Balicasag marine sanctuary
The beautiful thing about vacations is that you can meet new people and see new things. The horrible part of being on vacation is that you have to wake up at an ungodly hour to see aforementioned new and exciting things. However, it’s most of the time worth it – just like Balicasag.
The Balicasag marine sanctuary is a little island off the Baclayon beach area. It’s protected by the government and the tourism industry and is now becoming a wonderful spot for eco-tourism. We got up just before the angels did to pack ourselves in a van to take us to the port. Van shuttle services cost about Php 1,200.00 to take you there and to take you back to your hotel after the day is through. You’ll then be taken on a big banca (also known as a motorized rudder boat) to the island, but not before you are told that you’ll be chasing after dolphins. Boat rentals are Php 2,000 per boat and can accommodate up to 8 people on one boat.
The marine mammals are very elusive (quite diva-ish, and rightfully so) and you’ll have to fight with a dozen bancas just to be able to catch a glimpse of them. We were lucky enough to be able to see some up close.
After the dolphin watching, the banca driver took us to the Balicasag marine sanctuary. Balicasag means “upturned crab” in the local dialect. The island resembles the shape of an upturned crab, ergo the name. The bancas are then asked to turn off their engines before reaching 500 meters of the island, so we had our boatman “paddle” our way into the perimeter.
Smaller rudder boats that hold about three people then take you to the edge of the perimeter so that you can snorkel and see the fish. Snorkeling fee costs Php 100.00 per person. They encourage you to bring little pieces of bread to feed the fish with. I think the fish already expect this so they do come in droves, hungrily waiting for their meal. You won’t be disappointed at all although be prepared to be nipped a little.
For a small fee, you can have your photo taken with an underwater camera. Honestly, it was quite expensive but to think that the money you pay them goes to the upkeep of the island and is being managed by the boatmen’s cooperative, it’s hardly a big amount to give if you think about it.
The sights are breathtaking. It reminded me of that movie about the deep – the water changes from being crystal clear to a light blue to a dark blue and when you’re right there at the cliff, it just goes black. It’s scary because it’s an epiphany on how miniscule you really are, in the whole grand scheme of things. My imagination went wild and I was thinking there’d be a huge fish right under there waiting for me to inch closer so that it could eat me. Yeah… that thought made me swim right back to the bright area.
You can stay and swim in the island the entire day but we suggest you head on back before 4PM as the waves can be a little rough when the sun sets. We also suggest bringing an underwater capable camera and lots of sunblock (ouch).
HOW TO GET THERE
I. BY AIR
Via Philippine Airlines (Daily)
- Manila to Tagbilaran – Travel time takes about 1 hour & 10 minutes
- Manila to Cebu – Travel time takes about 1 hour & 15minutes
Via Cebu Pacific (Daily)
- Manila to Tagbilaran – Travel time takes about 1 hour & 15 minutes
- Manila to Cebu – Travel time takes about 1 hour & 15 minutes
II. BY SEA
Via WG&A (Friday and Sunday)
- Manila to Tagbilaran – Travel time takes about 31 hours
- Manila to Cebu (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday)
- Travel time takes about 24 hours