Asia, Balicasag Island, Bohol, Film & Photography, The Philippines, Travel

Living the Dream in Balicasag Island, Philippines

Balicasag Island is a small island located approximately 30 minutes by boat from Panglao. There are countless snorkelling or scuba diving trips offered to go from Panglao to Balicasag for the day. The snorkelling we did there was some of the best, but one day on the island most definitely isn’t enough.

This Toast City Productions video of our time there gives you a good idea why you shouldn’t hesitate to stay overnight (or several nights!)

Getting There

We booked a one way ticket to Balicasag Island from Panglao. We arranged for somebody to pick us up at our accommodation in Panglao (D’Backpackers Barn) at 6am, and set off on the boat shortly after. This cost us 300php per person. It was actually the first price we were given, so you could maybe haggle it down for less. Day trips to the island are considerably more, but set off at around the same time.

The magic of our trip there started on the boat ride over. First we saw a dolphin in the distance. Then we saw another. Before I knew it, there was a whole school of dolphins swimming and diving out of the water right by our boat! I’ve never seen anything like it and very nearly squeezed out a little tear! (Of course, I stopped myself because… No-one wants to be that person!)

Where To Stay

After we arrived, everyone from our boat, plus most people from the other boats were all shuffled along into a little cafe for breakfast. As we were not part of a day tour, we were left to make our way to our accommodation (the only place to stay on the island), Balicasag Island Dive Resort.

The island is small so, even though we were dropped off on the opposite side of the island to our resort, it took us 10-15 mins to walk across the island to it.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the accommodation as quite a few of the reviews I’d read online weren’t fantastic. Now, bear in mind that this place is affordable, and not one of those super extravagant private island resorts. Even though it’s the only resort on the island, it cost us £47 to stay for the night – and it was so worth it!

The view from our bungalow.
The view from our bungalow.

What To Do On Balicasag Island

Snorkelling and Scuba Diving

It’s no wonder this place is so popular for snorkelling / diving. After we’d checked in to our bungalow, we almost immediately went snorkelling. Within 5 minutes of being in the water, not only did we see hundreds of fish, but we also saw a sea turtle swimming about! That was my day complete… Before 9am and I’d already seen a school of dolphins and a sea turtle swimming in the wild. Life complete.

Most of the day trips leave to go to Panglao around lunch time, which meant the second time we snorkelled that day there were a lot less people (although, it never felt too crowded). We spent a good while snorkelling about as there is so much to see. Then we saw another sea turtle!

This place isn’t like Apo Island where it’s nearly guaranteed that you’ll see a sea turtle, but there is definitely a good chance (and we felt super lucky to have seen two!)

We only snorkelled here so I can’t comment on what the diving is like but, judging by the dive trips offered, I imagine it’s equally as beautiful.

Boat on Balicasag Island
Boat on Balicasag Island (after all the others had left)

What else is there to do?

While most people will visit this island to snorkel or dive and then leave, we felt that it was pretty special in the afternoon. We took a walk around the island and through the village. The locals were so friendly and all the kids were very interested in Harry’s big camera! If you go only for the day / half day, I don’t think you’d be able to really take in the island itself; just the fish surrounding it.

Cheeky Children
Cheeky Children

As we were nearing the end of our walk, someone told us that a giant turtle had been found ashore. Not entirely sure why, we went over to have a look. This turtle was huge and the people that worked at the dive resort reckoned it could have been over 100 years old. Unfortunately it was injured, possibly bitten by a shark further out, and was more than likely going to die. Seeing such an amazing creature in pain was hard, but it was lovely to see how caring all the staff were. They cleaned its wounds as best they could and tried their hardest to make sure it wasn’t in too much pain.

Poor Turtle
Poor Turtle

Of course, as there is only one resort on the island, places to eat are limited. The food at the resort was nothing special, but tasty enough. And as the island is so small, the resorts electricity was run by a generator. Supposedly between 6pm and 9am, but we found this to be very temperamental (but it all added to the experience!). We definitely found other ways to amuse ourselves without electricity!

Long Exposure Time
Lights Out Means Long Exposure Time

The beach around the island is also beautiful, and because the place is so quiet it’s the perfect place to relax. We stayed only one night at the resort and wished we could have stayed longer, I feel like a morning snorkelling around the island just wouldn’t have done the place justice.

Red Sky at Night...
Red Sky at Night…

Leaving The Island

Of course, if you have booked a day trip then the price will include your return trip back to Panglao. As we had just booked a single trip on the way there, we found getting back a little bit harder. Ideally, I think we should have asked one of the people operating the day tours to take us back the next day as this option would probably have been the most cost effective.

However, we hadn’t done this and we were left to book a trip back provided by the resort. At 2000php, it was a slightly more expensive option, but actually it couldn’t have been faulted. The boat picked the two of us up bang on 12 o’clock (the time we’d asked to be collected) and dropped us off at a pier in Panglao. I’m not actually sure which pier this one was, it seemed to be more of a local pier rather than the one on Alona Beach. From here, a van driver was waiting for us and he drove us to Tagbilaran Port. We left Balicasag Island at 12, and made it to the port in time to buy boat tickets to Cebu and catch the boat leaving at 2pm. Whoever said transport is unreliable in the Philippines was proved wrong in this case!

If you find yourself in Bohol, I would most definitely recommend that you make your way over to Balicasag Island for a couple of nights. The island is beautiful, the snorkelling is amazing and the people there are friendly. We couldn’t have asked for much more.

Do you have a trip to Bohol coming up? Will you go to Balicasag Island? Or have you already been? Leave your comments below! And don’t forget to check out my blog on our trip to Bohol here.

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Emma

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