Island Hopping from Mactan to Pandanon-A A +A
Sunday, August 19, 2012
THERE's more fun in the Philippines, so says the Department of Tourism. More likely, if you do island hopping. The Philippines is home to 7,107 islands strewn across 2,200,000 square kilometers of ocean.
Recently, I had the opportunity of island hopping from Mactan Island in Cebu up to Pandanon Island of Bohol. That’s almost about two hours by boat – but more than that if the weather is not cooperating.
There may be several ways of skinning a cat, but there’s only one way of going from one island to another – and that’s through motorized boats. If there are only 15 persons or less, you can rent a butete (named after a puffer fish). For a group with 25 people, bariles (from species of tuna) can be rented. But for a bigger group from 30 to 35, butanding (local for whale shark) is the best.
Although there were only 10 of us, Wilfredo A. Rodolfo III, yes, the man who planned the trip chose the butanding for the group. "So that we can really enjoy and have fun together as a group," he said.
Our first stopover was Olango Island, which has a total land area of about 1,030 hectares. Wilfredo and four others did some snorkeling. "There are so many fish," he reported.
He was telling the truth. After all, the reef flat-lagoon surrounding the island is considered one of the most extensive reef areas in the Central Visayas. Rocky shoreline, inshore flats, seagrass beds, coral reefs, mangrove forest, mudflats, and salt marsh grass surround Olango and its satellite islets.
It was almost lunch time when we started to travel again. "We are going to Pandanon Island,” Wilfredo said. Yes, it was named after “pandan” (scientific name: Pandanus amaryllifoliusa), which is especially used for dessert flavoring.
According to locals, people still didn’t know how the plant found its way to the island. “Maybe someone came here and planted it,” he said. Although it is abundant in Asia and the Pacific region, experts say the plant is rare in the wild.
Pandanon Island sits in the middle of a vast blue Camotes Sea. Located on the northern part of Bohol, it is under the jurisdiction of Getafe. “Wow, we have visited Bohol without knowing it,” radio journalist Allan Abais said.
In the past, Pandanon Island was a secret getaway, a hidden paradise. In recent years, the island gained popularity. People started to come to the place and settled. Currently, about 2,000 people are occupying the island. Aside from tourism, major sources of livelihood are fishing and selling accessories from shells to people who visit the area.
Recently, the island was opened to the public. The entrance fee is P150 but if you go in groups you can get a discounted price of P100 per person. Cottages made of natural cogon grass can be occupied by a group at P250 each.
There are five unfinished concrete cottages which guests can placed their towel and cover themselves from the scorching heat of the sun. Not far from it is a lone cottage standing in the midst of water. You have to swim to get to the cottage (although during low tide, you can just walk and go there).
But if the cottages are already full, the group can always bond together under the shade of talisay trees. When we were there, a group of foreigners – mostly Koreans – formed a circle under the talisay tree while being entertained by locals with songs and dancing.
For sport enthusiasts, playing beach volleyball, skimboarding and Frisbee are among the activities that can be done. But mere walking along the beach with the ripples of the sea on your feet is worth every peso you have paid for the entrance.
When doing snorkeling, however, there is nothing much to be see but people who did reported of “the beauty of sea creatures in the shallow waters, visible without the aid of goggles. There are starfishes of different kinds, colors and shapes, sea urchins and sea shells.”
There is a ruined building that stands in the middle of the island. As it looks like a church, it can be used for wedding events and some important occasions. According to locals, they can prepare the barbeque and fruits at world-class style.
When going to the place, be sure to bring your own food, water, towels, and other amenities. The resort has no overnight facilities though although campouts or home stay arrangements are possible.
Getting to this peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful place where raw beauty of nature is at its best is not a difficult task. Rent motorized boats from any point in Mactan – from the north end port of Punta Engaño beside the Hilton to any of the beach resorts in Maribago, Agus or Marigondon. Weekend prices start at about P3,500 for a 30-person sized boat to about P5,000 if you don’t haggle. Discounts or premiums are common depending on season and boat size.
We left Pandanon Island at 2:30 p.m. and arrived at Mactan almost two hours later – as we paved our way to the huge waves. But the waves were not exactly that terrifying compared to those which I had experienced while going to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia a month ago beside the Hilton.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 20, 2012.