THE WEEKLY #92: BICOL TRIP WITH PHILIPPINES TOURISM BOARD
Week 92 was a moment to embark on a new adventure. I boarded a plane from Denpasar, Bali with Nic Morley and headed to Manila, Philippines. After three weeks in Bali of putting in some hustle on the blog and some technical tasks, I was stoked to be bound for another big adventure.
For the last seven days, Nic and I explored the best of the Bicol region in the Philippines with the Tourism Board. The aim of the campaign is to shine a spotlight on Bicol and bring it to the attention of international tourists as a destination to consider.
El Nido and Coron are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the Philippines! There is so much more to discover beyond these popular locations.
We began the journey at the Peninsula Hotel in Manila. It’s one of the fanciest hotels in Manila and the Philippines Tourism Board always puts us up here at the start and end of our journeys. A little bit of luxury is always nice in between the backpacking and budget travel.
The locations we would be exploring were:
Legazpi was town centered around one focal point. The currently active, Mayan Volcano, is the main attraction in Legazpi and it was towering over us as we stepped off the plane at the airport.
The weather stopped some hiking and island hopping plans but we were able to enjoy an epic day on the ATV’s. The tour led us through rivers as we charged over boulders and up hills. All the while Mayon loomed over us in the distance.
We were able to climb up a hill of lava rock, which had once spilled out of the powerful volcano. Here we took some awesome photos and enjoyed the grand scale of Mayon. The volcano is often covered in cloud and had been for the majority of our trip but for the half-hour period as we stood at her base, the skies cleared and we observed Mayon in all of her beauty.
The locals say that the clouds covering Mayon only clear for people with good hearts. We were also told the clouds clear for virgins. I think we will claim our good hearts…
After exploring Mayon Volcano, it was time to visit Donsol. This is a special place in Bicol because for almost half of the year it is a haven for Whale Sharks! The Whale Shark experience in Donsol was said to be wilder than in Oslob where the whales are fed by the boatmen.
Donsol lived up to its reputation. There were still plenty of boats and not quite as many whale sharks at Oslob. However, it was much wilder. We searched far and wide for over an hour to locate a whale shark and then dropped into the water to swim with the shark. They are swimming quite fast and most of the tourists only got a glimpse of the shark. I managed to keep up with him for several minutes. As I was at full capacity with fins on while the whale shark casually cruised through the water.
Oslob is an experience that focuses on the tourist experience whereas Donsol focuses on the whale shark experience. Neither are perfect but Donsol definitely is a more sustainable model, with stricter limitations on boats on the water and tourists in the water. Additionally, because the sharks aren’t being fed in Donsol, they just swim straight whereas in Oslob they are bobbing up and down looking for food from the boatmen.
Overall I was stoked to swim with the sharks and felt it was still a bit frantic but much more relaxed still than Oslob. These Whale Sharks go 10m+ and dwarf you while you cruise next to them!
After Legazpi and Donsol, it was time to get to the island hopping. Where better than Caramoan, the filming location of the Survivor series?
I haven’t quite had time to edit the whale shark clips but they will be up on my youtube channel soon!
Our awesome home for two nights, Tugawe Cove Resort, was right on the water’s edge. Perched high up on the hill it had panoramic views, perfectly placed to enjoy both sunrise and sunset from the restaurant.
The day of island hopping we had in Caramoan was one of the best days of 2018 so far! We made 6 stops and each one was mind-blowingly epic. Without the crowds of El Nido and Coron, but with equally awesome scenery, I think this location will fast become a popular destination. It’s only a one-hour flight and a short boat ride from Manila, making it more accessible than both El Nido and Coron.
The highlights were Katanawan Island, two islands with an epic little viewpoint. Crystal clear water for snorkeling and an endless amount of beach exploration.
The snorkel spot wasn’t bad either….
Our lunch spot was truly a feast in paradise. On a white sand beach, we looked out to several islands while the jungle loomed behind our backs. Under a shady tree, we ate mangoes, rice, pork, and seafood. This was the classic postcard Philippines experience.
At lunch, I chatted with a local videographer who told me he would take me to Matukad Island after lunch to do a cliff jump. Two local lads, who weighed half of me, helped me navigate my way up the hardest rock climb of my life. Atop the jagged cliff, I found myself looking down on somewhere near 20 meters.
With two drones in the air and a couple of boats watching I went for safety with a feet-first jump and hit the water like a needle. It was one of the highlights of the week for sure!
Thanks to Tourism Philippines for having me once again to my favorite country! It’s not hard to promote this place, in fact, it is the easiest job I’ve ever had!
For the next three weeks, I will be exploring the Romblon region with Nic Morley and Dan Moore. I’m stoked to explore another region that is a bit unknown to me. Let the adventures continue!