Not long ago, I asked my good friend Ronald why we always go for mountains as our main outdoor channel. “Why not the beach?” I asked. “I’m not fond of beaches” was his answer. And I agreed because I have a mild and undiagnosed phobia of the sea and deep waters plus the fact that I can’t swim.
Now, let me pick up where we left off. Ahhh yes – the beautiful yet unpredictable mountain of Tres Marias. Back at the major jump off where we waited for our habal-habal to Almeria, we simultaneously arranged a boat ride to an unfamiliar island by the name of Sambawan. This was an unplanned trip as we were supposed to head back home after Tres Marias. So it kept me wondering why my friend who’s not-so-fond of the sea was so persuasive to visit the beach. Our local guide, Rio, was the one who referred us to an outrigger boatman who initially offered 3,500 + 1,000 for overnight. It was almost 6pm and our haggling skills scored a Php4, 000 deal going to and from the island. For me, that’s already a reasonable fee since the benchmark price is 3k-3.5k and it will also be split into five. And of course, our never-ending crusade to help the community through local patronage. When our habal-habal came, three of our friends proceeded to Almeria market to buy food and supplies while we headed directly to the harbor. Fare should only be around 50-60 pesos.
I wish I have enough words to describe how adorable this place is. We arrived there at almost 8pm, still tired and famished from our climb. When I saw the island, all my thoughts turned to delight and admiration of this hidden paradise of Biliran. It’s an elongated group of islets and natural rock formations with white coral beaches. The boys grilled some saltwater fish and together we dug into the pile of freshly-caught smoked mackerel. Beach dinners in the company of good friends are always the best. In the morning, I realized that the distance between the shoreline and backshore was so short that I was actually standing on a strip of white sand. After breakfast, we headed to a flight of concrete stairs leading up to a makeshift viewing tower that’s made of conventional nipa hut and bamboo floor. There you could fill your eyes with the wonderful sight of adjacent islets. The blue and turquoise tint of the pristine sea, washing ashore on the curved stretch of white sands would remind you of your Hallmark postcards during high school. This, my friend, is the animated definition of breath-taking. Abundance of green lush complements the surrounding rocky peninsulas but what really caught my eye is the towering dormant volcanic island of Maripipi which was still capped in clouds amidst broad daylight. Maripipi is the smallest and least populous municipality in the province – home to more or less 7,000 inhabitants. Also, it takes 20 minutes to get to Sambawan from Maripipi.
What to Expect in Sambawan Island
As expressed earlier, I’m not really a fan of swimming, at least not yet, but I have a great admiration for marine habitat. Sambawan Island is a marine sanctuary and a popular dive site right off the coast of mainland Biliran. And because it’s pretty isolated, you must bring the following with you:
Food – Buy your supplies first. Though they have a convenience store, it only sells limited goods at a higher price.
Water – We bought a 10-liter drinking water for 5 people during our overnight stay. Public baths are equipped with sea water for toilet use. I bought 5 gallons of fresh water for Php25 and used it for taking a bath.
Camping Gears – This applies to us as we already have tents and other camping stuff. If you can afford the lodging cottage and don’t mind the cost, by all means do so.
Power bank – I didn’t see any electrical outlets on the cottages. Charging station is located at the caretaker’s den for a meager fee of Php10. I shut my phone down to focus on the beauty of the place.
Sunblock – For brown skins like us, we don’t really want to get even darker than we already are so protect yourself with a liberal application of sunscreen.
Now that you’re set, the following are the activities you can perform in Sambawan Island. Out of 6 items mentioned here, I only tried half (trekking, camping, photo op)
- Photo Op
- Scuba Diving
When it comes to pricing, I grabbed this screenshot online as a rough estimate. Please be informed that fees are subject to change without prior notice so do your homework first before embarking on any trip.
Let’s take a closer look at this paradise.
Leaving the island was another story. After swimming and taking lunch, we were suffering from extreme lethargy. Everyone just wanted to lie down on the cool bamboo bench. But we had no choice as our pump boat was going to fetch us at 2pm. I think we all have that tendency to become lazy and sluggish at sea. When on the boat, the water was still calm for the first 15 minutes of the ride. Then suddenly, big waves started to shook our boat. Turned out that we were in the middle of the open sea and the wind from the rain blew in our direction. All of us were sitting in silence, feeling uneasy of what might happen. It scared the living shit out of me. The thought of the boat capsizing off was terrifying. Two things could happen: either I learn to swim or I die. I looked at the helmsman and as if reading my mind, asked me if I was okay and assured us that this situation is normal. Good Lord! I should be miles away from here when the “not normal” happens. Fortunately, we arrived safe and dry at the harbor where we came from. We then hired the same type of habal-habal to take us back to Naval at a fair price of Php60 each. From Naval, we travelled to Ormoc for two hours at Php130. If you’re planning to visit Sambawan Island, go for it as soon as you can before it gets ridiculously expensive, crowded and overrated like Boracay. You may contact the following from Naval Tourism Office for inquiries:
- Chessa Lumbaca – 0998 959 5357
- Lauro Tarroyo – 0948 215 0905
Stranded in Ormoc City
Arriving at Ormoc port around 6pm, we hurriedly went to the ticketing outlets but bad luck caught up with us when they ran out of tickets. We tried other shipping companies, sought about chance passengers but to no avail. We could have booked our tickets ahead of time but we’re never sure of the spontaneity of our itinerary. This was my first time to be stranded and I’m starting to re-consider booking in advance. It left us no choice but to look for a place to stay the night. We checked in to Niko’s Ark Voyager’s Inn along Real Street. Their family room for 4 is only Php1, 200 plus 100 for extra head. We didn’t get the chance to tour around the city. At 8am, we were on our way back to Cebu via fast craft, taking all the fun memories brought by the underrated island of Biliran.