Visit the “Switzerland of the Orient” located at the southernmost tip of Luzon and explore its abundant natural tourist attractions. The province of Sorsogon in Bicol Region is a prime eco-tourist destination offering pristine beaches, unexplored caves, numerous waterfalls, national parks, marine reserve and more. Here is a list of some of the things you can do and see to help you plan your next visit in the province.
Sunset at Donsol
1. Swim with the Whale Sharks
Experience a one of a kind adventure by swimming with the biggest fish in the world in the tranquil fishing village of Donsol. Interacting with the Butanding, also known as the gentle giant, is an exhilarating adventure that you can only experience in few places around the globe . The waters of Donsol are your best bet to spot these gigantic blue-grey spotted creatures. Check out Donsol Whale Shark Watching Travel Guide for information about accommodation, expenses and independent travel tips.
Credit: Whale Shark Donsol
2. Sunset Cruise and Firefly Watching
After spending your day chasing the whale sharks, head to Donsol River before dusk and marvel at the beautiful sunset while cruising along the vast winding river fringed by mangroves, palm trees and other greenery. As the sky darkens, prepare to be awed by thousands of sparkling fireflies illuminating the trees and the surrounding sky. The boat trip costs around P1250 for a maximum of 6 and leaves the river bridge at 6pm.
3. Island Hopping in Matnog
Hire a motorized banca from Matnog Ferry Terminal and explore the rare pink sandy beaches of Tikling and Calintaan Island. Tikling Island is a good spot for snorkeling while Subic Beach on Calintaan Island offers a charming nook for beach camping. Explore the huge underwater caves at Calintaan Island and spot exotic ocean dwellers while you dive into the crystal clear water.
Drop by at Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary as well and while away your time feeding the teeming marine species or better yet rent a snorkel and mask and swim along with these creatures.
4. Visit Barcelona Church and Juban’s Old Houses
Seven kilometers south of Gubat, check out St. Joseph Church in the town of Barcelona, a 19th century structure with walls made from huge slabs of stone taken from the sea and cemented together using a unique mixture of beaten egg white, native coconut wine (tuba), and lime. It is considered the most well preserved church in the province with its original walls and bell tower still relatively intact. You can also climb its belfry for a great view over the ocean.
On your way to the Matnog or Bulan, pay a quick visit to the old Spanish houses (Bahay na Bato) lining the main street in the town of Juban. While the ground floor of some old houses have already been converted into commercial establishments, visitors can still find original antique furniture inside as well as privatel historic collections. They still have the original capiz sliding windows and the carved wooden balustrade below the windowsill.
5. Dip in the Hot and Cold Springs of Irosin
The idyllic town of Irosin abounds with natural spring water and prides itself as the wellness capital of the province. Head to Mateo Hot and Cold Springs at San Benon or at Mapaso Spring and soothe your weary body with the curative and relaxing effect of the volcanic spring water. Alternatively cool down at Masacrot Spring, a man-made pool with natural spring water at the nearby town of Bulusan.
Mateo Hot and Cold Spring
6. Dive the famous Manta Bowl
Dubbed as the Manta Ray Capital of the Philippines, the Manta Bowl found in the middle of the ocean between Donsol and Ticao Island is a haven for divers, marine biologists and underwater photographers. Aside from Manta Rays, the largest and most harmless rays in the world, many rare species of marine life are found at the dive site of San Miguel and Tical Island. March to May are the peak months for diving and although it is geographically part of the province of Masbate, it is logistically easier to dive from Donsol.
7. Explore the Beaches of Bacon District
Just half an hour north of Sorsogon City, the town of Bacon offers a quick beach escape and some interesting spots to explore. The most unique of these is Paguriran Island located in Barangay Buenavista, a seawater lagoon surrounded by jagged rocks much like the rim of a volcano. Libanon Beach in Barangay San Juan has fine black sand and crashing waves hammering the craggy seaside hill. Pagol Beach is a small pocket of sandy beach covered with swept corals while Tolong Gapo Beach offers a long stretch of beach with beachside cottages.
8. Trek Mt. Bulusan
Climb up the densely forested Mt. Bulusan, one of the three active volcanoes in the Bicol Region and take pleasure in the natural beauty of the scenery and the sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippines Sea at the summit. Experience mountaineers can complete the hike in a day while others who prefer a leisurely pace can camp at the crater summit. Fernando’s Hotel organizes climbing tours but independent travellers can look for guides and up-to-date information from the Sorsogon Tourism Council or ask the barangay captain in San Roque for assistance. A quick dip in the cool water of Palogtoc Falls is a good way to end the day after a successful conquest.
Credit: Splendor of the Church
9. Indulge in Seafood and Local Delicacies
The province of Sorsogon is blessed with abundant reserves of aquatic resources and is the major supplier of seafood all over the mainland. A visit here is not complete without trying some of the local favorites like the Ginataang Alimasag (crabs with cocomilk), Sinabawang Tahong (mussel soup), orEnsaladang Lato ( seaweed salad).
Now, however tempting it may be, avoid trying the local favorite Kinunot. Kinunot dishes are made from shark or sting/manta ray meat simmered in coconut milk. The only dish that I craved when I was a kid is now listed as an endangered species. Other Sorsogon Delicacies, however, like Kuyog,Hinagam, Binut-ong and Kinagang are worth adding on your exotic food safari experience.
10. Support Eco-Tourism Adventures
Explore Bulusan Volcano National Park, a protected rainforest and wildlife sanctuary. The nature park offers a number of waterfalls, hot springs, caves and decent walking path around Bulusan Lake. It’s a beautiful and relaxing spot for picnic, kayaking and fishing.
Drive or trek up to the vast forest reserve of PNOC- Eco-Park situated between the borders of Albay and Sorsogon. It offers a variety of exciting activities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The scenic Botong Twin Falls, the boiling lake at Mt. Inang Maharang and an encounter with a mountain ape, a deer or wild boar are some of the highlights of your visit here. Caves, hot springs and fresh water lakes as well as numerous winding trails can also be explored. Contact Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Council (SPTC) to arrange a visit to the park.
Prieto-Diaz Mangrove Forest
For a further dose of rustic countryside scenery and off the beaten path adventures, head to Pilar for diving at the Punumbagan Marine Sanctuary along Burias Pass, do a fishpond and bird watching adventure at Pilar Estuary and Malbog River or avail of Putiao River Ride with San Jose Cave Exploration and Egret Sanctuary Experience. Arrange your visit with Pilar Visitor’s Center and Putiao Visitor Center.
For excellent marine eco-tourism in Sorsogon, check out Prieto Diaz’s Mangrove Forest and Marilag Marine Seagrass Bed Reserves as well as its beaches, falls and caves.
Acknowledgment: Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Council
Sorsogon Tourism : Images of Barcelona Church, Prieto Diaz Mangrove Forest