Monday, June 3

unwinding on the camotes islands

to wrap up our surigao-cebu adventure, we decided we'd celebrate our whole trip with a vacation from our vacation! so after 3 days of birding, we packed up our binoculars, scope and long lens and headed back to the beach!

this time we picked the camotes islands between the islands of cebu and leyte. it was another early start for us as we left for the cebu north bus terminal. we were able to catch the next bus to danao city. danao is between cebu city and carmen, where we had birded the day before.  when we arrived, we were an hour early for the jomalia ferry that would take us to the island of pacijan, one of four islands of the camotes. on the ferry, we chose to sit outside on the deck and enjoy the ocean breeze and blinding blues of sea and sky. it was a short 2 hour trip, the ferry was full of tourists making the most of the summer sun.

boarding the jomalia ferry at the port of danao

our ferry docked at the rocky shore of the small pier and we were picked up by the shuttle of our resort: the mangodlong paradise beach resort. the resort was in san francisco, a short 15 minute ride away.

welcome to camotes islands! the pier at consuelo on pacijan

when we got there we were pleased with what we saw: the resort was perfect for lazing around!  we had a comfortable air conditioned cabana with a terrace looking out into the gardens. there was an infinity swimming pool and the restaurant served decent food.  the beach was man made, but it sufficed. the turquoise blue waters sparkled under the blue summer sky.  it was a good thing though we arrived before the weekend hordes did, there were hardly any people around and the staff of the resort lost some of its efficiency when they became fully booked on our last day.

the comforts of staying at a resort

the view from our room

a view of the mangodlong rock formation

our first afternoon consisted of just hanging out at the restaurant and the pool. with our binoculars stowed away, the only birds we saw were the asian glossy starlings busy building nests, the olive backed sunbirds driking nectar from the coconut blossoms and swallows mobbing an overstaying brown shrike on the beach. the resort faced a popular island destination, the mangodlong rock, and it made a pretty picture at sunset. 

the noisy glossy starling busy making nests 

a pink orange sunset

Relaxation. with a captial R

we were happy doing nothing, but practicality got the better of us.  how could we not do the island tour at least? so on our second afternoon (we must have slept the morning away!) we hired the powercab to take us around to see the sights of pacijan island. our driver was manong badong, referred to us by the resort staff.  we had the powercab all to ourselves.

camotes is supposedly named by the spaniards. when they landed on the islands, they asked some locals what the name of the place was.  the locals thought they were being asked what they were harvesting and so they said "camote!"  

well, i didn't see too many sweet potato fields, but there was sure a lot of kamoteng kahoy (cassava)!

no kamote but lots of kamoteng kahoy!

before anything else, of course we had to stop to grab a liter of gasoline.  as with other islands in the philippines, all that is needed to get someone to pour a softdrink bottle filled with red fluid down the gas tank is a double tap on the cab horn.

gassing up by the roadside

strangely, the camotes has the largest inland lake in the visayas, lake danao.  the lake is shaped like the number 8 when seen from the air.  there was a small park where one can view the lake, take a short hike on its banks, or if you are up to it, take a paddle boat or kayak. it was a bit touristy, but a popular landmark worth a short visit.

a pleasant, but short, walk by the lake side

we had a thin, fried, crispy, crepe-like snack made from cassava flour and drizzled with cocojam. yum! while eating i asked the locals if there were any wild ducks on the lake. i got a shake of a head and a look of puzzlement in reply. hmmm... must pick up on my cebuano maybe. but i guess there must be at least egrets since the sign at the park, as well as many of the paddleboats, were decorated them.

crispy! i want more of this!

paddleboats on the lake

manong badong then drove us to the esperanza beach.  the long beach was almost deserted, save for a family on a picnic. the water was clear and deliciously cool in the warm afternoon. at this point on our trip we were already burned as brown as can be, so we didn't mind lounging in the water in the mid-afternoon sun.

esperanza beach

while we were swimming 4 local boys on a scooter came, did some acrobatics in the sand, swam for a few minutes and then hopped on their scooter again and left. while we were on the beach, our driver snoozed on a hummock strung from a talisay tree. ah, idyllic island living!

idylls under a talisay tree

our third destination was timubo cave. not really being cave enthusiasts, we thought it would be just a routine stop. but it turned out to be a very charming attraction.

the entrance to timubo cave

when we got to the entrance, we were warned that there were already many people in the cave, so we might have a little trouble breathing. but since there were just 2 of us, the girl collecting the entrance fees told us to go ahead. the cave was already well lit with electric lights, and a concrete pathway was easy to follow down. at the bottom of the cave was a very clear swimming hole!  the water was cool but not cold, and despite the many people swimming already, we could not resist a short dip. it would probably be fantastic if it weren't the peak of tourist season.

lighted all the way

clear and cool waters: if only there weren't so many people!

the fourth stop was the baywalk.  it was already late afternoon and adri and i were getting a bit hungry.  of course by the baywalk there were many food stalls. we wanted to eat a proper dinner at the resort, so we decided on a few sticks of sweet isaw and bbq.  which wasn't enough so we split puso of rice and a bottle of coke!

at the baywalk

mangroves lining the bay

sweet isaw, bbq and rice: stomachs of steel only please

we took a peek at the nearby agora market, and saw our favorite fish for inihaw!  we weren't sure though if the resort staff would cook it for us, so we sadly had to leave the fish un-bought.

the agora market place

no inihaw na suwahan for us today :(

we were just in time for sunset at our last stop: santiago beach, the most popular beach on pacijan.  the long strip of white sand beach was lined with resorts and restaurants, but the beach was so wide that the establishments didn't really interrupt the views of the expanse of sand.

sunset and low tide at santiago beach

it's a (beach) dog's life

it was really, really low tide and the beach was not suitable for swimming anymore.  we did enjoy some beach combing on the sea grass beds, finding starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs,tiny fish and assorted mollusks.  the sand had pretty patterns made by birds and assorted inter-tidal invertebrates.

rhinoceros starfish
patterns in the sand
sea grass beds at low tide

the rest of our stay was marked with doing nothing! it was a perfect way to end our vacation: relaxing under the summer sun with our feet up, the gentle  sound of the surf lulling us to sleep. maybe all birding trips should start and end with a visit to the beach!

on our way back to danao, a huge pod of dolphins swam beside our ferry, to the delight of all the passengers on board.  what a wonderful conclusion to our island adventures!


  1. Perfect vacation! Doing nothing at all! In a beach pa! =)

    1. yes, i realised that its been a while since i've actually been "on vacation"!

      haha. now, back to the birds!