Chinese New Year’s 2011 – Year of the Whaleshark Day 1.5

Early February was Chinese New Year’s, which is a great time to celebrate, enjoy family, eat goodies available only during that time of year, wear red and gold and generally be in a merry and festive mood. It is also the time of year for Carrie and I to travel as we got 2 days off work and thus had a four day weekend which we used to travel to The Philippines.

We found out about a place where there was a chance to scuba dive with manta rays and to swim with whale sharks. It was also nice because the Philippines doesn’t celebrate Chinese (or Lunar) New Years unlike a large portion of the rest of Southeast Asia, which means flights are cheaper and less crowded.

The location of our trip was a town called Donsol on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It required a flight from Singapore to Manila, then a flight from Manila to Legazpi City followed by a one hour car ride to Donsol.

Gives Tricycle a whole new meaning

Donsol is considered a small town with approximately 40,000 people and had very little tourist infrasttructure and by that I mean about 4 hotels, no ATM, and zero night life. It was just what we needed for a relaxing four day weekend.

The trip started out at midnight Singapore time with a 3 hour uneventful flight to Manila. We landed and sleepily made our way to the ATM in the airport to withdraw all the cash we needed for the weekend (like I said no ATM in town and no credit cards accepted for anything). Getting cash was tougher than expected as the weekend required cash for hotel, diving, meals, etc which mean at least a few hundred US Dollar equivalent but the ATM in Manila airport maxed out at $70 USD, which means we had to be charged for a few different withdrawals in order to get all the money we needed.

The Manila Airport is small and luckily we were in the new terminal. We got some Filipino fast food known as Jollibee which was just as bad as American fast food, and luckily not indicative of the high quality of the food for hte remaind of hte trip. We then headed through security for our next flight to Legazpi CIty and both Carrie and I had our umbrellas seized because they were dangerous weapons, or so they say.

The remainder of the trip was very uneventful until we reached Donsol around 8am, changed in the bathroom of the dive centre and were off on a scuba diving boat for the day. The scuba diving boat was known as a bangka boat and wasn’t much managed to have a small place to get out of the rain, a very small toilet, and was adequate for a day trip.

The scuba diving was fun but not as eventful as other dives we had recently. We did however see some fun wildlife, experienced rolling off the boat backwards into the water, and had very strong current during two of our dives. Unfortunately we did not see Manta Rays despite the dive sight name of Manta Bowl. We will have to come back during April/May some year as that is high season for Manta Rays.

Colorful Nudibranch
Strong Current – Needed Reef Hooks
Dive Buddies!!

After the long slog of a boat ride back we were very tired and happy to drink some San Miguel, eat some food at our hotel, Woodlands Beach Resort (rustic but recommended), and then promptly fall asleep at 8:30pm. I think the rest of the town was asleep by 9pm.

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