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Monday, May 26, 2014

Exploring Dumaguete, Siquijor and Apo Island

Hearing about the beauty of Siquijor, I was very eager to spend the most of my vacation there.  But since this small province is near to Dumaguete and Apo Island, I wouldn't want to miss visiting and exploring these places as well.

Its not hard to prepare and plan for a trip on these 3 destinations.  Maybe because I already know where I wanna go on each locations and there are not much to explore on Siquijor and Apo Island.  I started with checking the must see destinations in Siquijor.  Per research, one can explore most of the tourist destination of Siquijor in half to one day.  Famous destinations here are as follows:

  • St. Francis of Assisi Church
  • Capilay Spring Park
  • Balete Tree
  • Lazi Church and Convent
  • Cambugahay Falls
  • Salagdoong Beach

In Apo Island on the other hand, it is famous for snorkeling and swimming with the turtles.  There are also Rock Formations and the Marine Sanctuary.  Read my snorkeling experience at Apo Island here.

Dumaguete was the only province which have quite a number of destinations to explore.  But since our trip is only 4 days, we will be only exploring the city.  Below are some famous destinations that I have researched.

  • Siliman University
  • Anthropology Museum in Siliman University
  • Casaroro Falls
  • Pulangbato Falls
  • Rizal Boulevard
  • Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao
  • Belfry Tower
  • St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral
  • Quezon Park
  • Aquino Freedom Park

Basically, our planned itinerary was overnight at Siquijor on day 1, rest on day 2 (coming from Siquijor to Dumaguete), day tour in Apo Island on day 3 then explore Dumaguete City on the remaining of day 3 and the rest of day 4.  You may read these blog posts on why this planned itinerary was not followed.

If you plan to visit all these 3 destinations, by plane, your nearest drop off point is at Dumaguete (Sibulan Airport).  From the airport, one can ride the tricycle, about 15 minutes, bound to the port going to Siquijor.  From Dumaguete to Siquijor, travel time by ferry boat can be as fast as 45 minutes or as slow as 2 hours.  This is dependent on the shipping lines that you will be using.  Note that each shipping company provides different schedule and availability to-from Dumaguete and Siquijor.

Ferry from Dumaguete port to Siquijor port

If you are in Dumaguete City, traveling to Apo Island will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  This includes 5 minutes tricycle ride from the city to the bus terminal, 40 minutes bus ride and 35 minutes boat ride to the island.

Our boat to Apo Island from Coco Grove Beach Resort in Siquijor

To help you further, see below on some ferry boat schedules from Dumaguete to Siquijor.  There are 2 ports available in Siquijor: Larena port and Siquijor port.  Siquijor port is nearer to San Juan where famous beaches are located.  These were provided to me by Coco Grove Beach Resort for Siquijor port (you may read my review on Coco Grove Beach Resort here).

·         Jay Lann (Outrigger Boat travels 1Hr & 15 minutes or more) Note: No trips every Saturday. Docks at Siquijor port
·         GL Express (1 hr) Note: No trips every Saturday. Docks at Siquijor port
·         Ocean Jet (Big Fast Craft, Seats options are Business, Tourist & Open-air & Travels only 45 minutes) Docks at Siquijor port
·         Aleson (Big Cargo Ferry travels about 2Hrs) Docks at Siquijor port
·         Montenegro Lines (Big Cargo Ferry Travels 2 Hours but to Larena Pier which 30  minutes travel to & from the resort) Docks at Larena port

5:40 am Jay Lann
8:00 am Aleson Ferry
10:00 am GL Express
10:00 am Montenegro
12:00 nn Jay Lann
1:00 pm Ocean Jet
3:30 pm Aleson Ferry
4:00 pm GL Express
6:00 pm Montenegro


5:50 am Jay Lann
6:00 am Montenegro
8:00 am GL Express
9:30 am Jay Lann
11:00 am Aleson
12:00 nn GL Express
2:00 pm Montenegro
2:30 pm Ocean Jet
3:45 pm Jay Lann
5:30 pm Aleson

Ocean Jet from Siquijor port to Dumaguete port

I prefer and would recommend Ocean Jet as this is the fastest (more review about Ocean Jet here).  However, the time indicated above seems late already but they also have trips to Larena port at an earlier time coming from Dumaguete.  It is suggested to book your tickets early prior your trip to Siquijor as these sells fast.  So it is better to plan your itinerary with ample time intervals to avoid ruining your plan just because you were not able to ride the ferry at your preferred schedule.  Also, the schedule are often changing depending on the sea and whether conditions.

Read my next blog about Siquijor, here.

Weekend at Nagsasa Cove

Arriving at Nagsasa Cove, the boatmen helped us in setting up the tent and looking for stones and woods which will serve as our stove and stove top.  Together with my male friend (the only male in our group), he helped in setting out the fire.  Indeed, everything was provided.  After everything was set up, the boatmen already left us.  That's why at night, there was no bonfire provided to us which was supposed to be included in our package as agreed with Marvin.

Nagsasa Cove campsite

Panoramic view of Nagsasa Cove

There were several beach resorts/campsite at the cove.  I guess the only difference is their little convenience to be provided to their guests.  I haven't tour around those resorts but comparing ours (Kuya Ting Campsite) to the neighboring resort, I noticed that ours provided a generator particularly on the 4 restrooms.  The lights were always on until no one is taking a bath according to the caretaker.

This is where we stayed

It was scourging hot during the day especially at noon.  Whats even hotter is the flame coming out from the neighboring tent's cooking area which seem to be endlessly cooking from dusk 'til dawn.  The direction of wind was towards us thus the flame of their charcoal/wood fire was all directed to us.  My friends with the help of the caretakers talked to the neighboring tent but it took them awhile to convince them to change their cooking area.  Those in charged were already a bit drunk so its quite difficult to convince them.

Nagsasa Cove is bigger than Anawaning Cove.  It was indeed more picturesque than Anawangin, in my opinion because of mountains and hills surrounding it.  Pine trees, however are more abundant in Anawangin Cove.  If Anawangin Cove has its lake, Nagsasa Cove has its sand bar.  Its lovely here especially before sunset.  At both coves, water is clear and the sand was somehow fine but not that white.  It is sad, however, that there are quite a number of trash found at the shores and even at the waters of Nagsasa Cove.  Also, there are small jellyfishes found here.

Picturesque beauty located at the back of the beach

Small lake?

Lovely sunset

Jellyfish found on the shore

The next day, for our island hopping at Anawangin Cove and Capones, the scheduled pick up at 7:30-8am was not followed.  Marvin (our boatman) arrived at around 9am already.  With this, we had so little time to explore and swim at Anawangin and Capones.  But somehow, we still managed to enjoyed it.  We were suppose to visit the lake at Anawangin but we learned that there was already an entrance fee.  Some of us wasn't able to swim at Anawangin, instead, they ate halo halo.  But at Capones, all of us got the chance to swim.  We didn't, however, visit the lighthouse because according to Marvin, it is on the other side of the island and it was low tide so our boat couldn't dock there.  Capones Island is more rocky with pebbles but again the water is clear.  The foot bed was uneven that there are sudden steep portion so one must be careful in swimming the area.

Panoramic view of Anawangin Cove

Part of Capones Island

Clear waters and pebbles of Capones

Since our island hopping happened on our last day, Marvin provided an area in Pundaquit which he said owned by his aunt where we could take a bath and change clothes.  It was an open area with water "poso" that is somehow clean.  2 changing areas were provided, one with toilet but there was no water inside.  You need to fetch water from the "poso" using their pail.  The area was full of pomelo and mango trees.  Its just unfortunate that the fruits were still unripe for the picking.  If it was already ripe and ready for picking, Marvin said we could take home some.

Overall, we enjoyed Marvin's service and I will recommend him to all those who wish to visit Nagsasa Cove and looking for a boatman.  You may check my previous blog for his contact details.

Weekend at Nagsasa Cove: Getting There

Nagsasa Cove is one of the famous destinations at Pundaquit San Antonio, Zambales aside from Anawangin Cove, Capones and Camara.  There's another cove here but I forgot its name.  It is said to be the farthest among these destinations.

I've been to Anawangin, Capones and Camara last year but we didn't camp out in Anawangin Cove, instead we stayed in one of the accommodations available in Pundaquit.  You can read my blog post about it here.  This time, since more and more people are raving about Nagsasa Cove, claiming it to be better than Anawangin Cove, my friends decided to visit Nagsasa Cove and stay overnight there by camping.

Panoramic view of Nagsasa Cove from the sea

Planning on this trip, we prefer convenience, thus we searched for an all in package that will take us to Nagsasa Cove at the same time tour the other coves for my first timer friends' pleasure.  Most of the tour packages require at least 10 pax for the trip to be economical.  The more, the better, the cheaper.  My officemate, who had been to Nagsasa Cove just recently, provided us boatman contact.  The same boatman guided them and provided everything for them while in Nagsasa excluding land transportation going to Zambales.  Since we prefer convenience, its a good thing that the boatman also has contacts for van rentals.  For an all in package, which includes van and boat transfer, tent, cooking equipment, utensils, mineral water, entrance fees, cottages, and island hopping, the charge was Php 1,550 per person good for 10 pax.  At the last minute, we were only 9 pax so the charge was Php 1,600.  Food was not included.   

The van is supposed to pick us up in Makati at 1am but for some reason he requested it to be at 3am.  I declined and said that it's too late already.  We agreed at 2am.  I asked again the reason for change in schedule but he didn't respond.  He arrived in Makati a bit late, 15 minutes late.  The van was big, I think that was Nissan Urvan, with cool A/C.  It can accommodate up to 18 passengers including the driver.  So for us 9 pax, it was a comfortable seating.  By the way, picking up of other people along the way is not allowed.  The driver said that there should only be one pick up and drop off point.

The travel time took 4 hours.  But I believe it should have been shortened if we opted to to take the SCTEX  route instead of San Fernando exit.  I no longer asked the driver why but I guess they're avoiding the high toll fees.  During the trip, we had 2 stop overs, one at SBMA then the other one at San Antonio where we will do marketing to buy foods to cook.  We encountered traffic somewhere in Olongapo due to fiesta preparation.  But good thing our driver asked around for a short cut or other routes to avoid the queue of trucks and other vehicles.  We arrived in San Antonio around 6 am already and the wet market is already opened (it is said to be opened by 5:30am).  We arrived at the "port" of Pundaquit by 7am.  It is not actually port but that was the tail end for land transportation.  There, we were greeted by our boatman, Marvin.  He then introduced us to the boatmen who will take us to Nagsasa Cove and who will assist us in all our preparation needs.  Marvin gave us an option on the island hopping.  He said, we can already visit Anawangin Cove before heading to Nagsasa then on the next day, that's where we will visit Capones island.  Another option is to directly head to Nagsasa Cove in day 1 and take the island hopping on the second day.  We preferred the second option.  I believe most of us were all excited to see and relax at Nagsasa Cove.

Below is the contact details of our boatman, Marvin and the van c/o Jeremy:

Marvin (boatman) - 0927.7594714
Jeremy (van) - 0906.2741883

Again our contacts for the van was also care of Marvin.  Read my next blog where I relate the beauty of Nagsasa Cove.