Diving and Snorkeling
The island has excellent diving. Apo Island is also accessible from Siquijor but one has to ask for the schedule with the dive shops because they do not go everyday. Most of the sites are on the west side of the island so staying in the town of San Juan is best. There is excellent snorkeling in front of Coco Grove Beach Resort. If you are not a guest, you cannot get inside the resort and you are supposedly not allowed to hang out on their beach. But there is a parcel of land in between one part of Coco Grove Beach Resort, the original one, if my memory serves me right, and the extension. The extension has the swimming pools and more buildings and rooms. Find the pathway in the piece of land without a fence in between the resort and you will find yourself in public property. Find the locals guarding the area and pay the corresponding Php50 fee with them and you can snorkel in front of the beach of Coco Grove Beach Resort. From there, you can also enjoy sunset and drinks at the restaurant of the resort. Once you get past the entrance, they actually do not care if you are a guest in the resort or not, as long as you dine or drink at their restaurant.
Diving and Snorkeling
From Dumaguete, we decided to take a ferry to the neighboring tiny island of Siquijor, where we stayed at one of the more expensive dive resorts – Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort. We almost never choose expensive accommodations but we only started looking for accommodations, ran out of options, and eventually decided we deserve this, even just this once. We took our breakfasts at the restaurant or by the pool while sunbathing and swimming. The pool-side bar afforded us swim while getting semi-drunk on cocktails and enjoying live jazz music. We were lucky in our timing because the owners had some of his friends over from New York who are professional musicians and they made beautiful music from sundown til late. When my then-boyfriend and now-husband’s mother asked us what we were doing and we told her, she infamously asked, “What about real life?” Still, our time spent in Siquijor was one of our most memorable, work-free, and stress-free family trips.
On our last day in Dumaguete, Lia was well enough to go on a motorbike ride to the mountains. Even if the waterfalls was closer to our farmhouse, there was no way we were going to the waterfalls with Lia. There was some walking and hiking involved in a what they said a muddy sloped area. We opted for Lake Balinsasayao.
We arrived at the entrance where we parked our motorbike, registered on the logbooks, and paid the parking and entrance fees. We walked up the hill to the receiving area where a snack bar and view deck is. From there you can see the view of the placid lake, and if you are lucky, see unusual birds perched on the branches of the trees.
We walked down stone steps to where the lake is and some huts where we had a little picnic and thereafter rented a small boat, that came with a rower, to a small waterfalls on the other end of the lake. We took turns with the paddles. It was good fun.
There are other things one can do, like take a trek to the other lake. The men did it but Lia and I didn’t do it anymore. Instead we stayed on one of the huts by the view deck and took naps. Lia also took some time to explore the fern nursery and garden. She had fun with the flowers and butterflies.
We are a simple family. When we travel, we avoid staying at expensive hotels or resorts. We prefer to stay with family, friends, or at AirBnb places. Our two-week stay in Dumaguete in January 2016 was no different. There are many choices for staying in Dumaguete. One can stay in the city itself, in one of its many hotels, BnBs, and hostels. Most of the AirBnb places are not in the city center though and we think that’s well and good. After hours of looking on AirBnb and actually driving around on our rented motorbike, we found a small farmhouse in a town outside of the city, and it was the perfect place to stay for the New Year and the days after. We played many games of Dobble, Fabio’s Christmas present for Lia, and watched movies. On New Year’s Eve, all three of us laid on the hammock, covered with a warm blanket, and watched and counted shooting stars in the night sky – the distant sounds of firecrackers, and fireworks a faint glint in the far horizon.
Lia’s last Christmas in the Philippines was in 2015 and she spent it with her biological father and his family, as she did the past Christmases. We had spent some time together before Christmas though, seeing and being with my friends. We own a flat in the Taguig area and we hang out in the many establishments found in Bonifacio Global City (BGC). We stumbled upon this lights show in the roof deck of the SM Aura mall and Lia and I had some fun.
Our first stop was Last Frontier Beach Resort, located in Corong-Corong beach and owned by a friend of ours, and had just been recently completed. It took quite a while and a lot of efforts and stress for our friends to finish the resort and the least we can do is be supportive. We stayed for the sunset – always a not to be missed event.
We had Christmas dinner at Republica Sunset Bar in Lugadia. The day after Christmas, we dropped by El Nido Art Cafe, and Mezzanine Restaurant – making a round of businesses in Serena St. that our friends owned.
I have always wanted pallet furniture for the beach. We wanted everything to be simple yet colorful and relaxing. The idea was just to serve appetizers and drinks – but the menu evolved to accommodate dinner, and our specialty and best seller became the mediterranean pasta and the beer burger – our special recipes! We are also proud of our mango shake and banana shake that guests have exclaimed again and again to be the best in all of El Nido. We are of course boasting of the pretty sunsets that we have in Corong-Corong beach. Here are some photos of the many sunsets we are lucky enough to be able to see nearly everyday. If you guys are looking for the sunset in El Nido, it is found in Corong-Corong beach. Come drop by the bar for some milk tea, cold beers and cocktails, delicious pasta, and your daily dose of sunset.
Back when there was absolutely nothing in Seven Commandos Beach, it was our favorite beach. It has really nice fine white sand and great snorkeling. It was the beach we went to with the other Potter’s Place School teachers when we wanted to go out for the weekend on National Geographic boat (named after the magazine but not owned by it or connected to it). For some photos of Seven Commandos beach taken in 2005, 2007, and 2014, you may visit the blog on Outventure’s Tour A here.
Shortly after New Year, we found the time to spend two days in Seven Commandos. There is a 4-room resort on Seven Commandos and it is a gorgeous place.
Seven Commandos Beach and Papaya Beach are more accessible from Corong-Corong beach, either via banca or kayak. By kayak, if the sea is calm and you are good, it only takes 30 minutes. Round the cape of limestone, the first beach is Papaya.
When people ask me which tour is best among Tours A, B, C, and D, this is what I say – Tours A and C are the most popular. Tour A because it goes to the lagoons in Miniloc Island and this is what made El Nido famous, aside from the fact that the big lagoon is really quite magnificent. It should not be missed. It is such a beautiful place to swim in and even have a wedding at, as some people from El Nido Resorts had done in the past. The big lagoon must not be missed. Tour C is what most tourists recommend and say as the best – it has secret beach and hidden beach, and there is such a beauty to be held atop the rocks in Matinloc Shrine. Tour D is the least popular because it is the closest and most people can get there by kayaking from town proper. Now what about Tour B? I would like to say that Tour B is for those who want to avoid the crowds of Tours A and C. It is the most relaxed too. Not much to do but hang out on the beach, do a little bit of swimming while waiting for lunch either in Snake Island or in Cudugnon Cave. Furthermore, Pinagbuyutan Island is so beautiful that we consider it our favorite island.
I have been back in El Nido since two weeks and with my newly-acquired 11-16mm UWA lens have been enjoying myself with some sunsets both in Caalan, in front of our resort – The Last Beach Cottages (Hippocampe Beach Cottages), and even in Corong-Corong Beach which was our home last year.
It has always been my dream to have an ultra-wide angle lens, and after saving for some time, have finally been able to afford one. I am extremely happy!
But I am even happier with the sunsets I have been fortunate enough to witness these past weeks.