When in Cebu: Laze around Bantayan Island

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The first time I ever set my eyes on the perfect imagery of Bantayan Island, I could not ask for more. It is the perfect epitome of my dream beach and I keep on going back here everytime I get the chance. With its fine and powdery white sand likened to White Beach in Boracay, and its crystal clear and unpolluted blue waters, there is no denying that Cebu is very blessed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Due to its remoteness for being one of the isolated towns of the northern part of Cebu, Bantayan Island is a little exhausting for some travellers because there is no easy way like having direct flights going there and you have to commute from the city proper taking up to six hours travel. Sure it will all be worth it once you take a glimpse of this picturesque heaven. It’s very lucky for me since there are scheduled boat trips directly to Bantayan Island from Cadiz City in Negros so it’s one hell of a shortcut for this paradise with only a three hour travel from my hometown.

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Bantayan Island owns unexplainable white sand with the consistency of that of a flour. It is rich with aquamarine waters and when it reflects the warming sunlight, the water becomes so luminous that it’s like you’re swimming in the pool with nothing but water and a flat sandy surface. This paradise conveys a sense of serenity and lavish relaxation. Even the world renowned beaches like Kauai Island could not be compared with the pristine waters of this jewel as it has maintained its naturalness and purity. Moreover, there are only a few tourists and resorts lined up at the beach and this has exempted the island from overdevelopment.

Activities:
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Beach Bumming
It is undeniable how the beach of Bantayan Island is one of the best I’ve been to. When you just want to get a tan or relax with a drink in your hand at Sta. Fe Beach, then it’s the perfect place to laze around and think happy thoughts.

Swim at Ogtong Cave
Ogtong Cave can be found in Ogtong Cave Resort. It is a small cave which extends to about fifty meters filled with freshwater. With its crystal clear aqua waters, it is definitely soothing for the intense warmth this summer. One must be a guest of Ogtong Cave Resort or its sister company, Sta. Fe Beach Club to swim in this beautiful wonder of Bantayan. The resort itself is the most luxurious in the island but for a hefty price, it’s definitely worth it once you get to swim in the mystical cave. Natural rocks surround the resort and it is lined with white sand and picture worthy scrim.

Hop at Virgin Island
Picture the perfect beach of Bantayan Island. Then imagine a finer and whiter sand and transparent waters that glitter as the sun touches the calming waves of the sea. There are nipa huts at the beach front to give you shade and enjoy the alluring landscape. Rocky formations can be found at the end of the white beach that make this terrain a wonderful backdrop for the name of Virgin Island that welcomes the boat upon docking. Sumptuous lunch is served on the island at a very worthy price. With their seafood fresh and abundant, tourists can definitely enjoy eating there.

So much has changed at Virgin Island with my recent visit there.  Before, it was all barren and just an island and some huts.  Now, tourists flock them and several boats line up on the shore.  There are numerous tables and rooms you can spend the night in. Or you can bring a tent to indulge in nature.  Irregardless of the development, although I am deeply saddened, it still remains a beauty.

Discover Sto. Nino Cave
Little do people know that there is another cave at Bantayan Island worth seeing.  When I saw a picture of the cave from a friend, I found a way to revisit this gorgeous island to check this out for myself.  Found at Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort, Sto. Nino Cave is named as that since a statue of the beloved Sto. Nino was spotted inside upon its discovery.  It is a larger cave compared to Ogtong Cave.  Similarly, it is filled with freshwater that one can lavishly swim in.  With its gorgeous lighting, it gives the impression of yellow to orange luminescence that one can stare in awe.  If you choose a day tour in this resort, the cave is open until ten in the evening.  Moreover, the resort offers an overnight stay, fish spa, swimming pool, mini zoo and garden.  You will never get bored.  Just a 40 minute drive from Sta. Fe Beach, there is definitely no hustle.

Move In to Kota Beach Resort

Have you watched the famous movie Camp Sawi? Well, they shot almost all of their scenes here in this resort.  After having seen the most exquisite beach and unpolluted water, I don’t wonder why the producers picked this as a prime location.  With two beautiful sandbars within your reach at the beachfront, you are definitely in for some natural rehabilitation.  If you’re not planning to check in, you can pay 50 pesos as entrance fee just to see and swim on the beach.

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How to go there:

From Bacolod: go to CADIZ City port (1 hour)
take a ferry to Bantayan Island at 9:00am daily (2 hours)

From Cebu: take a bus from North Bus Terminal near SM city
bus leaves every 45 minutes at 150 pesos (3 hours)
head to Hagnaya Wharf in San Remigio (30 mins)
take a ferry to Sta. Fe Port (1 hour)

Super Shuttle Ferry
+63 916 905 2348 / +63 919 525 1388
Hagnaya to Sta. Fe – 4AM / 7AM / 8AM / 10:30AM / 12:30PM / 2:30PM / 4:30PM
Sta. Fe to Hagnaya – 6AM / 8:30AM / 10:30AM / 12:30PM / 2:30PM / 4:30PM / 6PM
Island Shipping Corporation
+63 922 284 5892 / +63 922 875 9769
Hagnaya to Sta. Fe – 5AM / 6:30AM / 9:30AM / 11:30AM / 1:30PM / 3:30PM / 5:30PM
Sta. Fe to Hagnaya – 5AM / 7:30AM / 9:30AM / 11:30AM / 1:30PM / 3:30PM / 5:30PM

From Leyte: take a bus from San Ildefonso and Tacloban to Bogo City in Cebu via RoRo
take a bus from Bogo City to Hagnaya Wharf
take a ferry to Sta. Fe Port

From other provinces and countries : take a direct flight to Cebu City

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Where to stay:

Ogtong Cave Resort
Santa Fe, Cebu
(032) 438 0165 / +63 920 899 9456 / +63 932 433 6282
info@stafebeach.com
http://www.ogtongcave.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 2500

Sta. Fe Beach Club
Sta. Fe Beach Club Rd, Santa Fe, Cebu
(032) 438 9090 / +63 928 778 7770 / +63 932 541 2954
http://www.stafebeach.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 900


Anika Island Resort
F. Roska Street, Santa Fe, 6047 Cebu
+63 917 701 4168
http://www.anikaislandresort.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 1500

Beach Placid
F. Roska Street, Sta. Fe Beach, Cebu
+63 32 406 5686 / +63 32 438 9070
+63 917 722 2993
beachplacid@gmail.com
contact@beachplacidresort.com
http://www.beachplacidresort.com
*rates for 2 pax at least 1600

Virgin Island
Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
+63 917 322 2115 / +63 922 726 6579 / +63 920 118 3521
*rates
entrance: 500 for 2 pax and 100 per additional pax
cottages: 300, 500, 600, 1000
tables & chairs: 300
overnight: 1500 for 2 pax (bamboo house) 1500 for 5 pax (open cottage)

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Kota Beach Resort
F. Duarte St. Sta. Fe, Cebu
+63 32 438 9042
+63 956 276 4410
*rates for 2 pax at least 900

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Travel Expense Estimate: for 3 days 2 nights good for 2 pax

  • Bacolod to Cadiz – 140
  • Terminal to Cadiz Port – 40
  • Ferry Fare – 500
  • Trike from Port to Resort – 100
  • 
Resort – 1800
  • Meals – 2400
  • Island Hopping – 1000
  • Entrance to Virgin Island – 500 (2pax); 100 additional pax
  • Trike from Resort to Port – 100
  • Ferry Fare – 500
  • Cadiz Port to Terminal – 40
  • Cadiz City to Bacolod – 140

Total: 7260 (3630 each)

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When in Siargao: Island Hopping at Bucas Grande

Of all the places we’ve been in Siargao, this is definitely the best part of my trip.  There were so many activites to do and so many places to visit here in these wonderful group of islands.  If Philippines could be comprised in one place, it would be Bucas Grande Islands or otherwise known as Socorro which is a lone island municipality in Surigao del Norte.

To be honest, our tour to this gorgeous island wasn’t included in the itinerary because this would consume one whole day.  I was kind of hesitant then to go here because I prioritized the three adjacent islands in General Luna namely Naked, Dako and Guyam Islands in our planned journey.

We were scouting for a place where we can enjoy half day because the other half would be spent to the three islands.  We thought of Caob Lagoon due to its excellent reviews and privacy of the place.  However, our tricycle driver insisted that we should go to Bucas Grande because he said the view was so worth it and people said it’s better than in Palawan.  He also added that they can fit it into our hectic schedule. 

Bucas Grande is not cheap when you travel in small groups because an average tour rate to this place is 8000 pesos and we were only three.  Imagine the price of paying 2600 per person which would eat up our target budget of spending only 6000 on this trip.  With luck and kind negotiations, we were able to reduce our tour to only 4000 pesos.

We already arranged for our food for island hopping with the driver the day before our tour.  We gave a budget of 800 pesos and they were the ones to buy from the market, cook and serve our breakfast and lunch for the next day. 

Bucas Grande Tour

IMG_7742We met the driver at the port and we were just amazed of how clear the waters are despite that there were inhabitants situated near the area.

The tour took about two hours and here our driver, Francis, was entertaining us with the right humor and guiding us throughout the day.

We passed by the mangroves which were very abundant in the area.  Coconut trees are widespread in the island.  Even while we were still in the plane, we had witnessed how numerous the trees are here in Siargao. Imagine the whole mountain plainly filled with coconut trees.

The view reminded me of The Hundred Islands in Pangasinan but these were different in terms of its beauty and greenness of each islet.  The stony vibe of the islands made me think of Survivor.

IMG_7746We entered into the islands of Bucas Grande.  Before heading to our first stop, Tiktikan Lake, we passed by Club Tara Resort.  We were planning to check in here.  Thankfully, we didn’t because we would end up in isolation and it would be difficult for us to follow our itinerary.  But if you want some privacy and luxury, then this is one of the places you can stay in aside from the famous Dedon Island.

We decided to have our breakfast at Tiktikan Lake.  The driver brought us here instead of the common staff house that tourists eat in.  He said he wanted ours to be private and it was just a walking distance to the Lagoon Lake.

While the boatmen were preparing our breakfast, we proceeded to Lagoon Lake.  You will take a little hike to get there.  When I say little, you don’t need to make an effort.  It’s more of like a 5 minute walk to the top. The lake evoked me so much of Twin Lakes in Sibulan, Negros Oriental.  However, Lake Balinsasayao in Sibulan is bigger compared to this.  The Lagoon Lake adds another dimension to the uniqueness of these islands in Bucas Grande. If you want to see the panoramic view of the lake, you can stay on their viewing staff house.  It’s like a mini open function hall where you can eat in or just chill out.  You also have the option to stay here for the night.  They offer cheap rates as low as 150 per head and you can already enjoy nature at its best.

We returned to Tiktikan Lake as our breakfast was already ready and we were astonished that they were able to fit our mere and cheap budget into a breakfast feast. The small cottage we stayed in is built on top of the lake.  They had a “tiangge” wherein you can buy some grocery items in case you forgot something.  They also breed lobsters which are very pricey.  They can sell up to 2000 per kilo and they are export quality.  So just in case you have an extra budget, you have the option to splurge for it for breakfast.  What’s amazing is that you can swim and do some cliff jumping.  My life stopped, literally, having flashbacks while jumping from a 15 feet or a 2-storey high building and plunging myself in the pretentious and deep blue waters of the lake.

Next on the itinerary was the Crystal Cave.  It’s a 5 minute trip from the Tiktikan Lake.  We were given flashlights upon docking and did an easy hike towards the cave.  At first I thought it was just like the usual caves that I got to see with my previous trips and never had I imagined that it was the most unique and creepy in some way because it felt like a real cave.  The rawness and the brilliance of the stone formations reflected like crystals.  The fact that it wasn’t developed and left untouched gave it a sense of realness and a natural experience.  There were two paths in exploring the cave. The first path which we took is the Crystal Cave where it only involved walking and a lot of selfies and groupies.  We wanted to try the other option which is the Bolitas Cave, but we weren’t prepared for it because you need to do a lot of crawling like in the usual cave exploration done in the movies.  Spelunking to this narrow path would be exciting but we just couldn’t do that in our bikinis.  Before heading back to the entrance, the boatman made us turn off our flashlights so that we can really experience the cave, of being in the dark and hearing its nothingness and it was just tranquility for me.

It was almost low tide, about ten o’clock in the morning, and it was time to go to the Sohoton National Park.  We docked in their main cottage.  We registered and paid for the entrance, boating and environmental fees. 

We transferred into a small boat.  It could only carry one passenger and the boatman so we did kayaking or paddling towards the Jellyfish Sanctuary.  Another name for this is Tojoman but it’s popularly known as Jellyfish Lagoon.  The place was by far the most magical thing I have ever seen.  The water was so blue that you need no filter to make it beautiful.  I wanted to stay here forever and have this in my backyard. Haha!  Another bonus to complete this experience was being able to witness and interact with the cute jellyfish.  There are many varieties of jellyfish you can find here and they become very abundant during the summer season.  If you have an ample time, you can swim in the awe-inspiring waters and take underwater selfies with these grand marine creatures.

It was now time to go the most awaited trip ever which is the Sohoton Cove.  We were led back to the reception area and transferred to a bigger boat.  The reason why it’s important to wait for the water level to come down is you can never get inside the cove unless it’s low tide because there is only one entrance. The limestone rock formations reflect the green natural waters and seclude the place amidst the welcoming vibe of the scenery.  The tour guide even added that during the storm, fishermen tend to hide here because of its isolation and the calmness of the waves.  In order to get into the cove, we had to pass by the “underground river”.  It’s around 50 meters long.  We had to wear hard hats and dock ourselves since the water level is too close to the ceiling.

IMG_7785As we went along with our tour, we passed by the horse’s foot rock formation which is made of stalactites and it barely touches the water. This serves as a landmark into the Sohoton Cove.

IMG_7787Making a turn right before our first stop, our tour guide pointed to us the rock facade which is believed to be unearthly.  It’s popular known as the Church Not Like Ours.  The guide added that during Holy Week, mass songs and praises are heard by passersby.

DCIM101GOPROOur tour guide made the tour interesting with his stories.  It made me so eager to learn more about the place and he was so accommodating with my questions.

We arrived at Hagukan Cave.  Its name came from the work “haguk” which means to snore.  When the surface of the water touches the crown of the cave, it makes a snoring sound.  We secured our life jackets so that it would be easier for us to swim and float through the cave.  We had to submerge ourselves underwater to get inside.  The entrance is about 3 meters long and if you’re not comfortable with plunging yourself then you can just float and lie your life jacket but you had to make sure not to bump your head since the height of the entrance is only about ten inches.  Immersing ourselves in Hagukan Cave was a once in a lifetime experience.  The beauty of the luminance of the waters with its glowing green light stretched out in the entire zone.  It was indeed a mystical feel as you view your skin sparkle and everything seemed out of the ordinary.  We found ourselves going further and the place became darker and the only light that illuminated our sights were the green waters.  The tour guide positioned us on the near end and placed our feet on the stones.  He then told us to look up and we saw a stone formation reflecting like a snake.  We went back to our boat and proceeded to the next cave.

The last stop on our Bucas Grande Tour was the Magkukuob Cave.  As the cliche goes, “save the best for last” as this experience was undeniably the finale of everything.  Before going inside the cave, we already had to make up our mind about doing the cliff jump towards the exit because it was the only way out.  This is not for the faint hearted and if you’re the type of person who would take risks and be brave then this is one of the exciting places for you in Siargao.  The entrance to the cave is relatively similar to that of the Hagukan Cave; however, the opening is a bit wider and taller.  The water level in the cave is just above my waist and I’m about 5’1” ft.  You can also observe the limestone and rocky formations as it is brighter inside the cave.  Moreover, a unique  stalactite can be discovered there which is similar to “horse’s foot”.  As we went further, the water became shallow  and the path was narrower.  We made our turn towards the exit and we had to take a hike towards the top.  To be honest, it was difficult because it was so dark and our flashlights were only dimly lit and we couldn’t see the way clearly.  All we had to do was feel the stones and prevent ourselves from bumping into them.  It was so steep and all the holds were pointy so we had to be cautious to prevent from hitting them.  I even wounded myself with the hike but thankfully it was just a minor abrasion.   Also, the track was confining that only one person at a time could climb the cave.  We then reached towards the exit and it was a diving area.  It was a wooden ledge and was suspended about fifteen feet.  We had no other choice but to do the cliff jump.  Going through it was a rush for me.

IMG_7813It was time to bid goodbye to the ever beautiful islands of Bucas Grande.  We returned to the their receiving area and transferred to our boat.  We were managing our time to make it to the other three islands so we opted to have lunch on our boat on our way back to the main island of Siargao. 

How to get there:

From Surigao City and Butuan:

  • Airport [bus/van/motorbike] – Pantalan Uno (Pier 1) – Socorro (Bucas Grande Islands) — 2 hours
  • Airport – Brgy. Hayanggabon, Claver – Socorro – 1 hour or less

From Siargao Island:

  • Dapa Port Daily Trips: 7:00 am and 2:00pm
  • Hire a boat for private tour : starting point depends on your contact (either Dapa or General Luna)

Budget Breakdown: 3pax

  • Boat – 4000
  • Breakfast and Lunch (5pax) – 800
  • Lagoon and Tiktikan Lake – 170
  • Crystal Cave – 160
  • Sohoton Cove and Jellyfish Lagoon – 1500
    • Entrance Fee – 75
    • Environmental Fee – 75
    • Docking Fee – 100
    • Vest/Helmet – 120
    • Pumpboat (Sohoton Cove) – 500
    • Boat Guides – 330
    • Paddlers (Jellyfish Lagoon) – 300
  • Exit fee – 30

Tips:

  • Canvass prices of the tour to make sure you get a good one.  Hotels offer higher prices so opt for dealing with locals.  They know a good price.
  • If you’re planning to spend the whole day for the Bucas Grande Tour, you can also visit the waterfalls and the Bolitas Cave.
  • Coordinate with your boatman regarding your schedule so that they can manage your itinerary.
  • Leave as early as 6 am from Siargao to get the most out of the place.
  • Don’t forget to bring your sunblock.  Apply everytime you get the chance.
  • Bring an underwater camera. It’s a must.
  • Be ready for any adventure and conquer your fears because this tour will just surprise you.
  • On your way back to Siargao Island, you can pass by Naked, Dako and Guyam Island.
  • If your starting point is from Surigao, make sure to make it to the port by ten in the morning.