On the southernmost fringes of the island of Luzon lies the province of Sorsogon. Located at the tip of the Bicol Peninsula, Sorsogon serves as one of the gateways to the Visayas region. With its varied terrain and pristine shores bordered by the Pacific Ocean, it’s no wonder that countless natural wonders lie in its folds.
The municipality of Donsol is primarily known as a natural breeding ground for whale sharks, or butanding. It’s also praised for its unfailing practice of sustainable ecotourism. Unlike at some other dive spots in the Philippines, the butanding of Donsol are treated not as pets but as they are — wild animals that should be observed and left on their own. Get up close and personal with these gentle giants by snorkeling in Donsol Bay (where they sometimes come right up to the water’s surface), or by diving at Manta Bowl Shoal or San Miguel Island.
Matnog is a small town that lies at the southernmost tip of Sorsogon. From its port, vessels cross the San Bernardino Strait to the island of Samar in Visayas. The municipality is made up of a cluster of islets lined with coconut trees and relatively undisturbed forests, offering a relaxing beach getaway sans hordes of tourists. Island-hop around its three most popular landmasses — Calintaan, Tikling and Juag — where crystal-clear waters and pink coralline shores abound.
Bulusan Volcano Natural Park
This protected area covers 3,673ha of rainforest surrounding Mount Bulusan — an active volcano. At the heart of the park is the Bulusan crater lake, where you’ll find calm, emerald waters rimmed with lush, towering trees. Here, visitors can go on a guided boat tour across the lake, rent a kayak or explore the park’s several walking trails. Keep your eyes peeled for endemic flora and fauna, such as the beautiful jade vine, which sports turquoise blooms.
San Mateo Hot and Cold Spring Resort
Fed by the volcanic stream of Mount Bulusan, the San Mateo Hot and Cold Spring Resort in the town of Irosin is the perfect place for a therapeutic soak. Here, you’ll find several pools of sulfuric water, with temperatures varying from lukewarm to freezing cold. Plus, the resort is wedged on the edge of a thriving forest, with dense foliage providing cool shade and crisp air. And with an entrance fee of just PHP35, the experience offers real bang for your buck.
A couple of hours from Sorsogon’s provincial capital is Sawangga, a barangay in the district of Bacon (pronounced “bah-kon”). From here, Paguriran is accessible via foot during low tide. It’s not so much an island as a ring of jagged limestone hugging a lagoon, which is in turn home to schools of multicolored fish. With its aquamarine waters, cream-colored sands and a breathtaking backdrop of Mount Mayon, this secret spot is surely worth the long journey.