One of the highlights of our Cebu and Bohol trip was our stay at Panglao Island in Bohol at the impressive Dumaluan Beach Resort. Part of the package we got with the resort is an island hopping among the islands that scattered around Panglao.
We have to admit that we never heard of Balicasag Island in the past or had an idea of what we would see in there. So on the last day of our stay at Dumaluan Beach Resort, we scheduled a trip to Balicasag Island and a dolphin watching as a side trip.
After a bountiful breakfast at the resort (the most bountiful meal we have ever eaten so far in all our trips!), we walked down to the beach and were guided by two boatmen to a small “bangka” that will take us to Balicasag Island. Little did we know that we were actually heading to one of the most bountiful underwater feasts on earth.
Dolphin “Watching” to Dolphin “Chasing”
After about 15 minutes of boat ride to the open sea, we started to feel uneasy and fidgety because no sign of dolphins was seen. No visible movements underwater or above the water. The sun was beginning to ascend and the small waves reflected its raise in a million directions. We were like floating over an ocean of melted gold.
Our idea of dolphin “watching” was like what you see in ocean parks or in Subic Bay where people could freely swim and interact with the seemingly tamed dolphins, even feed them with a couple of silver-looking fish. But this idea was far-fetched from what we witnessed next.
After several minutes, we almost fell from our seats when the engine suddenly roared and the boat abruptly speed off to who knows where. We held tightly on the bamboo pole and tried to make sense of what was happening.
“Ahhh!!” We blurted out. It was then when we realized that we won’t be “watching” the dolphins, instead we would be “chasing” them. Several boats carrying other eager tourists began to appear around the area where a pod of dolphins swam and jumped and shrieked in unison. It was a marvelous thing to behold, and our adrenalines started to kick off. We would excitedly point to the boatmen where the dolphins were supposed to glide out of the water and danced to the rhythm only they could hear. Marvelous is the only word we could think of to describe the experience. It was way better than feeding a couple of dolphins in an enclosed talk in ocean parks.
After we got tired of chasing these enchanting creatures, we further sailed off towards the open sea and the boatmen signaled that we were now heading to Balicasag Island. Should be excited? We didn’t know.
After a 30 minutes of boat ride, a mass of land began to take shape on the horizon. It was the Balicasag island itself! The nearer and nearer we approach it, the quieter and quieter we grew. Simply because we did not know what to see in there.
Because it was a low tide, the boat couldn’t be moored along the rocky beach. What the locals together with our boatmen did was fetch us using a small catamaran to dry land.
Once on land, we were guided to a small native hut where we logged in our names in a logbook and paid a couple of hundred pesos per person for the snorkeling gears and entrance fee/environmental fee.
Once geared up, we took the small catamaran again and paddled our way to the middle of the sea, perhaps half a mile away from the seashore. Although not mandatory, visitors are encouraged to take the boat to the snorkeling spot because of the multitude of rocks and sea urchins scattered all over the shore. We assume that a banca ride was only needed when the tide is not high.
So there we were! First, together with our guide explaining to us that it’s prohibited to fish around the island because it’s a marine sanctuary. Right after, he gave us each a plastic of Skyflakes (unsalted wafer) to attract the fish and feed them. “Don’t throw your plastic on the water,” he warned us. “Yes, sir!” we responded and jumped off the boat.
When I opened my eyes and started to swim upwards, I was instantly blinded by the magnificent combinations of colors that surrounded me. It was like what you see in BBC’s Planet Earth or in the pages of National Geographic magazines. Fish of all colors, shapes, and swimming styles danced around me. Nemo was there, and Dori too! But no stingrays, of course (but who knew!).
Because I did not know the names of the fish, I just fed them with my unsalted wafer and tried to touch them. But they were to ashamed, or perhaps afraid, to get closer to us. We tell you, the sight of the fish in all their abundance is something you might not have seen before and will remember for the rest of your days. So if by chance you visit this island, don’t close your eyes for a second and try to remember all the details as much as you can. With the impending threat of global warming looming over like dark clouds, you might not be able to see this underwater feast again.
We wanted to stay longer but we had a scheduled trip back to Cebu that day. It was hard to leave the place but we needed to. After all, not all feasts last very long. At one point, you have to leave the place and move on to your next destination.
We went back to the boat that would take us back to the resort with a big smile on our faces, and a blue starfish on our heads. We thank the Heavens that once in our lives, we witnessed one of the most glamorous, breathtaking, and marvelous feasts on earth. Thank Heavens for that! Thanks!