By Joshua Berida / Photos by Jeffrey Riles
Every time I hear the place Siargao I always associate it with surfing at the world-famous Cloud 9 waves. For the non-surfers, this tropical island has other noteworthy attractions that made me want to return even before I left.
The pristine beaches of Siargao
The boat docked on the port of Barangay Dapa in Siargao. The bucolic, unassuming town had all the features of a provincial municipality—small houses lining the streets, partially paved roads, and markets selling fish, pastries and raw meat.
As soon as I left the gates of the port, several motorcycle drivers asked where I wanted to go. It was obvious to them that I was a stranger; it’s funny how people in small towns know everyone and can smell a visitor from a mile away. I told them I wasn’t interested in their services and looked for a place to stay. The exhaustion of zipping through cities, long van rides, and boat rides took its toll on my body.
Exploring Siargao had to wait until the next day.
The ride to General Luna, the jump-off point for the three nearby island, took approximately 30 minutes. The verdant countryside along the way made the trip go by quickly.
General Luna was far less developed than Barangay Dapa. There were only a few spots of paved road, there were mostly dirt roads going into parts of the town and the beach. Its lack of development, the towering coconut trees and the nearby beach had its own charm. If you’re looking to get away from the concrete jungle of the city, this is the perfect place to do so.
Getting a boat to get to the three islands is easy, as they are a popular destination for visitors. The boat rent to the islands for half a day return trip costs P800, a solo traveler discount. The boat rent normally costs upward of P1,000 for the day.
The placid waters contrast the 9-shaped waves Siargao is famous for. It only took a few minutes before we landed on Naked Island.
This small island off Siargao’s coast has no vegetation, no structures, not even huts. It’s completely naked, as its moniker depicts. There were a handful of locals bumming around the beach, but there were less than 10 of us enjoying the island.
The fine, white sand slipped between the spaces between my toes, taking on the form of shoes as I walked along the beach. The calm and emerald waters gave a faint glow as the sun began to peek out of the skies.
After enjoying Naked Island for almost an hour, the boatmen and I headed for the biggest island of the three, with its own small town, Daku.
The idyllic charms of the island immediately won me over as soon as our boat docked. I thought Naked Island’s fine, white sand would be difficult to top, but Daku’s pearly sand beach beat it handily.
The small town on the island did not affect its natural beauty. The cerulean waters glimmered, mirror-like, as if I was staring right into the depths of my soul, with its clarity and honesty.
The glass-like waters of the island invited me to swim in it, I did not resist, I couldn’t. There was no point fighting it.
I walked in, slowly at first, then with a jog, breaking the glassy waters with my feet. I sank into its cool body, dousing the heat of summer with its fingers.
The early-morning bustle on the island gave it life. The locals, with their docked boats, prepared for work, fixing their fishing gear, or readying the things they have to bring to the bigger towns.
I was one of only a handful of visitors on this pristine island, which I find surprising, especially during the height of summer in May.
I wish there were more places like this. Where time stood still and nothing else mattered, but the most basic of needs.
Being the last stop and the smallest, Guyam Island did not disappoint. The emerald, clear waters surrounding this tiny patch of land were picturesque.
What the island lacked in fine, pearly white sand it made up with its photogenic beauty. The friendly locals maintaining the island were all smiles for visitors. The shallow waters surrounding it made it ideal for swimming and relaxing. There isn’t much to do on the island aside from enjoying the beach.
Through the countryside: Magpupungko Rock Pool
After exploring the three islands of the coast of Siargao, I journeyed to the renowned Magpupungko Rock Pool, which is approximately 30 to 45 minutes from Barangay Dapa. The dirt roads, lush countryside, and the fresh air made the trip worthwhile.
The turquoise waters and sprawling rock formations of Magpupungko greeted me as soon as I walked past the beach.
The rugged yet picturesque rock formations brought out nature’s rawness. There was already a crowd swimming in the nearby pools. Siargao has been good to me, just a handful of people in each place, but the trip to Magpupungko was the exception. I didn’t mind sharing this piece of paradise with others, like a shared secret with close friends.
People climbed up the rocks and jumped into the emerald waters, while others were content with swimming and taking photos.
The habal-habal I rode to get to the rock pool cost me P550 round trip, there is also an entrance fee of P50.
Nature’s Spectacle: Bucas Grande
Sohoton National Park and Bucas Grande’s azure-blue waters, intricate limestone formations and stingless jellyfish are prime attractions that are slowly making this park a tourist magnet.
There is only one way to enter the main cove, through a low-ceilinged cave. Once inside, different shaped rock formations greet visitors. Two noteworthy formations are a horse leg-shaped rock protruding downward and the Dagongdong Rock Cliff, which locals believe to be the home of engkantos.
The park has beautiful caves, many of which remain unexplored. The Magkukuob Cave is the most popular with visitors. Its impressive stalactites and stalagmites elicit praise from travelers. But the most fun part of visiting this cave is the 20-foot jump out into the lagoon, the only exit back to your boat.
Bucas Grande’s main draw is the stingless jellyfish that swim its waters. There are also beautiful corals in varying hues, yellow, red, green, and blue, beneath its emerald waters.
The untouched beaches of Naked, Daku and Guyam islands are more than enough to satiate beach lovers’ desire to get some sun and sand. Their cerulean, glass-like waters are enticing to swim in to douse summer’s heat. Seeing and touching stingless jellyfish and swimming the azure waters of Sohoton National Park will keep you wanting more.
There is more to Siargao than its 9-shaped waves. Visit this tear-shaped island to discover and to explore its natural wonders.