Balicasag Island, Philippines

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#WhereHasSummerTakenYou:  Diving with Sea Turtles

Summer took us to the sea again!  This time, we were whisked-away to Balicasag Island in the province of Bohol, in the Philippines.

As the sun was rising around 5:30 in the morning, the four of us rushed down to the hotel lobby to meet the rest of our family, all of us looking forward to our day out in the sea.

01
Sunrise at The Bellevue Resort Bohol

When we reached the lobby, our takeaway breakfast from the resort was already waiting for us. We would be eating them on the boat.  If your accommodation comes with breakfast, ask if they can pack the food for you. They are used to these kinds of requests, at least our resort is. We stayed at The Bellevue Resort Bohol and I promise to tell you more about the resort in my next blog.

02
My siblings, nephews and niece with the takeaway breakfast at 5:30 in the morning

The muti-cab that would take us to Alona Beach was also there waiting.

03
My parents- and siblings-in-law ready to board the multi-cab

We were doing an island hopping tour, which for say 10 people, would cost around PHP18,000 (SGD530 or USD350).  This included transfers from our resort to Alona beach (the jumping-off point of our tour), the motorized boat which would take us to the dolphins and other islands, and another 5-seater boat that would bring us closer to the reefs and the sea turtles. You can either arrange this with your resort or travel agent, or just head down to Alona Beach because there would definitely be boatmen who would approach you for an island hopping tour.

04 (2)
Credit to my sister Mahalia for this picture of Alona Beach

During the 4 days that we were in Bohol, my husband and kids went island hopping twice, the first time with my husband’s family and the second time with my family.  And on both days, they were very lucky.

05
The waiting game

Our 1st stop was to see the dolphins.  The boatmen said that it was not guaranteed and there were days when the dolphins don’t show up.  But on both days, we were able to witness a whole pod of dolphins circling the boats, breaching the surface, and showing off their social skills.

06
They arrived in one great pod, definitely more than 50 of them.
(Watch our video at the bottom of the post because we managed to get some very good footage of these amusing creatures. Turn up the volume, too!)

19After getting wowed over and over and over by the dolphins, we sailed off to Balicasag Island, our 2nd stop, where we were will try to swim up-close with the gentle sea turtles and explore the colourful world under the sea.07

Balicasag Island is small, and according to our boatman, is less than a kilometre from one end to the other.  At the island, we got ready for snorkelling.  If you don’t have your own snorkelling gear, they can be rented at the island for PHP150 a set. But, I would not recommend this because most of the gear there is quite worn out.  Anyway, we then transferred to a smaller boat which can accommodate 4 to 5 people.  Ten minutes into paddling and we were already in the snorkeling area.

08
My adventurous and water-confident husband
09
My young explorers

Under those turquoise waters was a shallow reef that surrounds the island.  It was colourful and full of life down there.  The corals were healthy and fish were abundant.  A request to the visitors, though, is to not touch the corals or bring them home as a souvenir.

10
That’s me!

11

12Beyond the reef was the drop-off.  Imagine Finding Nemo, I was Marlin, and my kids were Nemo.  I told them to stay away from the drop-off but they were stubborn, and for once, I was happy that they did not follow me.  I was very proud of them when I saw them swimming back to me, grinning from ear to ear.

13
My brother coming back from the drop-off
(Do watch the video at the end of the post.  We have footage of the reef and the drop-off.)

We climbed back to the small boat and after 500m we have reached the area with many sea turtles.  I remember that I was extremely happy and thankful during that first instance that I saw the sea turtles.  I just couldn’t believe it.

There were about ten of them in the area so you could just imagine our excitement and awe.  It was amazing.  After a few minutes at the bottom, they would come up for air, and seeing them do that was the best.

14The water around the sea turtle area was deep but if you can take your life jacket off, you would be rewarded with a turtle swimming beside you.

15
Benjamin diving to see the sea turtles up close

And next was an unexpected appearance by this puffer fish!  What are the chances that a puffer fish would get so close to us.  It was slimy, soft, spiky but not painful, it was an unbelievable moment.

16
Triggered puffy!

The 3rd stop was at Virgin Island Sandbar.  Aside from the clear, shallow water that looked like a massive swimming pool, you can stop here for some coconut juice drink, banana fritters and grilled seafood.

17
I hope they’ll keep the sea clean, though.

My kids, however, were more than happy to just swim and jump off from the boat, again and again.18

The island hopping tour usually finishes around 11 am or 12pm.  It usually starts with the dolphins, followed by the sea turtles and snorkelling in Balicasag Island, and finally a stop at Virgin Island Sandbar.  But you can decide on your itinerary. Talk to your boatman.  Tell him where you want to stay longer or which one you prefer to miss.  It’s flexible.  It’s your summer.  Enjoy it!

* * *

My next blog will feature our resort in Bohol, a tour of the Chocolate Hills and a grand celebration of family and of summer.

Here’s the video I promised. Hope you’ll enjoy it. Turn up the volume!

 

 

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10 comments

    1. Hi! thanks for the kind words, as always. The boatman gave me a shock when he suddenly handed me the puffer fish – triggered and all hahaha. It was amazing to see it go back to its smaller, original size when we returned it to the sea.

      Like

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