Siquijor; A Filipino Jewel
In the Philippines, Siquijor is known as a “witch doctor” islands and apparently, many Filipinos are put off coming here as they are a little scared! Disappointingly, we didn’t run into any witch doctors of any kind.
So, our travels……
A Trike to Siquijor
We left Pescadores Sea Suites on the side of a trike to the centre of town. There we waited for a bus, being entertained by a couple of kids singing karaoke nearby (the Filipinos love to sing!). A hopeful local offered to take us to our next destination a few times, but at 6 times more expensive we had to decline. A public bus came along to our destination of Bato. Greg didn’t like the look of it, so we didn’t get on. I have no idea why!
A Bus to Siquijor
Another public bus came along. Greg preferred this one. Again, no idea why! Must have been because it was standing room only. On we squeezed. Filipinos are generally a lot smaller than us Brits, so the aisle didn’t really fit us in. We ended up with our butts in some poor faces and I dread to think what else. Luckily 30 minutes down the road and most of the passengers piled out, so we got a seat.
A Ferry to Siquijor
Next up came the ferry from Bato to Dumuguete on Negros Island. The bus conductor told us to get out and pointed at a ferry so off we went, half running with our back packs. The ferry took around 30 minutes and was perfectly fine.
A Jeepney to Siquijor
At the other end, we jumped on a jeepney to the port. Our first experience of a jeepney was pretty cool. The ceiling is low (for the shorter Filipino population) so every time the jeepney stopped Greg whacked his forehead on the handle bars (much merriment for me!). Other passengers seemed to find us a bit of an attraction, particularly the head butting I suspect. The jeepney driver was so, so good to us, going off his route and telling his passengers to wait a little longer to take us to the dock. What a lovely fella.
Another Ferry to Siquijor!
So, next up another ferry to Siquijor. We were taken to a ticket booth for a ferry in 4 hours’ time. Apparently, all the earlier ferries had sold out. This is a tip for others – book in advance otherwise you queue for an hour then wait for ages for the next ferry.
We set off on the hour-long Ocean Jet ferry to Siquijor. The crossing was fine, I took seasick tablets and closed my eyes listening to podcasts. I’ve become addicted to financial independence podcasts, but sure I’ll bore you about those sometime in the (near) future.
Arrival in Siquijor
Upon arrival at the jetty, we were met by the lovely Bong from Garden Bungalows. We have booked there but unfortunately, we changed our booking and they didn’t have a room so we are somewhere else tonight that Bong has arranged. The Ei Hotel as a substitute is ok, a room with a bathroom and a bed. Clean, but included a spider that Greg felt compelled to eradicate. Underneath is a restaurant that was good enough for dinner.
We headed out to suss out the place. First heading to the jetty looking at the sunset, followed by a couple of nice cold beers in Big Belly. We found the foreign card accepting ATM (the Philippines is very cash focused) and took out our cash for the week. Greg had to remove his sunglasses in case he was a bank robber in disguise.
Dinner and then bed. We are looking forward to Garden Bungalows tomorrow.
Bong was back in the morning to take us to our new home.
Garden Bungalows; A Siquijor Oasis
What an oasis Garden Bungalows is. Bong collected us in his air-conditioned car and we arrived to be greeted with a welcome juice and a hello from the Swiss / Filipina owners.
The situation is beautiful, the room is beautiful. Greg and I love this place. The pool is inviting, the gardens are beautifully maintained and Bong is the most helpful person you could ever meet.
We spent one night being surrounded by fire flies which really did feel special.
Siquijor is a small island with a well-maintained highway going around the coast. I think that if you didn’t stop you would be able to navigate around in half a day. Off the highway are less well maintained tracks taking you to the places that you may like to visit.
Greg and I decided that we would split the island into 4 sections; the East, including Salagdoong beach; the West, including the main resort of San Juan; the middle, including Mount Bandilaan National Park and the North, including Siquijor town. This is as well as making diving trip out to nearby Apo Island.
Day 1, we headed off on the scooter to the most developed part of Siquijor. The track to Garden Bungalows is unsealed and very bumpy. The highlight though is passing by a little karaoke shack that is filled by middle aged men pumping out 80s tunes. Greg and I joined in every day on our way past.
We wanted to explore the nearby famous Paliton beach, which was also down a rugged track. The beach wasn’t quite as pretty as we imagined, but it was still lovely. The beach is renowned for a beautiful sunset. So, we joined a few Spaniards who seemed to be being hassled by a local drunk. Just as the sun began to set and we are feeling all romantic the aforementioned drunk decided to take a wee in the sea right in front of the sunset. Mmmmm, nice way to spoil the romance!
We then discovered that we were on the wrong beach anyway, lols. The actual beach was a couple minutes walk away. This beach was prettier and busier, and lacking a weeing drunk!
A little cute puppy found us so Greg played with her for a long time. Her teeth were like razors though so Greg has been a tad damaged.
Dinner in the West
We ate four times in the West, and all of them were fabulous restaurants. Our first meal was at Dagsa Restaurant (near Coral Cay Resort), which had a very cool, reggae vibe and lovely food.
Our second was at Baha Bar (near Coco Grove Beach Resort), which has an allotment for all its vegetables, special nights, like hog roast (poor pigster!) and a balcony to watch the sunset. Fabulous mango quesadilla for me, beef rendang for Greg.
Third up was the Salamandas restaurant at Coco Grove Beach Resort. The food was lovely but it was a tad difficult to get in, with us not being guests. It was as if they thought that we would steal the silver. We had to give over a deposit before being allowed to enter the grounds and then were escorted everywhere. It was bonkers. I had to force myself not to go off script by leaping into the “residents only” swimming pool screaming “freedom”. Gorgeous resort though if you have the budget.
Last but definitively not least was U-Story. This is a French / Filipino owned small bungalow resort with beautiful views over the sea and stunning food. We would recommend staying here as it had everything going for it.
Our allocated East day arrived and off we went to tour. This area is underdeveloped verses San Juan and doesn’t have a wealth of restaurants or bars, just local stores. On the way, we came across lots of sights, including a bunch of guys causing a traffic jam whilst transporting a large wicker basket on the road. They thought it was funny that we wanted to photograph them but obliged and told us it was for fishing. That would be some fish, I hope the dolphins know to avoid it!
Our primary stop was Salagdoong Beach. This is a government built resort that used to have a water park but it isn’t maintained. There is a restaurant (don’t recommend), a couple of nice beaches and some cliffs for you to jump off or use a slide to come into the sea.
We bumped into a couple of Garden Bungalow guests, Rose & Brian. Greg acted as videographer and photographer whilst Rose bravely jumped off the cliff. Brian didn’t fancy it. The jump just wasn’t high enough for Greg and I after our Kawasan experience. We’re just too hard core!
The largest towns in Siquijor are found in the North: Siquijor Town and Larena. Both towns have ferry services to and from Dumaguete (Cebu). To be honest though, neither of them warrant much of a visit. They don’t have the beauty that the rest of the island does.
We chose to stop at a few marine reserves along the North coast, which were pretty but the tide was out so it would have taken quite a walk to snorkel. Lots of funny crabs to watch though. Unfortunately, we chose to do this on a Sunday, which appears to be the appointed day for cock fighting. There was a stadium nearby and that was all I could hear, so I persuaded Greg to head back rather than deal with a Michelle meltdown.
The North, as with the East, doesn’t have lots of restaurants or bars so I wouldn’t recommend staying here. It does though have a great little look out, Triad Coffee Shop, just outside of Larena. This place give you a lovely view across Siquijor, particularly at sunset.
We set off along the highway that splits Siquijor in half. Our first stop is Mount Bandilaan National Park. As usual with Greg and I we had no idea when we found it, but happen across it we did. We managed to get a 360 degree view of the island. This isn’t always the case as it depends when the government decides to top off the surrounding trees. It was pretty enough.
There is also a Butterfly Sanctuary nearby if you fancy that. Unfortunately, on the way to our next stop we saw a dead puppy, with what looked like it’s Mom standing guard. Two minutes later Greg had to stop the scooter so that I could have a good old sob. Animal welfare needs more help, and I am convinced that I need to play a part.
So, more cheery things. We stopped off at Cambugahy Falls. To be honest, we were underwhelmed. There were loads of people, it was dirty and wasn’t that appealing, so we left.
On route, we happened across a sign for Kawasan Falls. As we had visited its namesake in Cebu we decided to give it a try. It was so random. Handmade signs everywhere and we had to drive through farmland and farms, dodging chickens and children to get there. When we arrived, a guy said he had to guide us. We thought that he was scamming us, but thought what the hell. Turns out we never would have found it without him. It was so much fun. Cold, clear water. A local family, whose kids wanted to show us their tricks. Super nice experience. It felt more natural and authentic.
There are two other sights along this road. The old church of San Isidro where you can have a fish pedicure, and the century old Banyan tree.
Our next dive adventure was to Apo Island. We booked through Coco Grove, who have a tour most days. I think we were ripped off a little as we had to pay the same price as the snorkelers plus the full dive costs, but……..
The boat journey there was nice with a couple schools of dolphins joining us on our journey. I wasn’t too keen on the Divemaster, he seemed a little too laisez-faire for my liking. He turned out fine, but my nerves were jangling at the beginning. His pinpoint accuracy back to the boat was impressive I must say.
We had two great dives. We saw some turtles, very beautiful coral and many fish. The sea here is a little cooler so we were in full wetsuits. The titan triggerfish seemed to have a big dislike for our Divemaster as he was chased by three of them on one dive!! When we were back out of the boat, he told us that the day before a diver had a chunk taken out of their head by a titan triggerfish – eww!
The lunch was fabulous with vegetarians being catered for. All on a tiny beach resort, Apo Island Beach Resort, which is a sister resort to Coco Grove. I would have liked to stay here for a couple days, so heavenly. Greg and I spent an hour on the beach hammocks feeling lucky.
The scooter experience was so funny. Greg and I really got to see places that we wouldn’t have got to and meet more locals along the way. We were waved to by so many people, particularly children. Found little back roads to see village life and generally found it a fun and easy experience.
We’d definitely recommend this if you ever find yourself on this beautiful island.
Have you been to Siquijor? Anything to add to this blog, please do below…….