It’s summer once more and the quintessential getaway this time of year consists of sun, sand and a sparkling shore. To those who may have had a fill of full-day stays at resorts and beaches, a little variety couldn’t hurt. To make things a tad more interesting, add up a boat, lifevests, and perhaps ice-cold drinks and Lechon, some snorkelling or scuba gears or an optional kayak, and you are on your way to extreme summertime bliss.
(Click Here for Info, Tips, Maps and Costing Guides)
In a place like Davao, located on the shores of the Davao Gulf and in close proximity to the many islands thereof, the tropical blessings of sun, sea, sand and shore are within an arm’s length away. It is hence doubtless why island hopping is a staple summertime activity of many a Davao folk for ages. What, with the many delights the Davao Gulf and its islands hold: Pristine white-sand beaches, picturesque islets, ubiquitous coral reefs, marvelous limestone cliffs and caves, turquoise, emerald and sapphire waters, and friendly fishermen willing to give discounts on their day’s catch. Island-hopping, is a perfect way to discover these wonderful vistas in Davao’s lovely seascape.
It doesn’t cost a fortune to embark on an island hopping escapade in Davao. For instance, basic island-hopping packages for 20 persons start at around Php 15,000 (USD 370 at USD 1 = Php 41)—so that’s around Php 750 (USD 18.50) per person—and already includes full-day boat rentals, packed lunch, five snorkelling sets, a kayak or mini-boat (banca), and complimentary bottled water for everyone. For starters, this isn’t bad at all, cheap even, because you can always bring additional food and drinks on board to your liking. Of course, you can always add some variety, still without losing a fortune. An interesting (and I would say, sumptuous) addition would be a Davao-style banquet on board: Lechon, pansit, grilled fare of bangus, panga, tuna, pork and chicken, puso rice, fruit basket of pineapples, mangoes, pomelos, bananas, lanzones and rambutan, and lots of ice-cold drinks. Hey, that sounds like a lot, but in a place like Davao, that hardly burns a hole in your pocket!
But there’s really no stopping you from foregoing commercial Island Hopping package rates and making your own Davao Gulf package for your group to save you money. So, If you have some time, you can go straight to Santa Ana wharf and find boats available for rent and make arrangements. You can then prepare your full-day itinerary while making a trip to the market for the meals on board. There’s a lot of moolah saved this way, maybe Php 5,000 off the commercial tag price for 20 persons.
You can also opt for more luxury for a little extra cost. Our family on March 22, 2008 rented a 90-capacity boat (with only 20 of us coming aboard) for Php 9,000. This monster boat came with a mini-boat and snorkeling gears. We brought our Davao-style banquet on board along with lots of ice-cold beverages and some wine, and took off to our full-day cruise-like island getaway from Santa Ana wharf.
The slideshow above contains a selection of photos taken on our island-hopping adventure in Davao Gulf. You may view the Island-hopping photo set by clicking here or the first picture on this post.
From Santa Ana wharf, at around 8 AM, we cruised straight toward Samal Island’s little neighbor, Talikud Island where the famous Coral Garden is situated. Arriving at around 9 AM, We snorkeled and swam in the sparkling waters of Coral Garden, delighting in acres upon acres of rich coral reef and spectating on the beautiful sea creatures that abound therein.
In Coral Garden, we spotted a fisherman in his boat. We summoned the fisherman and asked what bounty he has brought the hungry “boat people.” He politely pointed to his early morning haul contained in a wooden box. Inside were several jiggling parrot fish indicating that they have just been pulled from the bountiful sea nearby. “Tag pila, Noy?” (“How much?”), asked one of our boat’s crew to which the fisherman responded beyond my hearing range. Negotiations ensued and apparently the fisherman was amenable to a discounted purchase of his catch.
Fish grilling in the back of the boat, we headed to nearby Babusanta Beach, with its beautifully ruined pier, then partaking of our early lunch (around 10 AM) on board the boat. Babusanta is a 15-minute cruise from the Coral Garden. There, we rented one of the cottages lining the beach for only Php 200 where we lounged and lazed about after taking our lunch in the boat. There’s a good deal of people on Babusanta, it being the favored “lunch beach” of island-hopping vacationers.
After Babusanta, our next stop was to be Isla Reta Dos on the southern tip of Talikud Island. This beach is known for its huge limestone cave and forested cliffs, apart from its beautiful white pebble beach and coral-laden environs. On the way south on the coast of Talikud, we trailed past several kilometers of limestone cliffs, some with little caves, a beach with a very wide and long stretch of white sand, and then a small, albeit lonely lighthouse which was the only man-made structure on that part of the island. In all 20 minutes of travel, the Talikud coast was lined by coral reefs of varying density. Oh, that’s the paradise called Talikud Island. We reached Isla Reta Dos and spent a good deal of time thereon, it being my Dad’s favorite spot on Talikud. There, we took time to snorkel some more, swam, went boating a fair distance, and explored the cliffs and the famous cave.
Our next destination was the islet called Wishing Island near the world-famous Pearl Farm Beach Resort and the luxurious Malipano Island: a first-class island resort frequented by the well-to-do, as well as by local and international celebrities.
Leaving Isla Reta Dos, we found the Samal Casino Resort, which is rumored to re-open after years of closure. I remember visiting the place three times during its heyday, staying in one of the floating bungalows which were reminiscent of the casitas on El Nido in Coron Island, Palawan.
Heading northward on Samal Island’s Eastern coast, we stopped by at Kaputian, a town in Samal Island with one of the most beautiful public beaches on the Island. It has a wide, white-sand concave beach, which looks as good in pictures as it does in real life. There is also a woodcraft and antique shop a short walk from the beach which is popular among tourists and vacationers who would like to cash out on unique souvenirs and crafts.
Moving on, we sailed past two resorts not far away from Kaputian’s beach. First up was Kembali Coast, a resort subdivision being developed by Filinvest, one of the country’s largest real estate developers. Second was Samal Dream Resort, a Balinese-themed resort just beside Kembali Coast. It looks like a lot of developments are being undertaken in Samal Island. Now, I can find no reason why Samal Casino shouldn’t re-open anytime soon.
We inched further northward along Samal’s coast and found high, forest-topped seaside cliffs. We found people diving 20 to 40 feet from the the lower cliffs onto the emerald water, which I believe is some feat reserved for the experienced diver or the death-defying novice.
Further, we found floating fishcages scattered near the Samal coast. That moment I knew we were already in the Fish Sanctuary of Samal, where the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) maintains its fishcages for fish culture and studies. This is a testament to the fact of rich marine diversity in the Davao Gulf. It is therefore of paramount importance that the ecological balance of the Davao Gulf must be protected and maintained.
Not very far from the fishcages of BFAR (wow, it rhymes!), we found a group of nice buildings set on a rolling slope on Samal Island. Excited to approach its umbrella-lined beach, the boat captain complained saying the water was too shallow for our 90-capacity boat, and the we should use the mini-wharf a little distance back south. Looking at the mini-wharf, my Dad was quick to change heart, thinking us and my small nephews had to walk the narrow, rail-less wharf catwalk hundreds of meters to the resort. Instead, we asked one of the crew members to go ashore via mini-boat (banca) to get brochures of the resort. We found out the name of the resort as Hof Gorei – a relatively new resort owned by a Filipina-Austrian. From the brochure pictures, it looked good.
From the waters off Hof Gorei, we could see the World-famous Pearl Farm Beach Resort and the Malipano Island (known officially “Isla Malipano,” perhaps to make it sound appropriately expensive).
After trailing past the Pearl Farm and Isla Malipano, we found our last destination: Wishing Island – a rock islet crowned by mangrove (?) trees and surrounded by a rich growth of corals. There were around two other boats when we reached Wishing Island: one was filled with either Koreans or Japanese, and the other one hosted a Pinoy family. “Samal Island and Davao Gulf developments spurred by international patronage,” went a phrase from my thoughts.
We reached Wishing Island at around 4 PM where we swam, snorkeled, dove some more. Basking in all the excitement that the day had brought us, it was with much reluctance that we had to set sail back to Sta. Ana Wharf. Arriving at the wharf at around 5 PM, we concluded our Full-day Full-quality island-hopping experience in Davao Gulf.
Looking back now, a map of Davao Gulf in hand, it is only too clear that one full day of island hopping isn’t enough to unravel all of the pulchritude scattered throughout the wonderful Davao Gulf.