There is a better way to end your adventure with the whale sharks in Donsol. Keeping up with the butandings can be tiring especially when you have to contend with other people just to swim with it. If you’re looking for an activity to contrast the action-packed adventure you had early in the morning, try Donsol’s sunset and firefly tour.
Actually, the tour is just simply referred to in Donsol as the firefly tour but if you read further, you will understand why in my book, it’s known as the sunset and firefly tour. If you haven’t seen fireflies, like hundreds of them, swarming and dancing around a narra tree, by all means go on the firefly tour. And if you can’t resist a really good sunset and the idea of enjoying maybe a bottle of beer while you go on a sunset cruise that transforms into a river cruise as you make your way to where the fireflies are, do not leave Donsol without enjoying the sunset and firefly tour.
It is a sweet retreat that brings out the romantics in you. If you’re a sucker for sunsets and stars and glittering Hollywood romance movies, this could be the perfect setting for your own love story. I for once couldn’t help but think of maybe proposing to someone in the middle of the firefly tour when I went to see the fireflies last year. Because really, when you look at the tree from afar with hundreds of fireflies rhythmically moving around it and with the sky also bedecked with stars in the background, you can get really creative and amorous. I thought of maybe putting the ring in one of the branches early in the day and reaching out for it in the middle of our firefly and stargazing moment like I was reaching for the stars and that’s when am gonna pop the question “Will you marry me?” (Please don’t mind this part, this is just my biological clock pressuring me again!) 😀
But really, the experience is truly a romantic one and believe it or not, just this February, a little over Valentine’s Day, a woman (yes, a woman!) proposed to her man while they were in the middle of firefly watching. Her boyfriend didn’t have the slightest idea as he was blindfolded as they make the river cruise and when it was time for the moment, the woman took his blindfold off and proposed with the fireflies in the background. Sweet! 🙂
Anyway, fireflies or lightning bugs are not your ordinary insects. Known to produce “cold light” which they use to attract their partners, fireflies are mostly found in tropical countries. I learned that there are also fireflies in some European countries although the ones that are found there are as big as cockroaches. Fireflies are found in big numbers in Donsol, gathering around the narra and talisay trees along the riverbanks of the town’s two rivers: Donsol and Ogod.
Their presence in one area indicates very good air quality so you can tell that Donsol has one of the country’s healthiest environments. Having the world’s largest fish and some of it’s smallest creatures in one place surely speaks volume of the natural resources that abound in Donsol.
Locally, older generations believe that a tree is actually enchanted when it is lit by fireflies. Most people refer to the presence of tikbalang (Philippine folklore creature that resembles a ginormous horse) in these trees. You are not going to find a picture of fireflies decorating a tree here as it is very impossible to capture them on camera. There is a story that goes around Donsol about a foreign tourist who took a photo of the tree swarmed by fireflies with the help of his point and shoot camera. When he had his films developed, the photo showed a tree bursting with flowers of different kinds and colors.
The tours costs PhP1,250 and is good for five people and takes at least an hour and a half to be completed. Which means if you’re a group of three persons, you can actually split the amount with two other guests who might want to go with you on the tour. The fee covers boat rental and the services of a tour guide.
There are three jump-off points for the firefly tour. The first one is near the only prominent bridge in Donsol and you will find a signage that speaks of the activity. The tour that starts here goes to the Donsol River. If you’re staying in one of the lodging house in town, you can walk to the bridge if you like. A tricycle ride costs PhP10 per person. The same can be said for those coming from the resorts in Dancalan.
The other jump-off point is in Ogod, near what is referred to as dawitan (mini-port) in Sapa, another village in Donsol. It’s a little bit far from town, probably around 15-20 minutes by tricyle and fare is PhP20-30 per person. This can cost more as you have to make arrangements with the tricycle driver to wait for you to come back from the tour as no tricycles are regularly found here. Some say that there are more fireflies that converge here but I’ve been to both tours and the only difference that I observed was that Ogod River is narrower than Donsol River so you appear closer to the trees and the fireflies.
The third jump-off point I will reveal later on this post. 😀
The tour from the bridge starts at 6:00 pm and this is the river where you cruise until you get to where the fireflies are. Now, do not go on the firefly tour when it is full moon for simple logic that the moon’s light can overwhelm the fireflies and that does not translate to a very exciting tour.
Also, be mindful of the weather. If it’s been raining, there is a big chance that fireflies won’t be out for the night. The tour operators are also concerned with your safety and enjoyment, so even when you insist that you want to take the tour, there’s a chance that your request will be turned down if the weather is not very cooperative. From this point, it will take some twenty minutes of slow boat ride before you first spot a tree with fireflies. But remember, fireflies go out in the dark, so most of these fireflies you will see on your way back to the jump-off point.
You cannot see this at night, but this is the quality of Donsol’s river. If you’ve been to Bohol, this will remind you of their rivers.
Now, this is the secret that you should know. Amor Farm Beach Resort is the third and the best jump-off point (and this I say with conviction) for the firefly tour. Disclosure: If this is your first time to visit my blog, my family owns the resort, so use your best judgment. 🙂 Aside from our resort and Dancalan Beach Resort (which is, by the way, owned by my brother) near the Tourism Center, I am not sure if other resorts host this tour. Amor is the pioneer of this kind of tour among resort operators so you can trust my word on this one.
The tour costs the same and also starts at 6:00pm. It is best for those who are staying at the resort as the tour starts and ends at the beachfront. Do keep in mind, though, that the sunset and firefly tour from the resort is only possible when it is high-tide. Otherwise, you will skip the sunset cruise part and proceed to the bridge where your tour will take off.
Donsol has amazing sunsets so make sure to be at the beach as early as 5:00pm.
You can laze around, and maybe have a beer, or a very interesting conversation with your friends or partner while you wait for the sunset. Or you can spend the time taking photographs of it. I tell you, the sunsets in Donsol are one of the best sunsets I’ve seen around the Philippines. I am not kidding you.
So, indulge as you enjoy your view. All the photos here are taken on February this year so you can tell the quality of sunset in Donsol in the middle of the summer season (I really hope it stops raining soon!). You can choose among the spectacle in front of you. Blushing is certainly more fun in the Philippines.
Maybe a spunky sunset does not hurt as well.
A very relaxing play of colors is set to provide tranquility at the end of the day.
While a burst of merry colors and textures should jolt you out of your solitude.
This shall put you in a very zen state of mind as you begin your firefly tour.
While the sky is bursting with different colors, you start your sunset cruise. You can bring a bottle of beer or wine to complete your “cruise.” Your aim is to relax.
And it is perfectly understandable if you start to look bewildered and overjoyed as you go on the tour. The wealth of beauty around you cannot be simply ignored.
On your right, you get a view of local life set against a gorgeous sky.
While you can enjoy little majestic Mayon on your left. These are the views that you’re not gonna get when you take the tour from the other jump-off points. Remember, you are enjoying these views while the wind touches your skin and the breeze a little colder at this time of the day.
The boat ride from the resort to the mouth of the river usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes, so by the time you start your river cruise, the sky is dark already and the fireflies are starting to adorn the trees. The ride from the resort is breathtaking and it sure does prepare you for the kind of enchantment that waits for you in Donsol River.
The sunset and firefly tour is a deadly combination for hopeless romantics. For those who aren’t as crazy in love as these people, well, PhP250 does not give you this kind of view in the city, right? And it’s high time you get acquainted with that famous character you just met in your History class.
The next time you find yourself in Donsol, do not let this magical moment pass you by. Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- All photographs taken in February 2012 with a Canon 550d.
- For inquiries, you can contact Amor Farm Beach Resort at +639095181150.
Tagged: Albay, Amor Farm Beach Resort, Bicol, butanding, Donsol, fireflies, firefly watching, fun, Mayon, Mayon Volcano, Philippines, river, river cruising, Sorsogon, sunset, sunset watching, swimming, swimming with whale sharks, travel, whale shark, whale sharks, what to do