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Diving in Bicol

This time we’ll get a little closer acquainted with the possibilities of combined diving tours in the Philippines. It turns out, going after a whole kaleidoscope of impressions, tourists sometimes don’t have to be patient with domestic flights or even go long distances. Take the Philippine region of Bicol for example. What will happen if you look closely at him?

Bicol is a new region for the domestic tourism industry from six provinces: Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate. Known for its original cuisine, the production of aggregates for rickshaws and nuts drank, it will become a real find for those who do not like to sit still. By the way, residents of other areas of the Philippines do not understand the local language Bicolano and its dialects – and communicate with them mainly in English.

So, we fly to Manila. The visa is not needed now: the main thing is that the passport is valid for six months. We get from the international airport to the airport for domestic airlines, 45 minutes in the air – and this is our first destination: Legaspi, Albay province.
Whale sharks and diving
At some point, the mysterious words “Donsol” and “Sorsogon” sounded in the domestic diving environment, and immediately the “pinniped” groups were pulled into an unknown hitherto unknown region, where you can hardly find a decent hotel. This is not surprising: in pursuit of whale sharks, divers travel across the globe, and in Donsol (Sorsogon province, an hour from Legaspi), if you are lucky, you can meet from 5 to 15 sharks a day. With so many of these giant fish, Donsol claims to be the world capital of whale sharks!

You can meet whale sharks (or butanding, as the locals call them), starting somewhere from October-November to the peak period in February-May. The authorities and the WWF do not allow the use of scuba diving when dealing with whale sharks, so divers will have to leave equipment and join the usual waterfowl. In any case, sharks swim at shallow depths and can be observed even from in boats.

Going to sea will take from one to 4 hours, if desired. Specially trained guides with the title of “butanding interaction officers” track down sharks and instruct tourists. The basic rules are simple: do not disturb an animal from swimming, do not come closer than 3 meters to its body and 4 meters to its tail: these amazing creatures are harmless to humans and feed on plankton and krill, but when such a friendly giant (and whale sharks reach 13 meters in length), waving his tail – will not find it a little.
There are no problems with catering in Donsols, but the accommodation is still rather modest: however, if this is confusing, you can stay at the city hotel Legaspi and go to the sea for a day. For an independent tourist, a bus ticket from Legaspi to Donsol and back, boat rental, park registration and rental of the set No. 1 (mask, flippers, snorkel) will cost 130 EUR for two. The more people in the boat – the cheaper the trip, but no more than one boat or six divers are allowed to “hunt” for one shark. It is better to move out before 12 in the morning: the water is clearer and sharks can be better seen (especially since the flash units according to the instructions will have to be left at the top), plus everything, at this time there are more of them. Prices on the page are as of April 2019.

By the way, tourism not only develops the region economically, but also saves these rare animals from poacher extermination: even a festival is organized, marking the annual return of butanding to the Dosnola waters.

However, whale sharks are far from the only “bait” for divers in the region: 55 km from Donsola there is another Mecca of the underwater world – Chikao island with the famous diving site Manta Bowl (“The Manto Bowl”). From October to May here you can see 5-10 skates per dive. At night, departures are offered to observe the fireflies – a magical entourage to the already fascinating starry sky. If you do not want to get far for diving, you can dive in the marine reserve of the island of San Miguel, just 15 minutes by boat from Tabaco (and half an hour from Legaspi).

Quads and the volcano Mayon
The symbol of Bicol is an almost perfectly symmetrical cone of Mayon volcano. This volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the country: it has about 50 eruptions over the past 400 years. Wherever you go in the vicinity of Legazpi, Mayon will always rise from one side, giving a special pictorial look to any picture and frame. The most famous photograph that no local guide misses: the surviving bell tower of the Kagsawa church against the background of the city destroyed by the eruption on February 1, 1814.

Here we are waiting for an adventure for a good half of the day: we saddle quad bikes (for tolerance to different types of road surface, including water, they are called here ATV – all terrain vehicle, I mean the all-terrain vehicle), apply sunscreen – and go.

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