Nowadays, when one mentions Siargao, one thinks of the world-famous thick hollow tubes of Cloud 9, the Philippines’s best surfing spot. That’s all true, but Siargao offers more, much more, and this we found out during a media familiarization tour. A direct, 80-minute flight from Manila, via a Skyjet Airlines 80-seater, 4-engine British Aerospace 146-100 jet, brought us to Sayak Airport where we were welcomed by our host, the youthful and dynamic Del Camen town Mayor Alfredo M. Coro II. We were all billeted at the nearby Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast and, after a late breakfast and news conference with Coro, we boarded two vans for a tour, with Roxan Gesto as our guide, of what Siargao has to offer.
We first made a stopover at Port Pilar where the annual International Sportsfishing Cup—staged at end of April or the beginning of May—is held. The waters to the east of the island offer excellent sport fishing (sailfish, marlin, yellow-fin tuna, wahoo, dorado, etc.), depending on the time of year.
We next motored to the nearby Magpupungko Tidal Pool & Lagoon, on a cove facing the Pacific Ocean. It’s surrounded by limestone and granite formations, the most prominent of which is the iconic Magpupungko Rock. As we arrived during low tide, the limestone lagoon was pockmarked with crystal-clear swimming pools of assorted shapes and sizes where we could take a dip.
After lunch at Krokodeilos in Del Carmen, we visited the adjacent Mangrove Protection & Information Center, which was opened on November 15, 2014. Out of 54 mangrove species worldwide, 44 can be found in Del Carmen. In terms of mangrove forest, Del Camen has 4,000 hectares, out of 8,600 hectares total in Siargao, of contiguous mangrove that’s home to the Crocodylus porosus, the largest of all living saltwater crocodiles. The mangrove is the largest in the Philippines.
From the center, we again boarded outrigger boats for the 40-minute trip to the 87-hectare Sugbo Lagoon with Caub Island, passing lush mangrove forests along the way. The captivating lagoon is surrounded by large limestone hills covered with lush vegetation. The lagoon has a two-story building, with a view deck, built by the local government unit to cater to visitors. Here, I had my first try at stand up paddle boarding as I explored the turquoise waters of the lagoon’s perimeter. Back at General Luna, we joined sponsors and participants of the Siargao International Marathon, a project of Coro to spearhead a mangrove-rehabilitation program, for dinner at Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas’s private resort at Ocean Ridge.
The next day, after breakfast, we boarded our respective vans, now with Siargao Tourism Coordinator Donna Grace Estrella as our guide, as we were scheduled to go island-hopping at General Luna. When we arrived at the port, we had to wade the shallow water, as it was low tide, to get to our two motorized outrigger boats moored some distance away.
Once onboard, we proceeded on our 25-minute boat ride to our first destination: Naked Island. Like Camiguin’s White Island, this fairly short stopover is a pure expanse of white sand surrounded by deeper crystal-clear lagoon, with no trees or vegetation. Still, its calm waters make it an excellent spot for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.
Our longest stopover, for a boodle lunch of grilled specialties, was made at Dako Island (“dako” is Visayan for “big”). The biggest of the three we were to visit, it has a small village, a long strip of white beach, a green backdrop and aquamarine waters.
After lunch and some snorkeling, a short 15-minute boat ride brought us to our last island—the beautiful, uninhabited tear-drop shaped Guyam Island (“guyam” means “little”). It, too, has a powdery white-sand beach and a little cluster of palms.
Back at the mainland, it was now time to visit the popular Cloud 9 wooden boardwalk which allows surfers to get out to those dramatic and powerful waves, barreling up to 9 feet high, which made Siargao as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines”.
At its three-level viewing deck, we enjoyed watching surfers as they tackled the big waves of this famous surf break. The cancellation of our flight the next day, due to bad weather in the morning, allowed us to circumnavigate the island in the afternoon. Driving along the 162-kilometer circumferential road, we admired some of the coastal scenery and made a stopover at the white-sand Alegria Beach in Santa Monica town.
1 The Cloud 9 Boardwalk
2 Picnic huts at Dako Island
3 A Tidal pool at Magpupungko Lagoon
4 The Magpupungko Rock
5 The beautiful and uninhabited Guyam Island