Tag Archives: wanderlust

Another favorite zen paradise- Pamilacan Island Bohol

panoramic view of the beach
panoramic view of the beach

Similar to Boracay and or Panglao Island, minus the people and the commercial establishments, that’s Pamilacan Island. A literal paradise we’ve’ fallen in love with. Inhabited by less than 2000 people mainly fisher folks and operator of homestays. I was here last year 2016 when I join Balyena.org ”Bohol Sea Cetacean Survey”. We stayed in the island for 2 nights and 3days mainly spending the whole day in the boat looking and spotting for dolphins and whales of Bohol Sea. It was that time that I told myself to come back for a vacation and hopefully I can tag along my kids.

Recently about 3rd week of September I finally got that plan realize with my buddy and kids.

Day 1

We depart Cebu to Tagbilaran via Lite shipping ferry leaving daily from Cebu at 10pm, took us 5hrs to reach Tagbilaran City in Bohol. We stayed two more hours in the boat while its docked, then we proceed to go out of the boat around 530am and took a tricycle from the port to the main town of Baclayon for about 15-20minutes ride, the boat from the cottage that we book waited to pick us up in the port.

Kuya Junior of Junior and Nemesia’s Cottages greeted us with warmth smiles, immediately assisting us with our luggage.The trip to the island took about 30-45minutes with a sighting of Rissos’ Dolphin roughly ive minutes before arriving the island, another good welcome sign.

We are booked for 2 nights and 3days in a small cottage with 2 queen size bed, they charge 1000Php/night per pax including 3 meals already, children 12years old and below they charge half which is 500Php. The room is simply made of light material and bamboo floors, the toilet is clean, although water is limited since this is tiny island surrounded by sea water, even in summer they have to fetch fresh water from the mainland of Baclayon. Please remember to conserve water once you visit here.

JR & Nemesia's cottage Pamilacan
JR & Nemesia’s cottage Pamilacan
JR & Nemesia's cottage
JR & Nemesia’s cottage Pamilacan

My two kids immediately change to swimming attire, grab their snorkel, fins and run to the beach when we arrive, while me and my buddy settled in our room and arrange our things.

kids snorkeling
kids snorkeling

It was a very quiet place with only audible chirping birds and sometimes a cry of a hungry goat you can hear. In front of our cottage is the powdery white sand stretching up to 3km long.

While walking along the beach we noticed women in their early or late 40’s sweeping the sand with a broomstick, sensing positive vibes and smiling aura of the woman I ask her if they do that every day and if the cottage owner is paying them to clean the beach, she smiles and said  ”No” the local government of Baclayon is paying us Php200 daily to pick up trash and leaves or seaweeds left in the sand when hightide goes back to low-tide”. That’s a big thumbs up to Baclayon LGU.

After a brief chat with the women, I called my kids to pause from swimming since we need to grab our breakfast at the moment prepared by Ate Nemesia, she’s a very charming woman wife of Kuya Junior who runs the JR & Nemesia’s Cottages, They have at least 9 cottages for rent.

Our breakfast is a yummy pancake , sunny side up egg, Chocolate drink for my kids and coffee for us.After eating we notice a fearsome jaw hanging outside Ate nemesia’s kitchen. Without Shark biology knowledge you will immediately conclude that Sharks are really dangerous.This is caught a very long time ago in Bohol sea by Kuya Junior’s forefathers a very long time ago he was still a kid as a bycatch. In fact, before you freak out, Tiger Shark is listed as near threatened species of shark because of massive finning and fishing by humans. ”Sharks are smart animals, they are naturally shy to humans but if you stay calm they became curious and might look at you in the eye and smile” ( according to my buddy who dives with Sharks a lot of times)

tiger shark teeth
tiger shark teeth

We had a quick chat with the nearby resort for info about diving in the area. We pass by a huge concrete structure that is the 200-year-old Spanish fort, they try to rebuilt now after the earthquake that hits Bohol in 2013.

the old Spanish port
the old Spanish port Rebuilt

After lunch thick clouds covered the skies and strong winds are blowing, so perfect time to make a kite. We lost one kite and made another one. The kids obviously enjoyed it a lot.

kite flying
kite flying

The kids had another swim for the day. In the afternoon we decide to have a stroll in the village crossing to the other side of the island, we end up in a fishing village full of boats and fisherman having drinks, we pass by 1 school and a pathway so beautifully curtained by a flowering tree on each side looking like a canopy.

nice pathway
nice pathway

 

Day 2

Today we decide to wake up early for the most awaited part, dolphin watching. Bohol sea is home for atleast 16 species of whales & dolphins , as well as sharks, rays and mantas.Locals in  Pamilacan are known to be manta hunters for over a decade, thus ”Pamilacan” means a resting place for manta.

The sunrise for a bit but was quickly covered by thick clouds. The water is is filled with white caps.The first hour we didn’t see any dolphins, we reach further until we felt hungry so we decide to come back to the island and eat breakfast. The condition of the water probably is one reason we didn’t spot dolphins, but I am sure they are there, we just didn’t spot them.

sunrise
sunrise

After eating breakfast we had an hour break then we decide to go snorkeling.There is a marine sanctuary on the west side of the beach where you can pay 200Php for the local guide and a paddle boat that will bring you there.

We opted just to stay in front of the beach and see what’s beneath. My kids had lots of fun seeing clownfishes and corals. Some parts are grassy which is perfect habitat for turtles, we didn’t see them while snorkeling but my buddy spotted them from afar surfacing when we were seated outside our cottage shortly after we arrive in the island.

 

 

We end the day playing ”touching ball” with a beautiful sunset.

Day 3

Another chance to spot dolphins, of course, we are all excited again , very happy and we can feel it through our nerves that hundreds of them will gonna show up. Now I don’t wanna hold you waiting, see below the dolphins of Pamilacan.

During the day we spotted 3 species of Dolphins, Fraser, Rissos & Spinners(almost a hundred of them).Another occurrence during the interaction is that 2 white hawks is seen flying by to have some bits of the tuna leftovers from the feeding Spinners.

 

 

The interaction lasted for about 2.5 hours, the spinners entertained us non stop as it jumps, breach, and bow ride closest to our boat.

We head back to the beach for our brunch and a well deserve rest, followed by last day of snorkeling on the island.

Some freediving

 

 

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I did less than an hour yoga poses to stretch my muscles and core having my mind and body in one. It is my deep way to say thank you to the universe for letting us experience this bliss.

 

 

living,

lace will remain a favorite in our heart , it composes all elements of a paradise that we love. Simple living , nice beach, very kind people, the sea, the corals, the fish, the dolphins, the flowers, the garden, the yummy food. Everything sums up for a very nice place to unwind, destress, relax and reconnect with mother nature.

More photos below :

 

 

Time to say thank you to the lovely locals, specially Ate Nemesia & Kuya Junior and family for being so hospitable.

We promise to come back in the future. ><(((0> 🙂 ❤ ❤

I plan to organize an event here in the fure with Geko Adventures.

So stay tune  and cheers to the Spinners in Pamilacan Island.

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Scuba Diving Caluya Island: Beyond Expectations !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 8-12, 2017

caluya island
caluya island

Sorry took me long again to finish writing on our last adventure, it only means it is so special that I wanted to spend time to put into writing on how it went through.

So lets start.

Before remoteness had begun, 4days 3nights of chasing waves and exploring the largest lagoon system in the country and witnessing an expectacularly just perfect rainbow that left us speechless, which can only be found in Siargao and by the way it even deserves a separate blog which again I think will keep someone waiting. We started our journey to Antique province.

So how we found out about Caluya? Does anyone know this place in the first place? From my friends- no ,hmmm maybe 2 of them but they haven’t dive there yet, from my family absolutely no. We found Caluya island because of a dive article online about Pelagics you can see while diving Panagatan island. Both islands are remote considering the accessibility and infrastructure, however , lucky as we are , we found out that instead of getting there through Boracay dive shops which we do not prefer , we found out that an awesome couple together with friends just started a dive operation base in Caluya island- Caluya Divers. With no hesitation we started the standard operating procedure.

Caluya island dive map
Caluya island dive map

1. Research ( this consist gathering information about the place to every single details possible), how to get there and sorts of preparation.

2. Contact dive operator

3. Book flights

Every single difficulty to arrange for our journey to Caluya only excites us more. The dive operator had been very responsive from the start despite the difficulty of internet access in the island.Yes you read it right, the place where we will stay doesn’t have internet connection. Does it make us sad? As you know my life has been constantly online almost 90% of my day for the last 2years.Hmm sounds like a challenge for me considering small businesses I run online. But how can you say no when the ocean is calling , and what better affirmation you have for a place that pass all of our criteria ; remote place, friendly people, uncrowded dive sites and the best reason EXPLORATORY DIVES.

We landed in Caticlan airport at around 1pm from Cebu , took a van to Culasi for 3 hrs.Another option to reach Caluya is via Mindoro if you come from Luzon. As usual you have to take note that boat ferrying from these places are small -medium size cargo-passenger boats owned by small businessman schedules change without prior notice. A good tip is to communicate as frequent with your dive operator contact as they know the updates most of the time, relying on the internet for schedule updates isn’t a good idea.

I’m already planning  to sleep the whole road trip but guess what , how can I sleep when the first 40 km travel is along the coast and you can clearly see the crystal clear sea water with soft waves crashing to the shore, and in many instance on the other side of the road a very sturdy looking proud hills and mountains covered with green forests while on the base is endless hectares of rice fields.Seems nostalgic, but these scenery always covers up the many months of stressed face while working in a concrete jungle. Imagine me and my dive buddy taking turns of pointing left and right to watch out the good view, it’s just breathtaking.

So we arrive in Culasi town 4hrs earlier than the boat schedule of departure. So what more good way to kill time than to explore Culasi. I remember one friend is from Antique, she recommended us to go to the town proper , hangout in the boulevard near the shoreline and witness the sunset, we eat our lunch at a nearby restaurant and found out another cool thing to do in Culasi- climb Mt.Madjaas. (save it for the next time)

MISSION : Explore Caluya underwater

Boat ride from Lipata port Culasi to Caluya island is about 5hrs , just enough time for us to sleep, good news the sea is calm. Kalayaan Shipping  is a RORO ship serving from various ports to Caluya and other islands of Antique.Banton liner is another ferry which is rather smaller than Kalayaan Ship also crosses to and from islands within Antique.

We arrive in a small port in Caluya and a smiling couple is picking as up very early at dawn when it is still dark. The woman immediately recognize us hence Uwe is the only foreign looking guy inside the boat.

We loaded our bags in the tricycle , yes tricycle- the main public transportation in the island besides Habal Habal (a single motorbike). We took quite  a pave road about a kilometer then a rough road almost the entire trip ,it was a fun ride , it reminds me about 10yrs ago in my hometown where I grew up is as rough as Caluya road, did I frown? Ofcourse not, because I love dirt roads and YES I drive dirt bikes (Kawasaki KLX 150cc) almost a joke, no its not a joke. I love dirt bikes, see my practice day here .

Day 1 : Arrival and first dives  ><(((*>   ><(((*>

After about an hour we arrive at Island Diver’s Caluya  base.It is still very quite a little dark and I still here the crickets, barking dogs welcomes us to this peaceful place surrounded by trees. Couple Cindy and Roland greeted us a good morning and they looks so happy to see us.From that moment on I knew our dives will be lots of fun.

We had a quick hour power nap and rest at our bamboo bungalow, very clean and spacious enough for my dive buddys’ camera set up and accessories 😀 😀 😀 were never been too excited like this to be honest, alrady lookin forward for underwater surprises.

dive shop front 2
Frontbeach

So house rules are discussed at a cozy native restaurant adjacent to the diveshop fronting the beach, with bananas and tall coconut palm trees on the side.Rules are simple just behave and be free. Meals will be served island style, we will be eating together whatever is produced for the day . Roland and Cindy told us the story how they started, most of the talks are in German as they speak the language same as my dive buddy grrrrrhhh.I promise to learn the language soonest 😉 😉 anyways I’m more excited with our first dive plan.

Local dive crew and boat staff are shy but are friendly and very kind people.Cindy and Roland found a family in Caluya, the people welcome them and their guest as a family, something we wont’ forget in our travels.

CALUYA ISLAND 

The dive sites within Caluya island are close to the dive shop can be reach by 30mins boat ride. We start our first dives within the island , in west side. Explored dive sites starts from the shallow sloping down to 20-25meters deep. Visibility is really good down to 20meters. Dive sites within Caluya were found by Island Divers, usually with their guest giving each a name. On the west side we are greeted with a very healthy coral garden teeming with many reef fishes and also a resident giant frogfish, theyr’e always funny to look at. They are very good in camouflaging and they don’t usually swim , they walk among rocks and move slowly.Their body has different patterns and colors but what makes them really really special is when they start to yawn and you can just imagine how flexible their mouth is to a large opening.

FROGFISH MOMENTS

We also saw a variety of nudibranches in all sites their colors and patterns are to die for. A giant cuttle fish also showed up.A lot of crinoid shrimps that easily camouflage in different colors and pattern. In one dive site we saw 2 ghost pipe fish.

NUDI PARTY

There is a notable population of Crown of Thorns on one site.Roland and Cindy said they’re trying to eliminate most of them but they keep on repopulating.This animals eat corals but removing them from the site should be carefully planned, my dive buddy said once you touched and remove them they immediately release a sack of eggs around thereby causing more Crown of Thorns to come.

THE GHOSTS

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NIGHT DIVE @ the HOUSEREEF

We finally had a chance to do a night dive a day before we leave the island. Cindy said the house reef is home to napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrot fishes at 18-20meters deep. However we weren’t able to reach there. The first 5meters of the housereef already entertained us. All this magical tiny critters comes out and hunt at night.We saw a very huge nudibranch crawling on the bottom, a very tiny white nudi and a the cutest bobtail squid.

SIBAY ISLAND

We explored this nearby island western bound from Caluya.The dive site is at the western tip of the island. Caluya island divers discovered dive sites here. It is wall dives starting at a shallow entry of a coral garden about 10meters then drop to 30meters down deep.Visibility is superb, curent is average. The wall is stunningly decorated with large sea fans and gorgonians very healthy corals in vivid colors. We found bunch of nudis and a huge lobster on a crevice. Mooray eels and giant lobsters are also there to say hello to us.

We spent 3 dives in one day, spending one surface interval inside a mangrove forest where we passby a seaweed farm with smiling farmers. We tried to snorkel in the mangrove areas hoping to see some juvenile fishes nesting on the roots.

Sibay island

On our way back home we brave huge waves which makes our travel time 2x than coming to the island. But , a surprise friends suddenly came up halfway our route, Spinner dolphins say hello to us, it was a very happy dive day. Next dives is within Caluya island hence weather didn’t permit us to go to Panagatan island (there is always a next time).

dolphins
dolphins

Anyhow luck is still on our side, we are lucky for our exploratory dive we found our dive site, we named it ”Gardenia” it looks like a garden covered with hard corals full of reef fishes,anthias, damsel fishes, and fusiliers,  it’s literally like watching over an aquarium.

Again we are lucky divers exploring a remote paradise.Mother nature has been very sweet and kind to provide us with all these underwater haven which also provides the mankind and other living organisms it’s source of food. It is not new to us that many parts of our coral reefs around the country and around the world,most of them are damaged due to our abuse,due to our bad habits, due to lack of knowledge, due to lack of empathy. There are so many reasons  and cause of this distruction, however even if it’s a little bit late , let us start changing our habit and the way we look at our environment, lets take good care of it for the next generation.

Thank you so much to the entire team Island Divers Caluya for 4days awesome dives.They are the only operating diveshop in the island. Best season to dive with them is during dry season starting December-June of the following year.

Find their contact below:

FB : https://www.facebook.com/islanddiverscaluya/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/cindy_island_diver/

Thank as well to the cool and kind neighbors of Cindy and Roland who hosted us for our 2nd night dinner and preparin our meals, the island divers boat crew and the super friendly dogs and goats around the resort.We hope to come back next season.

Things to note:

Transportation : Tricylcle or Habal Habal

Food: There is no Carenderia near the resort and town is a bit far.Scuba divers are offered to eat with the resort owner like a family.

Signal: no phone signal around the resort area except in the next town.

ATM/Banks: There is no atm or bank in the area so you better bring cash, the resort don’t have credit card terminal as well hence no signal, which I think is an advantage when you are in paradise.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!!

 

SUPERB DIVING, AMAZING REEFS, SPECTACULAR VISIBILITY, AWESOME PEOPLE, YUMMY FOOD, LOTS OF NUDIS, LOTS OF CRITTERS, PARADISE PARADISE AND PARADISE, we will be back !

More photos !

Next Adventure : Samal Island -Sarangani-Siargao

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Photo credits to:

Uwe Michaelis  – using Sony RX100 IV camera with , Nauticam housing

Alieth  – Gopro Hero 4

Cindy Meier Hanstein

”One Adventure at a Time”