Islandhopping around Biliran and Diving Malapascua

DCIM100GOPROAfter 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.

Dolf and I enjoying the dip.

Dolf and I enjoying the dip.

Filipinos enjoying their reunification at Tinago Falls.

Filipinos enjoying their reunification at Tinago Falls.

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.

Making our way through the backroads of Biliran.

Making our way through the back-roads of Biliran.

Having lunch together with our tricycle driver.

Having lunch together with our tricycle driver.

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.

View from the top of the island.

View from the top of the island.

Hammocking on Sambawan Island.

Hammocking on Sambawan Island.

Chris and I snorkeling off the coast of Sambawan.

Chris and I snorkeling off the coast of Sambawan.

Greetings from Sambawan.

Greetings from Sambawan.

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.

Another view of Bounty Beach.

Another view of Bounty Beach.

Malapascua - Bounty Beach.

Malapascua – Bounty Beach.

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.

Getting shade on the dive boat.

Getting shade on the dive boat.

Relaxing before our second dive of the day.

Relaxing before our second dive of the day.

Gato Island dive spot.

Gato Island dive spot.

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.

Good night with good people. Thanks to James and Antonio.

Good night with good people. Thanks to James and Antonio.

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.

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Categories: Diving, The Philippines | Tags: , , , , , | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “Islandhopping around Biliran and Diving Malapascua

  1. Very impressive.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Thanks Vicki, not too many spectacular things going on this time but still very enjoyable. Hope you are good as well!

  2. That’s it; I’m signing up for scuba lessons as soon as I can! :-D Do you have any advice on what to look for in a good school?

    That’s a really neat view of Gato Island — did you get to explore around those caves to the left and right of the boat?

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Nerija,

      you should at least try it…scuba diving is very nice. So what you should look for is a generally good setup, you can tell when you walk in the place. Then the equipment should be fairly new. Then just talk to the manager and let him/her explain you everything. You have to feel confident with getting trained by them. If all that comes together, then you have a good shop. Also just ask around for the good places in the area you want to go diving.

      We explored some of those caves under water. It was very nice. What I also about diving is the time spent on the boat. It is usually very relaxing and very social. All in all makes for a nice day out…Loving it.

      • Awesome, thanks! What would you say is reasonable for the course to cost? So far, the ones I’ve researched have been a couple hundred dollars (US); of course I don’t want to take a cheap course if it’s not thorough/safe, but I also don’t want to spend more than is actually reasonable for a course.

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hi Nerija, that is totally understandable. A couple of hundred Dollars would for sure be alright. I would try to go to a place which is renowned for its diving. Usually these places feature heaps of shops which makes it more competitive and hence prices more comparable. In any case, if the price difference is not really great, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It is way more important to get a good and thorough introduction to diving. That will make it easier for you to continue with good confidence. Let me know where and when you will take the course. Interested in hearing about it ;)

      • Thank you!

  3. I did not Mala has good diving spot :D, well am not really into diving so …lol.

    Apo Island and Siargao are known to be the best diving and surfing places in the Philippines.

    Nice shots as usual. I hope the ankle is getting better though.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Arin,

      heard about Apo and Siargao but we had to make decisions since our time is limited. We will do some more diving once in Palawan. Heard that it is supposed to be great over there. Right now we are on Siquijor, the whitches’ island. It is very nice here.

      • You are in Siquijor!!!! I so envy , that was plan this year but time is too short :). Hahaha yes its been know as the witches island, so be careful :)

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Sill here, yes. But only for today. Plan is to leave early tomorrow morning to go to Bohol for a day and then head down to Camiguin. Hope it is gonna work out. Do you know by any chance if there is ferry going directly from Coron in Palawan to Manila. We are trying to find some info on that but haven’t found anything yet …….

  4. Here is what I found: http://www.kokosnuss.info/travelinfo/ships.htm

    SuperFerry is the one that I found have a direct route but only every Sunday.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hmmm, someone told us that this ferry is not running. Not sure, I think we will just call p super ferries to see how things are. Thanks for your help, Mikaela!

      • Superferry will commence it’s operation this coming May 2013 :

        http://www.lakwatsero.com/destinations/coron/

        But yeah, confirming it with the company will be best.

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hi Mikaela, thanks so much for that piece of info. We will go speak to 2go Ferries right now and see if they really will commence that trip by May. That would be perfect for our plans. Thanks again, so great to get help via this blog. If we ever meet up, I will buy a round. Thanks again!

      • No problem, glad to help :)

      • Messaged 2Go Ferries today. They aid they dont have a schedule yet. We will have to wait, if not we will take the detour via Mindoro. Would be longer though…..will keep u updated on what we will do…

  5. Hey Phil,sounds like you had a blast! I loved my first scuba experience! I’ll be headed into Laos in a few days. Any recommendations on where to go? Cheers from Thailand!

    • Philipp Dukatz

      hey wanderer, scubadiving is great but also an expensive hobby. I will do it more once we reach Palawan. Concerning Laos, make sure to go to Luang Prabang for a few days or so. It is a city but it is nice there. You can easily skip Vang Vieng and you should definately go to Muang Ngoi – a little fisherman village by the river Nam Ou. It is beautiful there and the place is going to change soon. Make sure to read my article about it here on the blog. another great place which you should not miss is Don Dhet, 4000 islands. I also posted on that one. Besides that, there is a couple of good motorbike tours. If you are into that, it is a great thing to do. Also some info on those here. If you have more questions, let me know. Enjoy your trip and keep me updated. Would love to hear about it.

      • Scuba diving seems like it would be an expensive hobby to have, but to be fair, once you’re in the water looking at something amazing the price doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Thanks for the tips! I had planned on going to both Luang Prabang and to someplace in the 4,000 islands on my way into Cambodia, but I’ll definitely add Muang Ngoi to the list. Hope you have fun in Palawan!

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hi Susan, you are definitely right about the diving. Hope you will find a good dive shop and will love your first encounters with the underwater life. Definately hit Muang Ngoi … it was a definite highlight whereas other stops could have been skipped. Going into Cambodia from the 4000 islands is easy, calculate some more time than they tel you in Laos though. Things at the border just always take longer …..

      • Hey Phil, I actually went diving for the first time on Koh Phi Phi island in Thailand, but I didn’t get certified. I’ve talked to a few people about Muang Ngoi and they’ve all told me not to miss it as well, so I’m really looking forward to staying there. Thanks for the tip about the border! I’ll definitely make sure to save up a little time before deciding to cross into Cambodia

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Yeah, no worries. If you need any more advice, let me know. Always glad to hep people out. Muang Ngoi is awesome and I am sure you will have a good time there. When exactly will you start your trip and when will you start?

      • I just got to Luang Prabang this afternoon (25th) and am planning on spending about 2-3 weeks in Laos before heading into Cambodia.

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Sound great. I hope you will have a great time in Laos then. Let me know how it was. If you need some more info, just get back at me. Have fun, Philipp

      • Alright..that sounds good….. 2-3 weeks Laos should be fun…

  6. angmaniniyotbo

    I think I saw you guys somewhere in Naval riding a jeepney at a top load. I don’t know if that was you but I’m glad that you guys have explored Biliran. Thanks for coming by.

  7. jarheed

    Hi philipp you have a nice pics from my country..I hope to see some of this kind of photography… Next time you will come to the Philippines i suggest moalboal cebu pescador island, apo iland good for diving…

    • Yes, those places are supposed to have really good dicing. Especially Apo Reef….. Well, it is something for my next visit then ;)

  8. You’ve been to Malapascua Island as well, awesome! It was part of my bucket list ever since I was bitten by the travel bug and even if I was not a diver, I truly enjoyed the serenity of the place. walking inland from one resort to the next, meeting some locals who are used to island life and just simply enjoying the beach – Malapascua’s shape is similar to Boracay but the former is still not commercialized. Thanks for sharing the beauty of the Philippines, Philipp! Cheers to more travels! :)

    • Hi Pie…great that you also had the chance to explore Malapsacua. It is indeed nice there. But for me, it already too much of a touristy appeal… We traveled across LEyte and Samar before where there were no tourists at all. And when we touched down on malapascua it was kind of a culture shock. But yeah still nice and seeing the locals go about their daily live was indeed very cool. The simple life is the best life …

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