We traveled about 37km by bus from El Nido town proper to Sibaltan with our kayak in tow. My friend wanted to see the potential of the place for a kayaking destination. No doubt there are good ones like the mangroves by the Sibaltan Beach and river but the one we’re targeting was that cute little island just in front of the Marine Santuary Guard House called Bubog Island. Despite the looming rain clouds and strong wind on the horizon that morning the sun shone itself in the morning and we were just excited to test the waters.
Our Kayaking Preparation
We are not expert in kayaking and paddling so we were cautious with what to bring. We made sure we have enough water, a few snacks, our fully charged mobile phones in case of emergencies, our dry bags and waterproofed camera. We do know the basics – check our kayak if its tightly sealed and doesn’t have water inside by turning it up and over first. Make sure our paddles are securely assembled. It was a low tide so we had to pull our kayaks to a considerable distance before we could finally launch our kayak.
On Erratic Waters
Bubog Island, with its prominent tree and abandoned foundation is roughly 800 meters or less from the Sibaltan shore. It’s easy to say its a safe place to kayak as people can easily see us from the mainland. But the waves and direction of the current proved to be a little challenging. It was great that we started early when the wind hasn’t really picked up only the currents consistently veering us away from the island was our obstacle. In about 30 minutes we finally reached the island.
Chilling and Snorkeling Bubog Island
It was an exciting attempt, and we were just glad to have reached the island. From its crushed coral beach we could see how the different directions of the waves crashes to the shore. We pulled our kayaks further up to prevent the waves from pulling it. Bubog Island is really small, an Islet would be a proper term, the west side facing the mainland has the beach, the eastern side has beautiful rock formations constantly crashed by waves, but we were careful threading this parts as we were told, there were a lot of Walo-walo (blue-banded coral reef sea snake) curling up in these parts. The woman at Ursula Beach once had a guest who requested to have a candle light dinner at the island and while they were eating, a few Walo-walo were slithering under their table. They really go out at night but curled up by day. But like a typical snake, they won’t bother you or attack as long as they are not threatened.
To have an island on our own was fun, watching the crashing waves, admiring the beautiful tree which they called “Bubog Tree” (also known as Calumpang Tree) from where the island was named and simply lying by the sand under the overcast sky and some Chicane music blasting out from my mobile phone speakers. As much as I liked to beach bum, I also brought my snorkeling gear with me as I know I wouldn’t leave the island without seeing what’s in this Sibaltan Marine Sanctuary. In truth, I was afraid. The waves were strong and the current was going hay wire, I asked my friend to look out for me from the shore. I’ll yell for help if I get into trouble.
The water near the shore was muddled by the scattered sea particles brought by the crashing of the waves. Visibility got better when I got deeper. I could imagine that on a good day, the visibility would have been better. I could still feel the current tugging me along but it was much easier to manage when under. I was able to find a cluster of corals after a few meters of sea grass. I saw the fishes there holding on to themselves as well as the current changes direction. Then I noticed a few jellyfishes in the area. I really don’t like them so I decided to withdraw from exploring further. Besides, the strong current makes snorkeling a lot tiring.
It was almost noon time when it rained that it brought in cold wind blowing on the island. The unfinished foundation of a house was a good temporary shelter. We requested that our lunch be delivered on the island but was delayed by the rain. It was interesting to see a flock of birds taking shelter among the rocky portions of the island. As the sky cleared, we saw a small motorized boat coming to us with our lunch. It was great as we had fried fish, chicken adobo and grilled shrimp in the menu and a refreshing soda to wash them after.
Back to the Mainland
We arranged the lunch utensils we had with us. It was up to us to return it to the shore. As soon as we were ready, we launched our kayak again to the sea heading to shore. But the waves and current was stronger this time. It’s as if the current was circling the island. We found our kayak drifting back on the side of the island even if our direction was to the shore. We panicked momentarily but composed ourselves on what we should do and organized our movements. With some perseverance, we finally reached the shore. It was an exciting trip that we enjoyed. I am hoping I could come back here on better weather to see more of the marine sanctuary.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.