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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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August 6, 2015

camotes : finding tropical bliss in santiago white beach



Camotes had been on my sights for some time now and I was finally able to visit the islands recently. I am a big fan of "off the beaten path" destinations and Camotes fits the bill perfectly (I expected it to be as rustic and laid back as Siquijor, and indeed it was!)

Camotes is not a single island (view in Google map) but rather a group made up of 3 islands: Pacijan, Poro, and Ponson. Pacijan and Poro are interconnected by a land bridge running through a thick mangrove forest, with Ponson separated from the two by a 30 minute boat ride (Ponson is in fact much closer to Leyte than it is to Cebu).

This group of islands is large underrated compared to its tourist destination neighbors.  It probably is a blessing as Camotes is able to hold on to its rustic charm. Cebu is a popular tourist hub with lots of destinations around and near it, and most folks usually make a bee-line to Oslob (for the whale shark), or to the Bohol (one big efficient tourism machine!), or straight to Bantayan island and Malapascua (famous for thresher sharks) in the north.


Santiago White Beach

Santiago White Beach

The ferry from Danao (1 hour north of Cebu City) will take you to Consuelo Wharf on the western side of Pacijan. From there the main town of San Francisco is still 1 hour away, but the resorts are closer to the wharf than they are to the main town. There are "high-end" resorts (by Camotes' standard of course) along the main coastal highway from the wharf, but my friends and I settled on Santiago White Beach.

Santiago Beach
lowtide on Santiago beach

Its a public beach with almost 750 meters of fine white sand with a huge expanse of shallow area perfect for swimming. That's difficult to say no to.

Santiago Bay Resort
view of the beach from Santiago Bay Garden Resort

While Santiago Beach has a prominent resort there (Santiago Bay Garden Resort), a small quaint place called the Dread House caught our eye.

Dread House
Dread House crew (Paul is the one with the red shirt)

We ended up renting two rooms there (fan room at Php 500.00 per night). Paul runs the place with his family and on some nights plays reggae music with a small band right on the beach. His brothers have restaurants beside his place,  one of which is called Pito's Sutokil and is a favorite among both the locals and the visitors (Pito also have both aircon and fan rooms).

Sunrise in Santiago

Sunrise on Santiago Beach
lowtide sunrise

Our stay coincided with lowtide every sunrise, and Santiago beach is the kind of place where you actually look forward to waking up early.  The feel of the soft sand on bare feet was addicting that I actually spent more time running and savouring the cool breeze than taking pictures.

Banded Sea Krait (Locally called "Walowalo")
banded sea krait

On one of the mornings we had a special visitor: an adult banded sea krait (locally called "walowalo") making its way back to the water. Poisonous (very!) as it is, the locals did not seem to mind. They said its not an unusual sight. "Respect nature, and it will respect you back", quipped Paul.

Float on a thin piece of wood

If you are looking for an alternative to sitting on the beach, cold beer on one hand, and doing absolutely nothing, Santiago's flat beach and shallow water is perfect for skim boarding. Some of the locals have perfected this lazy day routine consisting of: a few beers, skim board, beers, skim board, doze off, play a few songs on the guitar, repeat until you find something else interesting to do :)

Skimboarder on Santiago Beach

I could honestly spend a few days in Santiago beach doing nothing but still enjoy it.  But Santiago beach is just one corner of Camotes, and the islands have a few more hidden gems. I hope to share more of Camotes in the next few posts! In the meantime, here are key details that may help you plan a trip to the islands.

Travel tips

Getting there

  • Cebu City to Danao - Catch a bus heading north at Cebu City's North Bus terminal. Ask the bus conductor to drop you off at Danao port (which is just along the main highway). Distance is 30+km, travel time is about 1 hour, fare is Php 40.00
  • Danao wharf to Consuelo Wharf - Jomalia Shipping has ferries running the route. Usual departure schedules are (note however that these may change). Terminal fee is Php 5.00 and ferry fare is Php 180.00.
    • 5:30 AM
    • 8:30 AM
    • 12 Noon
    • 5:30 PM 
  • Consuelo Wharf to Santiago Beach - you can hire a motorcycle or "multi-cab" outside the port. Fare is usually Php 50.00 per person
There is a caveat however with the ferry fare. Fixers usually buy many tickets in advance and if you come very close to the departure time, you may end up buying the tickets from them for Php 300.00Port authorities don't seem to care even if these illegal ticket buying/selling is in plain sight.

Around the island

Motorcycle: Best way to explore Camotes

Best way to go around Pacijan and Poro islands is by motorcycle.  If you know how to drive one, you can rent a motorcycle for Php 500 / day exclusive of gasoline. There are may stores along the road that sell gasoline in 1 liter Coke bottles. Some resorts offer the same rental price with or without driver.  During off peak season, you may be able to rent a motorcycle for just Php 300 a day.
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