Balicasag Island Bohol is a place that is easy to love and hate all at the same time. Do I think it is overrated? Yes, at times. Would I go back? Yes, definitely… See why…
Balicasag Island Bohol
After Dolphin Watching at Pamilican, our next stop was Balicasag island. I was very excited because I had heard and read so many good things about this particular island. I even position myself in front of the boat and had my trigger-happy finger ready on my camera.
After seeing so many dolphins up close at Pamilican I was hoping to see dolphins following our boat. I even had a few crazy thought of dolphins saving me if I fell into the water (lol). But it was not to be… Gary motioned for me to return to my seat in the safe area where everyone else was but I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and the waves skimming under my feet as I dangled them overboard, so i stayed in front of the boat till we reached the island.
Discover Balicasag Island Bohol
Snorkeling and Swimming
Don’t worry if you are not into diving, you can still enjoy the rich marine life that Balicasag island has to offer by snorkeling. Swimming and snorkeling are the best ways to truly enjoy the beautiful island. Amazing vibrant coral is found in reasonably shallow waters with a diverse array of fish making it their home.
You can bring your own snorkeling gear or rent from the boatmen. The equipment rental usually costs P150.
Now for a negative….
When we were there it was obvious the coral and surrounding environment was being mistreated and abused… And not only by tourists but by the vary locals that rely on the island for there livelihood.
You have to pay an environmental fee and it is also mandatory to have a guide when diving or snorkeling. When we went out snorkeling, the very guide that should be taking care of the environment was walking all over the coral showing no respect. When snorkeling it was easy to see the damage this has caused to the coral. This is such a beautiful part of the world… We need to look after it!
Note: Aside from the boat rental payment, each tourist is required to pay a P50.00 environmental fee and P150.00 for the Balicasag tour guide.
Balicasag Island Diving Sites
1. Black Forest is probably the most popular dive point. It is a steep slope that extends to about 40 meters deeps. It is called black forest because of the beautiful black coral that is abundant in the area. You can also encounter school of jacks, barracudas, eels, and many other colorful species of fish, coral, and plants.
2. Diver’s Haven is another great diving point in Balicasag that highlights different species of fish and marine life.
3. Turtle Point, as the name suggests, is where you can have close encounters with sea turtles. It also has caves that run 60 to 75 meters deep
4. Balicasag Marine Sanctuary features a wall dive that runs over 200 meters deep. You can see coral and plants protruding from walls. You can also encounter schools of jackfish in this area, as well as other vibrant species of fish and marine life.
5. Cathedral Wall features plenty of cracks that make it an interesting dive. You need a torch light to see though the crevices and witness amazing reef fish, coral, and sponges. Other interesting sights in this dive spot are schools of jacks and the light of the sun reflecting magnificently inside the cathedral wall.
6. The Royal Garden is also one of the favorite dive spots in Balicasag, with a shallower average depth of 18 meters. This underwater plateau features vibrant varieties of marine life all in one spot. You will find turtles, different species and schools of fish, corals, and plants in different sizes, shapes, and colors.
They say Balicasag Island is truly a wonderful destination for tourists in Bohol, especially for sea lovers. You can go diving, island hopping, snorkeling, and dolphin watching. You can also simply laze on the white shores or go swimming in the shallow waters.
But In my opinion, this is one hell of an overrated island. Far more expensive than the other islands that I’ve visited. Why?…
When we reached the Island, the tour guide informed us that snorkeling cost P900 each.. We had assumed their Snorkel Gear would be included in our island hopping tour package but it wasn’t.. Another P150 per set. Aside from that their environmental fee of P100 would be reasonable if there was evidence of them actually looking after the environment. Apart from destroying coral, there was litter all over the island. The litter was too bad but still, it should not be there at all. We then also needed to pay a tour guide fee of P250 per person. To make it worse, the guide was rude enough to remind us twice that we should tip him before leaving.
Come on guys, tourism is your lifeblood… you need to treat us all as guests, not walking ATM’s just waiting for you to take our money.
Better to eat before you arrive
An average breakfast meal cost P300 and it’s not even in a restaurant, more like a carinderia. What’s on the menu did you ask? Three slices of bread, an omelet, 3 pcs vienna sausage, 3 tablespoons of corned beef, and a Nescafe 3 in 1 coffee. After that, I never bothered asking for the price of the other items in the menu. Good thing, we had breakfast in the resort before doing our island hopping tour.
While waiting for other tourist, I decided to see how far I could walk with a seashell on my head. Gary decided to rest in the hammock, and, even though he denies it, I think he fell asleep for a while.
I’m a little bit annoyed of some locals. They’re taking advantage of many of the tourists. Often they won’t leave you alone. Kahit kapwa nila Pinoy, ginagawa nilang dayuhan sa sariling bansa.. Sorry for some negativity and no offense but I find this disappointing after all the fees and cost incurred just to be there and the locals still want more. How about providing a service we are happy to pay for.. Now wouldn’t that be a good idea?
The other local said that diving is particularly famous in Balicasag because of the island’s very rich marine life. You can find turtles and enjoy looking at the different species of fish and various corals in different depths. The currents could get a bit strong, which is a good thing since you could just drift underwater.
Would I go back to Balicasag Island Bohol?
Now that’s the crazy thing… With all the negative I has stated, I still would return. I would love to go back and see all that I have complained about has beed fixed. The coral and fish are thriving.. The island is clean and the locals friendly and inviting. I still live in hope for this island because it has so much potential if only we can stop it from being spoiled.
How to go there
You can reach Balicasag Island from Bohol via Tagbilaran City, then Panglao. If you are from Manila, take a plane going to Tagbilaran. If you are from Cebu, you can ride a boat, a fast ferry, or a plane to Tagbilaran City. From Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, you may take a fast ferry. It is also possible to ride a plane from Dumaguete City to Tagbilaran, but it would take more time since the flights are mostly via Manila.
Once you are in Tagbilaran, you may rent a van or get a taxi or tricycle to bring you to Alona Beach, Panglao. There you will find many motorized boats that will ferry you to Balicasag island. The rates are around P1,600 per boat for a round trip.
Note: Most hotels, resorts, and travel agencies offer island-hopping tours that include a stop at Balicasag Island. You may also charter a boat in Panglao Island to do the same tour.
Other helpful tips
- Scuba diving is great in the morning.
- When snorkeling or swimming, don’t forget to wear proper swimming attire. Wear rashguard and apply sunscreen so you won’t get sunburned. If possible, bring your own mask and snorkel.
- Help save the marine life and be a responsible diver and snorkeler. Do not touch the corals or bring them home for collection.
- Don’t forget to take with you your camera to capture the vibrant marine life of Balicasag Island.
Next island please…
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