Apr 23-24, 2010
Freediving in Siquijor's Marine Sancturaries
Location : Siquijor Island, Philippines
Skin Diving Paradise
Siquijor is a roughly under 643 sq. km island in the Visayas flanked by the areas of Apo Island, Negros, Cebu, Bohol and the Mindanao region. This general area is what I would call the diver's lair. World reknowned dive spots can be found here - Panglao, Apo Island, to name a few. Within the island's coastal perimeter are about 6 marine sanctuaries (P50 admission fee). My aim was to skin dive all of them.
Getting Around Siquijor
Getting around Siquijor by public transport has some uncertainties specially after noon since people have taken to motor bikes which consequently diminished the demand for tricycles or jeeps. Although I'm against creating a carbon footprint, a motorbike is the most practical mode of transportation given the island's 72 kilometer coastal road that makes a perfect loop around the island.
Lowering Down the Cost
For shear economic considerations, I continued my stay at Bulisan Lodging in Siquijor (the capital). At P100/night as a bedspacer and within proximity to the motorbike rental, it wasn't necessary to rent for 24 hours. I could simply rent in the morning, go around the island, and return the bike at the end of the day and pay only for 12 hours rental. I can then walk back to my lodge....cool!
The Beach Resorts
Of course, with a little more money, I could rent a cottage by the beach as night falls, whatever beach resort I find myself at, at the end of the day. Even without renting a beach resort cottage, it's still ideal to hang out there over a beer or two specially after a day's dive. There's always good conversation with tourists and locals alike. Besides, some beach resorts have impeccable amenities. Beer prices are very reasonable (the best is Coco Grove's P35/Pale Pilsen) and some, like The Danish Lagoon, offers house specialties like homemade mahogany-smoked bacon. You enjoy the amenities of some high end resort without feeling like a pauper when you go back to your cottage.
Overheard in Siquijor
- I cannot save the world but I can be a good neighbor -- Johnny (when he talked about helping the Paliton community)
- In Siquijor, the police go home at 5 pm (because there is no crime!)
- The vehicle with the bigger bumper has the right of way
The Danish Lagoon
The resorts are varied with unique personalities (just like a mountain bike!). I personally like The Danish Lagoon. The cottages are immaculately clean with hepa filters on the air conditioners (great for asthma suffers). An interesting conversation piece are the suspended beds. I swear, Bang and Olufsen could not have designed it better. At P2,900/night (promo!), it's way out of my league. But you know what? If I get me a nice web contract, I'd shell the money out for that room...it's that nice! Besides, the owner, Johnny, is one animated character whose heart seems to be in the right place. You should meet him if you go to his resort (more about him on my story, A Tale of 2 Foreigners).
Tubod Marine Sanctuary
Having rented a motorbike and a map of Siquijor, I was off with my fins and mask. First stop was Tubod Marine Sanctuary between Coco Grove and Sea Explorers Dive Center in San Juan, Siquijor, on the south west part of the island. I didn't have to worry about current or waves during this dive. The coral reef was intense with its diversity, but the damage specially on the southern part, was unmistakable. Being a marine sanctuary, it gets the much needed recovery to get it back to its glorious heyday. Don't get the wrong impression. It's still a GREAT dive spot.
Chilling out at Coco Grove for a beer after the dive was such a wonderful treat. The staff were helpful, courteous and lovely. It's too bad I didn't get to check out the rooms. From what I've read, Coco Grove is one of the resorts in Siquijor with impeccable appointments.
Sandugan Marine Sanctuary
Next stop was Sandugan Marine Sanctuary. On the map, it was clearly there. But going there is another story. There was no sign whatsoever, no access, no resort, no development and no people. Although it was along the main road, it felt isolated. Normally, it's a good sign for an adventure, but I passed on this one. It just didn't feel right at that point.
Amihan vs. Habagat
At this time of the year, with the Amihan (wind blowing from the northeast), the east coast gets battered while the west coast remains calm. This happens early November to late March. But this is El Niño year, so Amihan continues until late April.
From early June to late September, the southwest wind (Habagat) beats up the coastal reef of San Juan (Coco Grove, JJ's, Coral Cay, etc.). It's good to know these things so you know where to lodge and dive.
Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
Next stop was Tulapos Marine Sanctuary on the northest coast. With Aminhan hitting the east coast, it was foreboding to proceed, but hey, only one way to find out. Again, going there was a challenge because there was no street sign. Upon reaching the spot, much like Sandugan Marine Sanctuary, it was undeveloped and empty with only a local store. The sanctuary was bordered by mangroves. From the shore, I could see the waves breaking further out. That's where the dive area is. It took some effort to swim there, but as soon as I got there, I was immediately pounded by the waves. I couldn't see clearly as the sand was violently churned by the relentless waves. That moment was reminiscent of my dive in Sabang, Palawan where I thought I'd die. It was time to bail out...fast! Swimming to shore was another hurdle. With the current, I was being swept towards the mangroves! Yikes! I finally got to shore in one piece.
Next stop was to head back towards Sandugan, Larena on the northern point of the island, and dive off the area with its rows of beach resorts - Casa de la Playa, Islander's Paradise and Kiwi Dive Resort. From the internet, I heard the reef was excellent for diving. I'm not sure if that was a marine sanctuary, but at that point, the label marine sanctuary increasingly meant that it was protected...not necessarily the only dive area. Besides, it's hard to go wrong on any spot in Siquijor - the entire province is a dive site!
Kiwi Dive Resort
I ordered some beer at Kiwi Dive Resort to warm up for the dive, and then lunch after. It's always a good idea to patronize the resort fronting your dive area. You get to use their facilities if you're technically a customer - gear rinsing, shower, benches, and you can leave the rest of your stuff there while you dive.
This part of the island is also sheltered from the Amihan wind so it was calm. The dive was wonderful. It was a long stretch of cordoned-off coral reef with superb seascape. It's one of those 'seacape' type reef where you don't see as many fishes but the corals and reef are fascinating. You could start off on the section where the mild current comes from, dive towards the end and head back to shore and loop back to where you started. That way, you conserve your energy...the current propels you.
A Day Hike Invite
That was all the time (and money) I had. I got a text message from Dudz inviting me for a day hike tomorrow to visit the Japanese Shrine atop the three converging ridges of Valencia where a vicious battle during World War II was fought between the Japanese Imperial Army and combined Allied Forces of the Philippines and the Americans. We would then traverse our way to the 30m drop Casaroro Falls. Didn't want to miss that one either.
I haven't fully explored the skin diving possibilities and yet the island offers so much more...Bandila-an Nature Center, limestone caves, the witches of San Antonio (yes, I want to meet and interview the grand doyen of all the witches...not the witch-for-tourist type).
I cannot say I had such a great time without the warmth and hospitality of the friendly people of Siquijor. Siquijor takes my breath away. Thank you Kram, thank you Siquijor! In the famous words of Douglas MacArthur, "I shall return!"
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
ps - no underwater shots? My Olympus 1030 SW, a digicam good for underwater photography up to 10m...took water inside! Read up on what it's like to claim warranty on Olympus digicams in the Philippines.
Leave a comment?
"Be careful in Siquejor..."
(May 2, 2010) Ha-ha...thank you for your concern. Be assured that the people of Siquijor are warm and friendly. They'd been very helpful. The food here is fantastic! The only aswangs I know of are in Manila...they wear nice expensive suits.
(Apr 22, 2010) Be careful in Siquejor. It is noted for aswang (sorcerers). I really read in one of the newspaper back there that on a Good Friday, there is a small place there where the inhabitants are mostly witches - they cook or brew some potion. Anyway, just watch out. Don't eat any food that they give you. Ok bye for now and take care.
(May 1, 2010) Cool! Excellent map. Glad to see the GIS mapping is useful - good to see it!
I love Coco Grove resort... my favourite place. Something special about the feel of the place, and the people there are so friendly - or is it just the cheap beer?!
I'll certainly return to Dumaguete and Siquijor at some point soon. Have you been to Apo Island to snorkel yet? That's the best spot I found in Visayas for snorkelling, and the people who run Coco Grove also run a resort on Apo - you should check it out if you can: http://www.apoislandresort.com/ dorm rooms for 700.
Also, Twin Lakes park and whale / dolphin watching from Bais City... Nice part of the world! :)
I'm going to Africa soon! I'm going to Kenya to meet up with some other ex-VSO volunteers who I met in Manila... going to be great - hoping to see some of the big animals out on the plains of the Masai Mara and Serengeti!
Essentials in Siquijor:
- The Danish Lagoon Beach Resort - hepa filter cottages, suspended beds, great burgers and smoked bacon. Cottages with cliff-side view, P2900 promo
- Coco Grove Beach Resort - rooms range from P2400 to P4400, inclusive of breakfast. Given the amenities, best beer price in town at P35/Pale Pilsen. Tubod Marine Sanctuary on the beach front
- Kiwi Dive Resort - dive shop and beach resort, great coral reef on beach front, rooms range from P450 to P990
- Casa de la Playa Beach Resort - seasonal discounts, long term rates. Rooms range from P1300 to P2200
- Coral Cay Beach Resort - San Juan, Siquijor. Rooms range from P850 to P3400. Email: email@example.com. 0919-269-1269
- JJ's Backpacker's Village - beach cooking, bonfire, dorm-style rooms at P300/bed, double occupancy cottages. John and Jiesa. 0918-670-0310
- Siquijor Dive Safari - dive shop. Tata Relacion. 0908-535-7486.
- Scandinavian Rent A Motor Bike - P200/half day, P350/day. Poblacion, Siquijor, Siquijor. Esben and Mari. 0939-640-5132
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More on Siquijor Island:
Siquijor Island Local Info
Jeeps - there are only 2 routes for jeeps within Siquijor Island - and they are rare. Most people have their own motorcycle transport.
Siquijor Island Map
Siquijor - Dumaguete Boat Trips(as of Jan 2023)
- Aleson Shipping Lines - Siquijor Port, P200/reg, P250/a-c, 6:00 am daily, 1:30 pm & 6:30pm M-Sat
Siquijor - Tagbilaran - Cebu City Boat Trips(as of Jan 2023)
En route to Cebu City, the ferries usually make a stop-over to Tagbilaran (Bohol) to pick-up more passengers or unload.
Siquijor - Plaridel Boat Trips(as of Jan 2023)
Siquijor - Cebu (Bato) - Cebu City BUS Trip(as of Jan 2023)
There is only one bus plying this route - Sugbo Urban. Tourist class coach, a/c, comfortable, Sun-Fri (no Sat). P420 for boat, P275 for ferry to Bato, Leaves Siquijor Poblacion at xxxx, makes a clockwise roundtrip around Siquijor Island - Larena, Enrique, Maria, Lazi (stops at Lazi market for breakfast and leaves 6:50 am), San Juan, Siquijor (arrives 8am, P50 from Lazi to Siquijor Poblacion) and catches the 1pm ferry at Larena Port for Bato, Cebu and resumes its land route. Arrives Cebu City 10 pm.
Suggested Destinations After Siquijor Island
These are the nearest popular destinations from Siquijor by boat
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