Bicol after almost 6 […]

  20. freeze says:

    hi nina! yep, you got it right.

    wow you have a long story to tell. I’ll write my own hopefully next month, we are so eager to go back. Now, we know better. We have to book a more experienced guide in advance. The tourist center declined when I asked them but apparently, it is possible. ;D

  21. nina says:

    Haha, ganun? Ask for our guide, BIO Jun :D And good luck on your next trip! Gusto ko rin nga bumalik eh, pero siguro next year na :)

  22. freeze says:

    Nina, my trip was unbelievable! see my blog, I’m still up for Donsol 3!

  23. nina says:

    Freeze: Okay, that is just extremely annoying! Sana matuloy na talaga kayo soon! :(

  24. Chloe says:

    Hi Nina,

    I happened across your website. Nice to read about your Donsol whale watching experience.

    I am considering making a trip there sometime in March next year, after a liveaboard dive trip to the Tubbataha Reefs. However as i will most probably be travelling solo and being a girl and not a local filipino, i am apprehensive about how safe or smooth the trip to Donsol would be for me. What advice would you offer? What are the pre-arrangements or bookings that i can possibly make first online before i am actually there so that i wouldn’t feel so lost?

    My liveaboard trip part is more or less settled and taken care of. I would most likely end up last in Manila and i suppose i would have to take a plane to Legazpi from there?

    Do you think i may have problem getting people to share boat with me while in Donsol? Are there any cheap and safe accomodation nearby the whale watching area? I would like to cut cost wherever possible. How many days would you say is enough to stay in Donsol so that i would definitely go away with sightings of whale sharks?

    Appreciate any advice or information from you. You could send me an email. Thank you and God bless :)

  25. callisto says:

    hey nina,

    its been months since you went to donsol so you’re probably sick of replying to comments. but i cant seem to find the answer anywhere…either that or the answer is a flat-out no…but im feeling hopeful so im going to ask anyway…is there anything else there to do? none of the sites give information on the shopping or food… please reply. im hoping to go to donsol with my family before i run off to uni…


  26. takz says:

    for callisto,
    donsol before the whaleshark tourism is just a sleepy coastal fishing town .
    we dont have shopping centers here..we already have this year good restaurants that can serve sumptuous meals for tourists.. both in the resorts and in the town..
    anyone who wants further inquiry ,, you can contact me by mail..
    thanks and c u guys here in our town.. have a good time!!!!

  27. jakersfakers says:

    hey nina, great post. my friends and i are planning to go there this end november, just wondering did you also visit mt mayon? are there guided tours/vans for that in the region? thanks!

  28. Aimee says:

    Hi Nina,

    I have a few questions. My friends and I are going to Donsol this July to see and have an encounter with the whale sharks. Do you think we still spot a butanding during those days?

    I have booked a plane ticket to Legazpi and I wonder how do we get a van that will bring us to Donsol? Is there a van or bus terminal near Legazpi airport? Or do you know anyone we can hire?

    Thanks! =]]

    • nina says:

      Hi Aimee, July isn’t really the best time for whale shark watching in Donsol. You can definitely try, but be sure to allot at least 2 days because there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to see them on your first try (even during the peak months).

      From the Legazpi airport, you can hire a van to take you directly to Donsol. Or if you’re on a budget, you can ride a tricycle to take you to the transport depot, where you can ride a commuter van to Donsol.

  29. Bernadette Pineda says:

    Hi Nina,

    Thanks for the info. WE plan to go there this June, is this a good time or not at all to have encounter with the butanding? Is there a train going there?

    Best regards,


  30. wendy says:

    hi nina is it possible to go to donsol and visit the butanding this coming august?

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