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In my previous post, I talked about how I forgot about the time when I snorkelled at Apo Island. How true it was; we almost forgot our lunch, good thing our hungry tummies never fail to remind us to eat.

Lunchtime

Hungry Pack

Hungry Pack

Grilled Fish and Rice

Grilled Fish and Rice

For our late lunch, we bought a freshly caught big fish from a local vendor and asked them to grill it for us. They also cooked us rice and bought us softdrinks and “sawsawan” (Filipino liquid seasoning), all for a very affordable price of course. We had a hearty lunch under the scorching heat of the summer sun. I highly recommend you buy freshly-caught fish from locals and let them grill it for you.  It’s a refreshing experience, especially if you’re used to having fast food in the city. After that sumptuous feast, we were all geared up for our second dip.

Clown Fish City

Clown Fish City, Apo Island Photo from Tommy Schultz

Everyone knows about the fish with bright orange and white stripes.  Thanks to the movie “Finding Nemo”, we already knew that clown fish exist and that they live in sea anemones. And when we talk about sea anemones, the island has a lot of them. I read before that Apo Island is said to be “Clown Fish City”, and indeed, it is! It was then that I knew, mature fish tend to change into a darker orange hue as they age. Clown fish go on swimming and playing happily in and out of the anemones, just like what I saw in the Disney movie. They went on with their daily lives not minding the five humans swimming overhead.

Marine Sanctuary

Marine Sanctuary

The tide was beginning to get low so our guide had to stop our snorkelling escapade after an hour of snorkelling. We returned all the gears we borrowed and headed to the port where our pumpboat was religiously waiting for us.

Sea Turtles

Going to see the Turtles

Going to see the Turtles

But before reaching the boat, our guide led us to a place where we could see big “pawikans” (sea turtles) up close. The place where we snorkelled was not as attractive as the Marine Sanctuary but we were amazed to see big (as in, really big) sea turtles swimming lazily and eating sea grass every now and then.  Locals said that big sea turtles are a common site, one can always see their round heads bob up and down the water, that is if, you know where to look. We swam near the “pawikan” that our guide was pointing at yet we didn’t get to go really close because sea turtles are really shy. They tend to swim away when they see someone going near them. So after half an hour or so, we decide that it was about time to travel back to the city.

Going Home

Going Home

Going Home

The trip back was a nasty one.  It was twice as rough as our morning trip and the waves were really not friendly because of the grumpy weather. The sky was really gloomy and raindrops were pouring every now and then. There was a time when our boat man had to kill the boat’s engine so that we could dance to the rhythm of the sea and avoid being capsized. The captain mentioned that the waves we encountered were just mild compared to the waves during the stormy season. I just closed my eyes and said a prayer for a safe trip and before I knew it we were already nearing the port.

I highly recommend Apo Island to all the people who wanted to experience marine life at its best. I’m not a diving/snorkelling expert but I have to say that the island’s marine life is absolutely breathtaking; absolutely worth your while, despite the rough sea trip.

Please drop by again next week for another snorkelling adventure with me, Wynna. :)

After a night of partying, my college friends and I had a whirlwind of a plan: we decided to go to Apo Island the very next day. We went home at a quarter past 12:00 and needed to get up really early to go to the island. If that’s not a crazy plan, I don’t know what is.

I was the one to set the alarm, and get up early. I knocked on their doors to wake them up one by one. Good thing we live in the same apartment. After knocking around for an hour, while everyone was still in a groggy mode, I started packing my swim wear, snorkeling gear, sunblock and wallet.

The Bumpy Ride to Apo Island

Jeepney Ride to Malatapay

Jeepney Ride to Malatapay

If you’re from Dumaguete City, you need to take a bus or a jeep going to Malatapay Market. It’s around 30 minutes from the city; you just have to tell the driver or conductor that you want to be dropped off at Malatapay. If you’re don’t want to go to Apo Island, you can still visit the market during Wednesdays because they sell all kinds of delicious Filipino food especially the world famous roasted pig called “lechon”.

From the bus drop-off point, you have to walk around 5-8 minutes before reaching the market and the mini seaport where all the pumpboats are docked. After signing the waiver and paying PHP 3,500 (USD 87.5) for the roundtrip ride, eight sleepyheads went aboard the big pumpboat. Expected duration of travel is 45-60 minutes.

Big waves made our white vessel bob up and down the deep blue sea; I didn’t know the ride would be this bumpy. If I had known, I wouldn’t have volunteered  for the trip. After  50-minutes of excruciating sea travel, the now wide-awake gang became giddy with excitement. I made arrangements with the pumpboat captain to wait for us ‘til 3 in the afternoon.

Docked at Apo Island Port

Docked at Apo Island Port

Fees before Snorkeling

On the way to the Marine Sanctuary

On the way to the Marine Sanctuary

You need to pay an environmental fee before you go swimming, and since we were locals and students at that time, we paid PHP 10 (or was it 15, I can’t really remember) each. A local guide, who also served as our snorkelling guide, led the way to Apo Island’s Marine Sanctuary. We paid PHP 100 (USD 2.5) for each of our bright orange life-vest, and PHP 150 (USD 3.75) for our guide, we chose to have him because not all of us are swimmers and the strong currents might take us away without someone to lead us.

Water Paradise

Getting ready to Snorkel

Getting ready to Snorkel

We  got into groups of five so it would be easier for our guide to keep count of his disciples. I was one of the first to go snorkelling. In all honesty, I was really troubled because a lot of people had already mentioned that Apo Island is said to be shark-infested due to its teeming marine life; and being the selacophobic that I am, my anxiety level was quite high. My beloved friends already knew about my unique condition so they made sure I was always in the middle; even our humble guide made sure that I was always near him so that he could easily guard me, if ever something unexpected came our way. And to be honest, I was really touched with all the effort in making me feel comfortable as much as possible.

But when I first dipped my head in the deep waters, all my anxiety evaporated into dust; I was dumbfounded, I even forgot about my worries about seeing a shark, all because of the beauty I saw underwater. I’m not really knowledgeable about the names of marine fauna and flora, but with the little knowledge that I have, it’s already enough to say that Apo Island is indeed a water paradise!

Colorful corals tower up to give shelter to variety of fishes. There seems to be a busy metropolis of sea creatures down there. It’s just too bad I didn’t save for an underwater camera to bring on this trip. My SD card would have been fully loaded with pictures of eels, star fish, big stone fish, and colourful familiar fish with names I can’t even remember. There’s always a lot to see and I could spend hours just swimming and observing the marine animals doing their daily routine. It already felt like eternity but when I did a time check it was only 12 noon.

So much to write but not enough space so I guess I have to cut this post into half. TO BE CONTINUED :)

It’s getting hotter and hotter in the Philippines because summer is already here. One of the popular activities during summer is snorkeling since our country has been blessed with a teeming underwater world. For this week’s post, I’ll share my amazing snorkeling adventure in the stunning Balicasag Island.

Pump Boats in Balicasag Island

Pump Boats in Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island

Panglao Island in Bohol is starting to flourish and etch its own name in the world map of tourist destinations. Resorts, apartments, cottages and hotels sprout all over the island to cater to snorkelers and divers alike. The flat and almost circular island of Balicasag is located southwest of Panglao, and is surrounded by a sandy shell coralline beach making it a popular dive and snorkel spot. So April of last year, my friends and I rented a pump boat to go to this famous hotspot and discover and experience nature at its best.

Dolphin Watching

Pod of Dolphins

Pod of Dolphins

You have to wake up really early so that you’ll get the chance to see the elusive dolphins. I was a little bit worried though because we got a late start and might not see the dolphins on the way. Our boatman was more optimistic than I was and I guess the dolphins heard his good-natured plea because after 15 minutes they appeared out of nowhere. It was so exhilarating to see them dance and play with each other. Just seeing them wild and carefree is, indeed, a heart-warming sight. After some time we bid goodbye to the jolly pod of dolphins and proceeded to Balicasag Island. By the time we got to the island, the sun was already up and about.

Balicasag Marine Sanctuary

Small Boats at Php 150

Small Boats at Php 150

We had to ride small boats to go to the island’s sanctuary because it’s a bit far from the drop off area. An environmental fee of Php 50 is also collected together with the Php 150 for the small boat ride.  You’ll have a personal tour guide, who is also a local of the island, and they’ll bring along some bread to feed the fishes and give you some facts about anything under the sun.

Puffer Fish

Puffer Fish

The current was quite strong but it didn’t hinder us from enjoying the warm water and the thriving nation of marine creatures. Once you put on your goggles, you’ll definitely see a different and more active life underneath the sea. The fish big and small, swim past you like busy people on their way to work. I tried feeding the fish with a piece of bread but one of the bigger fishes bit my finger instead. So I just went back to watching them. I was also very lucky to see a real puffer fish for the first time. Our tour guide saw it first and he tried getting it out of the water for us to take pictures of it. I know it’s kinda cruel but the puffer fish looks really cute when bloated. No need to freak out though because we set it free, safe and intact.

I found Nemo!

I found Nemo!

It bit my finger!

It bit my finger!

Be Careful!

The water in the sanctuary is a little shallow and the corals are a bit rough so you have to have snorkeling shoes all the time to avoid minor scratches and injuries. If you don’t have any snorkeling gears with you, no need to worry, because the local folks in Balicasag lets you rent snorkeling gear including masks, snorkels, snorkeling shoes, even underwater camera cases.

Virgin Island

After a whole morning of snorkeling in the clear warm water, you can have another treat by proceeding to a tropical oasis known to tourists as Virgin Island. It’s a white powdery sand bar during low tide, but completely covered during high tide. It’s not a snorkeling area but trust me, it’s a good place for some pictures.

Played with my Camera a little bit

Played with my Camera a little bit

Jump Shot

Jump Shot

 

Sand Bar

Sand Bar

So if you happen to drop by Bohol make sure to do some island hopping aside from the usual countryside tour to Chocolate Hills. If you want to check another snorkeling getaway of mine, you can check my previous post about Siquijor Island or tune in again next week for another snorkeling escapade.

I’m no scuba diver. I’m not a good swimmer either, but I love to explore the sea with all its living creatures underneath. Yes, I am also a selacophobic, but it didn’t stop me from discovering the undersea world. Since, I’m still saving up for a beginner’s course in scuba diving, I just resort to snorkeling for now.  In all fairness to me, I had already snorkeled at most of the popular sanctuaries in the Philippines. Our archipelago is abundantly gifted with a teeming marine population and tourists from all over the world visit the country every year to see it for themselves. And for those of you who haven’t experienced snorkeling or diving in the Philippines, let me share my snorkeling getaways every week.

Siquijor Island

Siquijor Getaway

 

First stop is the mystical island of SIquijor. After college graduation, my pals and I booked a night stay in Coco Grove Resort, Siquijor as a reward to ourselves for a job well done. We did a million interesting things; we lazed out under the sun, kayaked, swam in the pristine blue waters and even rode the banana boat. But the best part of it all, was when we borrowed snorkeling gear and launched ourselves into the cool water.

Tubod Marine Sanctuary

Snorkelling Gears

Snorkeling Gear

Aside from the pearly white sand beach, the resort also has its own marine reserve, Tubod Marine Sanctuary, making it very convenient for their guests who like to go snorkeling. Just a few steps from the beach  and you can already see a thriving nation of fish. An amazing seven hectares of coral reef and seagrass beds is home to schools of colourful fish.

Tubod Marine Sanctuary

Tubod Marine Sanctuary

My eyes were really busy from watching those colourful fish swimming past us. I saw fish as big as my slippers; unfortunately I can only recognize the parrot fish. There were huge varieties of fish, if only I had wider knowledge of fish species, I would name them all here.  While I was on my way back to the beach I yelped in horror when I accidentally stepped on a big, blue, spiny starfish. I really felt guilty, but trust me it wasn’t my intention to step on it. I’m glad though that it did not incur any serious injury.

Be Careful!

We snorkeled regardless of the burning heat of the sun; I forgot to put on sunscreen, so I ended up having a toasted back. Time really flies so fast when you’re enjoying it and in all honesty, we didn’t want to stop, but one of our friends stepped on a spiny sea urchin so we had to rush her to the CR to pick out the black spine. There was quite a bothersome population of big black sea urchins, but I wouldn’t hold it against the sanctuary because urchins are quite normal especially if life in the sanctuary is really thriving.

Lesson Learned

Lesson learned on this trip: don’t forget to put a lot of sunscreen on your back especially if you’re just wearing a bikini. It’s not so nice to have a toasted back with a fair front part. And if you want to visit Siquijor Island, I highly recommend Coco Grove Resort.

Join me again next week for my next snorkeling getaways. :)

Black Magic and Scorcery

Black Magic and Sorcery

Black magic. Witches. Shamans. Incantation. Witchcraft. Voodoo dolls. Potions. Sorcerers. Rituals. The island of Siquijor has long held the infamous reputation as a lair of magic and sorcery and this is what keeps the visitors attracted to the place and terrified as well. Hushed talks and rumors from locals about the existence of witchcraft and sorcery are as old as the island itself.

Honestly, I was also one of those people who are scared to even set foot on the island because of the bone chilling and bloodcurdling folk legends. But everything was erased from my mental memory when I visited the beautiful Siquijor.

The cool blue waters of Siquijor

The cool blue waters of Siquijor

During the Spanish Colonization of the Philippines , the island was known as the “Island of Fire” because of the mystical glow the island exudes at night. This is due to the great swarms of fireflies that feast on the old Molave trees on the island. This Island of Fire is just southeast of Cebu and Negros Islands, and southwest of Bohol. Pristine white sand beaches make up 90% of the islands coastline.

with Macky the parrot

with Macky the parrot

This is the main reason why my four college friends and I decided to have an overnight stay in one of the island’s resort – the Coco Grove Beach Resort.  One word to describe myself when I first entered the gates of the resort? SPEECHLESS. The place radiates too much beauty than my overwhelmed brain can comprehend. They have a little cozy lobby where their guest attendants and their bright red parrot, whose name is Macky, are waiting in the front desk. Welcome drinks are served for all guests while the hotel personnel make sure your rooms are ready. The resort is vast that’s why a resort map is included on your overnight package (in case you might get lost). As I checked the map, they do have lot amenities like a spa, restaurant, bar and sports lounge, diving shop, snack house, two large pools, pool bar and a whole lot more. You’ll get really excited just at looking at the legends of the resort map.

Coco Grove Beach Resort's map

Coco Grove Beach Resort’s map

The room we had was called Frangipani Lodge with a spacious master’s bedroom and a second room on the side is more than enough for five guests. Right after leaving our bags inside the room and putting on loads and loads of sunblock, we immediately hit the turquoise blue waters.  We really didn’t mind the scourging heat of the sun, in fact, we enjoyed every moment of it. The banana boat riding and kayaking are cool ways of exploring the resort from the sea’s point of view. The scenery is like a giant vibrant picture taken straight out from a travel magazine.

Getting ready for our snorkeling adventure

Getting ready for our snorkeling adventure

The next best thing in Siquijor is their underwater paradise. Just half a meter away from the shore you can already see fishes of different colorful hues, big and small. For those people who are mild hydrophobic, like me, this is the best place to be, you can snorkel just within a meter away  from the shore ( so close to land that you can still stand up and run when you see something scary in the sea) and your eyes will be very busy the moment you dip your head in the water.

Two days and one night is so short a time to discover the whole area that it would make you crave for more. Too bad we had exams the next day that’s why we really need to go back right away. So if ever you want to experience the paradise which I did a few years back, you should definitely book your stay not fewer than 3 days. And that’s definitely what I did when I booked myself for my upcoming Siquijor trip this May.

The True Magic of Siquijor Island

The True Magic of Siquijor Island

May the sorcery and witchcraft be true or not, I really don’t care because for me the island of Siquijor is indeed a place of magic – not of black magic, but of the true magic of nature.