Free Diving in Sambawan Island, Maripipi, Biliran

*This was originally posted at theawkwardtraveler.com.

Sambawan was beautiful and I hope it will remain that way. It reminded me, as well as a couple of other people, of Islas de Gigantes, only there was more fish here. According to the people who had been here before, it is more developed now than it was a year ago. On their map posted on the beach, it looked like the management still has more plans for the island.

The first picture of the island I took when we set foot on it. Pardon the not-so-straight. Unsteady hands I suppose.
The first picture of the island I took when we set foot on it. Pardon the not-so-straight horizon. Unsteady hands I suppose.

After lunch, I went up the nearest hill together with my friend Jao. It was the hill where they recently built a staircase on the side so people would have an easier time going up. There was also a cottage or a watchtower built on top of it. There were also huge rocks placed on this part of the hill and, guess what, they’re vandalized.

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Come on! Do you think it’s funny to scratch “LAMOK” on that rock? Whoever you are, Mr. or Ms. Vandal!

Anyway, when we got down, I tried snorkeling around. The sea was teeming with wildlife even at the shallower part. The waves scared me though so I didn’t get too far.

Jao and the rest of the free divers in the group went out for their first-day diving. I could only tell you second-hand stories because I never got to see what they saw. Coward me! I’m still a work in progress.

And here’s what they saw (video courtesy of Jao):

I have some underwater pictures from Jao. I don’t know which shots were taken on which spot so I’ll give you a couple of pictures at a time. Drool at your own risk.

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Images courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Images courtesy of Jao.

Around 5pm, we went up the other hills to see the sunset. I climbed up the steeper hill by myself but did not find a good view there. While on the way back, however, I found a nice spot where the sunset was in its full glory.

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After stuffing ourselves during dinner, we spent the night on the beach trying to figure out if it was the Milky Way we were looking at or not.

I was too excited about the sunrise the next day, but as luck would have it, the part of the sky where the sun was coming out was mostly covered with clouds so this was the best I could do.

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Later in the morning, the free divers and some more people in the group went out to the sea again. They explored the other side this time.

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Images courtesy of Jao.

They said the corals were prettier and the fishes were bigger on this side of the island. Their words, not mine.

The rest of the day was gloomy and it even rained briefly, but that didn’t stop the divers and the snorkelers from stepping into the water again.

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Images courtesy of Jao.

And a few more really nice pictures from Jao.

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Images courtesy of Jao

 

The sunrise on our last day did not disappoint. Jao has a time-lapse shot of that sunrise which is breathtaking and you can see it as the first part of his video.

Jao then went out to the water by himself first and found a pair of Nemos, which amused everyone.

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Then the rest of the diving guys went back to the water one last time to see more.

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Images courtesy of Jao.

It was an amazing experience. My only frustration was not being able to see what was underwater, but other than that, I enjoyed the shallow waters, as well as the calm and the peace I had while on the island for three days. Yep, Globe had a fairly strong signal in Sambawan, but electricity was not 24/7 so I got a chance to unplug.

How we got to and out of Sambawan:

We took a Roble Shipping ferry from Cebu to Ormoc. A tourist class ticket was at P520 (preferred accommodation) and an economy ticket, which was what Jao and I had after they ran out of tourist class tickets, was at P410.

Ferries from Cebu to Naval do not operate daily so we had to take the ferry going to Ormoc.

We then took a passenger van from Ormoc to Naval for P130 and a multi-cab from Naval to Kawayan where the pumpboats going to Sambawan were docked. At this point, I no longer had any idea how much was paid for what because these were all included in the P2000/person budget we paid for this event.

Cabanas are available but guests, such as half of us in the group, are free to set up their tents.

Going back, we took the same boat to the Kawayan port and the same multi-cab to Naval. Ferries going directly from Naval to Cebu are available on Sundays so we took that. Departure was scheduled at 8pm (I slept before 8pm so I didn’t know the exact time the ship left) and we arrived in Cebu around 7am.

A few things to keep in mind when going to Sambawan:

– Electricity is only available at night. Bring powerbanks or just simply accept this fact.
– Our group of 21 was only allotted 400 liters of fresh water per day. Any excess will be charged P1 per liter. I think this is true for any other group. But just to make sure, ask the management about the water situation.
– They also sell fresh water at P25 per container which can be used for showering and, for those people who don’t have a sensitive digestive system like me, drinking.
– There is a store on the island which sells basic goods. They don’t sell booze and cigarettes so bring your own, or better yet, stop!
– Parties and bonfires are not allowed on the island.
– My companions who had Smart and Sun numbers were having troubles with their phone signals. But, as I mentioned above, those with Globe had better reception. Do I hear some Globe endorsements?

 

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