Why You Should Splurge on Balicasag and Pungtud Island Hopping
On our second day in Bluewater Panglao, we woke up early for our island hopping activities. Our itinerary includes snorkeling in the spectacular marine sanctuaries of Balicasag Island and a visit to the boomerang-shaped Pungtud Island, also known as Virgin Island. Since the waves at the Bluewater Panglao’s beachfront were raging, the Aquamania guys had brought us to Momo Beach, a secluded, undeveloped beach north of Panglao. At 6:30 am, we boarded an outrigger boat from Bluewater Panglao’s concessionaire – Coral Point.
It took quite awhile to convince myself to book the island hopping activities through the resort. Having been accustomed to do-it-yourself trips, I find the resort rates quite steep. So you might wonder why I gave in anyway. Here’s why:
- I am not a good swimmer, or should I say I don’t know how to swim at all. The closest that I could get to swim is letting myself float on a four-feet swimming pool. Thus, engaging in water activities on god-knows-how-deep waters makes me quiver. Yes, despite the fact that I have gone island hopping for the nth time, I still feel nervous each time we traverse the moody sea. So, the size of the boat is a big deal for me. A bigger and sturdier boat is worth splurging for. Bluewater Panglao’s outrigger boat is big enough that it can fit around 10 people (or even more). It’s so comfortable that I can literally sit back, enjoy and relax. Plus, its sturdy built can conquer the big waves of the Bohol Sea effortlessly. It made the cruise less scary and more bearable for me. The boat is also the one they use for dive safaris. How cool is that?
- This might be petty but a boat with a built-in ladder that can serve as my “base camp” during snorkeling activities also wins plus points.
|Coral Point Dive Outrigger Boat|
- Life vests, and I mean REAL life vests, are also a must for me. At Bluewater Panglao’s outrigger boat, you will never see dilapidated life vests made of styro and worn out orange fabric that can actually drown you to death more than save you. Seriously, I thank Bluewater Panglao for providing real life vests onboard.
- Our guide during the island hopping activities is a certified diver. Why is that important you ask? Well, not only am I confident that he knows how to swim (and to save lives) but he has also a lot to share about marine biodiversity. He introduced and described the corals, fishes and every sea creature we saw beneath the azure waters. He knows where the good guys, I mean fishes, are. And he knows how to take nice underwater photos, too!
The pros outweighed the con (the only con is the price, right?). So, now you know why I opted to have the friendly staff at Bluewater Panglao arrange our island hopping activities. Now, let me share what happened during our island adventure.
Our first stop was Balicasag Island. Originally, I told the boat captain that I want to see dolphins. Unfortunately, we left Momo beach a little late, and I was told that dolphins usually show up at dawn, so we weren’t able to see even a single dolphin on our way. A reason to go back, perhaps?
|The idyllic Momo Beach|
When we docked at the Balicasag Island, there were already a few tourists swimming their lungs out in the marine sanctuary. We paid a docking fee of Php 300 and a snorkeling fee of Php 50 per pax. A local who offers aqua shoes rentals approached us but we decided we don’t need aqua shoes anymore since we will be floating and swimming most of the time. He also offered to take us to the marine sanctuary with his small boat (almost the size of a kayak) but our guide said we can just swim our way there, so we did not avail of the local’s service. There are also snorkeling guides on the island at Php 150, but obviously, we did not avail of this since we already have a guide from Bluewater Panglao.
|Snorkeling on Balicasag Island|
Life vests, snorkel and masks ready and off we went to the marine sanctuary. Our guide led us to where the corals are. Now I know why my friends keep on saying they had their best snorkeling experience in Bohol. The corals in Balicasag are alive unlike the ones in Boracay (so sorry for making this the benchmark, but reality bites). The fishes are in myriad colors and sizes! It was awesome to see these creatures feast on the bread we had brought to feed them. My fear of the deep waters escaped me the moment I set my eyes on the surreal underwater scene.
A piece of advice: don’t dare go to Balicasag Island without an underwater camera, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life! I used my Sony Cybershot T700 enclosed in a waterproof case. How I wish I have a real underwater camera. A Nikon Coolpix AW100, Canon D20 or Sony TX20 will do. Lord of the rings, please make all planets conjure.
|Rich marine life at Balicasag marine sanctuary|
|Naka-lifevest na, nakahawak pa! Takot much!|
|More underwater wonders|
After we had found Nemo and his friends, we swam our way to the shore to take a rest. The sand is coarse with shells and corals on it. I recommend you bring your flip-flops or aqua shoes if you plan to stroll along the shoreline.
|The shoreline at Balicasag Island|
Our next destination was the Pungtud Island, more popularly known as Virgin Island. It is a privately-owned island with a boomerang-shaped sandbar that shows up during low tide. When we got there, the tide was still high so the sandbar was submerged in knee-high water.
|High Tide at Pungtud Island|
Though privately-owned, many locals had set up kiosks where they sell snacks like sodas, banana cue, chips and a lot more. Some locals also sell fresh sea urchin at Php 20 apiece. A little boy followed me from the boat to the edge of the sandbar, persuading me to buy pearls. Be wary because these vendors would offer their items at skyrocket price. But when I told him that in Palawan, pearls cost as low as Php 50 bucks, he gave in. He originally offered me a pair of tiny pearl earrings at Php 250. Talk about taking advantage huh!
|Fresh water pearls|
|Lovely shells for sale|
The sand at Pungtud Island is finer than in Balicasag, almost like the sand in Alona and Bolod beaches. The long stretch of white sand is overwhelming. Once you’re there, you’ll never want to leave.
|Talk about paradizo!|
When it was time to leave Pungtud Island, I dragged myself to the boat promising myself a return in no time. Hopefully, on our next Bohol escapade, I’ll be able to set foot on Pamilacan and Cabilao Islands, not only to snorkel but to dive. Again, lord of the rings, let the stars conjure.
Special thanks to Ms. Margie Munsayac for making our stay at Bluewater Panglao all worthwhile.
For reservations, please contact:
Danao, Panglao Island
Bohol, Philippines 6340
Phone: (63 38) 416 0695 or 416 0696
Fax: (63 38) 416 0697
MANILA SALES OFFICE
Rm. 704 Cityland Herrera Tower
Rufino cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village
Makati City, Philippines
Phone: (63 2) 817-5751 / 887-1348
Fax: (63 2) 893-5391