Where – When – Why ?
Large archipelago of Southeast Asia.
Language: Filipino / Capital Manila / Currency: Philippine Peso
Considered one of the most beautiful places in the world to dive, I wanted to go there in order to improve myself. I only visited a few well-targeted places to dive and discover the culture of the country a little better.
I left just after the Christmas holidays with my diving friends, after and during the typhoons that hit the country in 2017.
Diving in Negros Oriental
Because my stay was mostly dive-oriented, I went for a week to Negros Oriental Island in Dumaguete. I spent the week diving there, I did not even have time to visit the area.
I stayed at the Liquid Diving Resort (see below) which also serves as a diving club.
To be honest, I do not recommend it. The monitors are nice the first five minutes, but they are not really access security. I explain (roughly):
- They are young foreigners, most of them European, Australian and American. They are disrespectful to the locals and only think about partying and sleeping with each other. They are drunk all night and then the next are responsible for you.
- They are not pleasant and do not trust at all. They are more likely to scorn people. There are however two people, a Filipino and a Korean who were extra, but I could only have one dive with him and one with her (to do my Drift specialty).
- We were surprised by the force of the current, the Dutch instructor had forgotten to warn the boat to come get us, I had no air in my bottle; fortunately my instructor had the intelligence to rely only on herself and to warn the boat otherwise I think it would have gone very badly.
- For night dives they do not really make sure everyone is there; it has happened several times that people find themselves lost or in other teams.
- During dives on the surrounding islands, some of the sensible crews were not at all concentrated and trained their team more than 35m deep.
Regarding the dives themselves in the Philippines in this region, I am disappointed. I thought I would see more marine life. There was nothing exceptional in the end. We went out on other islands but again nothing too crazy.
Snorkeling in Oslob
My friends who were with me wanted to see whale sharks in Oslob. So we made an excuse for the day. The place is just awful and the tourists are not at all friendly to the animals. There are about twenty boats that can carry 6-7 people. The tours last 30min and, depending on the time you arrive, you may wait 2 hours before your turn. But that’s the game. By going there you know what to expect. The animals are encircled by tourist boats and in the middle are two fishermen who feed them to attract them. You then have 30min to swim with them. The safety distances are not respected at all by tourists but not by fishermen; So it’s up to you to do everything to avoid them and not touch them and do not put yourself in danger.
A few years ago fishermen killed them to eat or sell their skin. This was illegal. But they saw that their presence attracted tourists who were willing to pay to see them. So they used this excuse to tell the government to let them do business around whale sharks rather than kill them, although whale shark fishing is forbidden … In the end you participate in a kind of “safeguard” of animals but also to their death. The term “death” may seem a little excessive because animals come to eat between 7 am and 2 pm and then go back to their lives in the ocean. The problem is that young people get into the habit of feeding and the fishermen give them pieces of frozen shrimps and octopus. So they are used to being fed by humans every morning and are much less autonomous. You can see things in many ways but to be honest, it’s really sad and shocking. I was lucky enough to see whale sharks in Mexico and the locals did everything to protect them to the point of telling you it was not the season to see them. People are selfish and think only of their photos, without really paying attention to safety distances and animals. You will find many blogs where people put pictures of them touching animals … It’s up to you to see but I think seeing whale sharks in the Philippines is also part of the trip. But, there are other places to see, so it’s up to you!
To get to this little piece of paradise we opted for the cheapest fast boat … so not very comfortable and not very spacious. Good way to save money but if the sea is wild, I do not recommend it! The journey takes about 1h30min.
Once in port, tricycles swarm, no need to stress, they are open to negotiation.
The island is simply magical. There are few tourists, few people on the roads.
People see few tourists so they are happy to see us; the children smile and run behind the scooters. In short, Filipinos are welcoming and happy to live.
I drove a scooter for the first time. All went well despite dogs, chickens, cats, cows and turns! It’s really nice to be independent on the island because there is so much to see.
There are no taxis but possibilities to rent tricycles with driver. You can count around 500 Php a day.
We did the most beautiful waterfalls and beaches of the island, crossed the island in all directions, passing by the coast and the center where we could see the wild side of the island.
We met few tourists; that’s what we liked a lot too. We were able to really rest from the hustle and bustle.
In short, this island is really nice so I highly recommend it!
Visiting and relaxing in Siquijor
Snorkeling in Balicassag
After three days in paradise we chose to spend our last days on the island of Balicasag. To get there we took a fast boat to 6.30am from Siquijor to Bohol. This took about 2 hours … the ride was quite hectic … Once on Bohol, we were shocked by the agitation, the tourists, the touts … We took a van to the Tarsian Sanctuary before taking the next boat to Balicassag. Once the little tour of the sanctuary ended we went to take a boat to the port of Panglao. Here also the fishermen rush to negotiate and bring you. What was surprising was this respect they had for each other: if a negotiation was started with customers, no other fisherman would interfere to bite the potential customer. The trip took over 45min, the sea was calm. We could cross dolphins on the way it was magical! The island is really tiny and few tourists stay there so it was perfect. Tourists usually come for snorkeling or diving. We chose to do only snorkeling because we could see tons of turtles just 3m from the edge. The people are very nice although a little more reserved. We had the chance to be in karaoke with young Filipinos at the water’s edge. It was very cool !
There are really all the prices, we opted for the cheapest. Fortunately we had good surprises.
The Liquid Diving Resort (Dumaguete): right in front of the ocean. Not ideal if you are looking for a white sand beach without rocks; the sand is black because it is a volcanic island and it is full of rocks. It’s mostly a resort for divers. Do not come if you do not plan to dive.
Xylla Guesthouse (Siquijor): This is not luxury, but rather a guesthouse. People are really nice. A family is holding the house. They offer the rental of scooters with helmets for 300 Php per day. The rooms are fine especially for 6 euros a night! We did not have a great shower but good for 6 euros it is not that important. They offer breakfasts, lunches and dinners. But we found a great restaurant where we went to eat every night and offered live music and shows: Baha Ba’r. This restaurant is about 20 minutes from the guesthouse by scooter. The owners are really happy to give us advices even if their English is not perfect. They are really warm. I recommend this place if you want to get away from the tourists by the sea and be more inland
Balicasag Dive Resort (Balicassag): The resort is very well located: in front of the sea … but at the same time it is difficult to do better because the island is really tiny. We had two very clean bungalows facing the sea. It is possible to eat, and it is not bad and not expensive. The resort has a diving club; it’s really worth it because there is so much nobody that they are super flexible and you risk having a monitor for you alone.
When you arrive in Manila, if you take a taxi, do not go to the touts; it is better to go to the taxis at the airport. There is a sign that indicates them. The Philippines is nice but there are a lot of delinquency problems so you have to be very careful (I know what I’m talking about for once …). Arriving at Dumaguete, you will be surprised by the size of the airport: it is tiny! If you have not planned transportation with your resort; or if you do not have one, do not worry about finding a driver.
There are all prices. We looked for the cheap to really see ” cheap ”. We had nights at 45 euros for 2 and others at 6 euros for two.
Not excessive see cheap at all. In the resort, a dish costs between 225 and 350 Php
Fast boat less than 500 Php + taxes, for 1h30min trip from Dumaguete to Siquijor. Fast boat from Siquijor to Bohol cost us 910 Php + fees for check in mandatory luggage + 15 Php of fees for the ferry. The only company that made the trip was Jet Coast. We took about 2 hours. Small fishing boat for the return to Bohol negotiated at 1000Php (and we could have done better).
In Siquijor, tricycle, with 4 passengers in addition to the driver and each twenty kilos of luggage we did not move very fast … we have a good fifty minutes and paid 500 Php.
On Siquijor they offer the rental of scooters with helmets for 300 Php per day.
Baha Ba’r: finally good food !!!! This restaurant is located on Siquijor. It is super nice, they play live music and make traditional shows. We made it our evening refuge.
As mentioned above, the friendliness of Xylla Guesthouse makes it a good place to stay if you are not afraid of the cold shower (see no shower at all!).
But what does it matter! The goal when traveling is to discover a country, its landscapes, its culture and especially its people. Staying in these types of housing helps these people survive because they are making a real bad living.
Do not Miss
Do not miss the islands of Balicasag and Siquijor.
Siquijor, because it’s still authentic. Few tourists go there, so people are very happy to meet you, to help you, they come to talk. It’s really a warm island. There are also beautiful things to see including waterfalls, beaches … A blow of heart!
Balicassag because it is tiny and it’s a real turtle sanctuary! I saw dozens at the same time and they are huge. Just for that you have to go there! On the other hand I think it is a very good plan for diving because there is a way to see good diving, turtles and especially to be alone. The Filipinos who live there are very friendly, smiling, and helpful.
Beware of malicious people! especially in Manila! A friend of mine was drugged and robbed in less than two. Be careful but not obsessed.
As for credit cards … beware because many terminals do not accept them! You have to look at the sites of banks, sometimes they put where you can withdraw (look before you leave because you may not have internet …).
Remember to take a lot of cash on you and change it on the spot at the banks.
Remember to keep under for the exit taxes of the territory (a little less than 1000Php).
Although I did not like the dives, I still had the chance to see dozens of turtles, sharks, flappers, and all kinds of nudibranchs.
I keep a memorable memory of this stay as much by the beauty of the landscapes and the kindness and people that I could cross, that because of all the adventures due to the typhoon which struck the country the day of our departure and almost compromising our return to France.