After our full dose of tropical relaxation on Biri Island, we wanted to keep going and explore some more of the Philippines’ island life. Crossing Samar into Leyte, our plan was to make it over to Biliran Island. Recommended by friends again, the island is supposed to be non-touristy, very beautiful and more importantly, a good jump-off point to some of the smaller islands around.
Biliran Island – Our scenic base for island hopping
After a long journey we arrived on Biliran and went straight to the coastal town of Naval. We decided to live it up a little and got ourselves a nice room with aircon, tv and sea view. Every once in a while you just have to treat yourself. Being pretty exhausted from the long journey and having plans for the following day, we passed the remainder of the relaxing and walking around town for a bit.
The next day we hired a tricycle driver for the whole day to go around and explore the island. Our first stop was at Tinago Falls, a medium sized waterfall with a beautiful setting. Looking back at our previous travels here in Asia, we are pretty spoiled in terms of waterfalls. Tinago Falls were nice but nothing to get overly excited about. However, the great thing about our visit there was, that we met some local people who were having a sort of reunification. They were all high school classmates and got together for the first time since several years. They had food and drinks with them and were having a good time just messing around in the water. It was great to see and we even got invited for drinks and snacks. I have the impression that the Filipino people still know how to enjoy their lives and live more carefree. It is very interesting to observe, especially when comparing this to the mentalities at home, where lots of people seem to have lost those traits.
Continuing our little journey, we visited another two waterfalls and took a boat-ride along the coast before we stopped in a little village where we invited our driver for lunch. Time passed by quickly and before we realized it, it started to get dark already. A little exhausted we made it back to Naval where Chris and I spontaneously decided to hit the local gym. Travelling long term makes it hard to stay in shape so it felt really good to train again after a long time. We finished the day with some proper post workout nutrition consisting of eggs, chicken and rice. A good end to an even better day.
Exploring Maripipi Island and Sambawan
The next day we got a local ferry to the small island of Maripipi about 2 hours from Biliran. The ferry ride was enjoyable and we were even able to catch up on some sleep. On Maripipi we checked into the only resort on the island. Once again, we were the only guests at the place. We explored the island for a couple hours by hired motorbike drivers, so called habal habal, but soon found out that there is not much to do. Hence, we returned to our resort and enjoyed another tropical sunset having the odd sundowners on the resort’s pier.
During our short island tour we had arranged a boat ride with a local fisherman over to Sambawan Island for the next day. His boat was small and the ride across was a little bit sketchy. We made it over safely though and got off on a white beach consisting of millions and millions of coral pieces. We climbed the islands lookout point and snorkeled around the bay. The rest of the day we relaxed in our hammocks which we had pitched underneath one of the nipa huts there.
Realizing, that the islands don’t have too much offer, we spontaneously decided to head back over to Biliran that same day. We were lucky to find another local fisherman who was willing to give us a ride in his little banka. It’s so great how easy you can arrange transport on the island. Really authentic and always an adventure.
Diving beautiful Malapascua
From Biliran we wanted to head to Malapascua, just North of Cebu. Having some wrong info on ferry connections, we got stranded one night in the port town of St. Isodro. The next day we finally arrived on Malapascua by local ferries and to my surprise ran straight into Annie and Diane from Texas. We had met in Chiang Mai, Thailand and stayed in touch since then. It was great to meet up after such a long time, especially since it was so unexpected.
Malapascua is all about diving with one dive shop beside the other. Diving was also the main reason why we had come there so we went straight to a recommended dive shop to arrange a dive trip for the following day. The plan was to three dives, one in the morning to see the thresher sharks famous for the area and two in the afternoon around Gato Island.
We left very early in the morning at around 4:30 for our first dive. It was Annie, Chris and I and all three of us were still very tired from a night without a whole lot of sleep and maybe one or two beers too many. However, by the time we had to suit up, we were 100% focused again and couldn’t wait to get into the water. We got down to 30 meters and looked for the threshers. There were a lot of divers in the water but thankfully our guide took us a little further off we finally saw a specimen of these great creatures. It was just only shark but seeing him passing by was very impressive.
Dolf and Diane joined for our second boat trip at about 10 o’ clock having booked a snorkeling package. The dives that afternoon around Gato Island were nice but to be honest nothing too special. A lot of Coral and during the second dive sight of a white tip reef shark hiding between two rocks. I had better dives before but getting back into the water with good friends and having a good time on the boat made more than up for it.
Drinking with our new Cebuano friends
That same night we got together with James, who was with it during the dives and who’s father actually owns the dive shop. James had come for a weekend trip with his friend Antonio from Cebu. The two had invited us over to the dive shop for some barbecue chicken and fish. What started out as a relaxed night with good food and a couple of beers soon escalated into a heavy drinking night which was finished at one of the beachfront bars. It was fun night and once again it was great to meet local people, hear about their stories and their lives. And once again, we were welcomed as friends right away and enjoyed the Cebuanos’ hospitality and friendliness.
Last thoughts …
Touring Biliran and hopping the islands around it was fun but after a while a little bit too boring for us. It was still good to see what these places where all about and the best thing was, that we were still far away from the tourist track. Before our departure to Malapascua, we have encountered almost no other Western Tourists for about 3 whole weeks. This would have definitely not been possible in any of the other countries we had traveled before.
Arriving in Malapascua was a reality check with more tourists in 2 hours than we had seen in those weeks before. With the good company we had, coping with this change was not too difficult though. In terms of diving we had expected more of Malapascua but being a diver, you deal with nature and you can’t really influence it. So no bad feelings about it. Our next dives will probably be taken in Palawan.