[Negros Oriental] ~ Turtle and hammock days in Dauin

Close encounters with many turtles and fish made the GoPro disaster I can deal with. A bonus of Wednesdays-only Malatapay market where locals shop – 03.23.22

GETTING THERE

Took a Ceres bus to Maayong Tubig, Dauin at around half past 1PM. Walked for about 5 minutes to hostel and was greeted by barks of dogs. I was scared at first but the owners were there so they eventually stopped. These dogs would end up to be my ‘roommates’ in my area which is fun.

HOW TO GET TO DAUIN

Took a Ceres bus to Maayong Tubig, Dauin at around half past 1PM. Walked for about 5 minutes to hostel and was greeted by barks of dogs. I was scared at first but the owners were there so they eventually stopped. These dogs would end up to be my ‘roommates’ in my area which is fun.

I didn’t know this when I booked the night before but I was a bit wondering why it cost so low at around Php150. Apparently, I was to stay in a hammock. The staff offered to let me stay in a dorm for the same price because no one was staying there anyway but I thought hammock is perfect. I’m used to sleeping in such anyway when I go to beaches in La Union and Zambales.

I had nothing planned for the day but I know I couldn’t just stay in the hammock, no matter how inviting. Dauin is a bit tricky because the establishments seem to be far from one another and I couldn’t figure out yet the public transportation. What I did then was search for beachfront ones that are within walking distance. Found a restaurant across the hostel. It turned out to be quite a walk still along what seemed like a quiet local community. I was then surprised to see a big dive resort at the end. Luckily, they serve beer there so I was sold at staying there until about nighttime.

Apo Island

The following day is meant for what they say is a must in Dauin. APO ISLAND is known for snorkeling and as home for hawksbill and green sea turtles. An added bonus too that since it was a Wednesday, there’s this weekly market (of all sorts including a livestock one) within the area in MALATAPAY.

We’ve all been to markets but there’s something good about witnessing how locals actually do their market day. That was exactly the vibe there that morning to the point that I was feeling uncomfortable taking photos because everyone’s there for shopping – from vegetables, meat, fish to used clothes.

LIVESTOCK MARKET

It is not for the faint-hearted and not for vegans definitely, but it is this market that sells animals alive. To be honest, I was a bit uncomfortable being there at first too. But I thought it’s how the community lives and it’s how they provide for their needs so I somehow still want to see how it is. I’ve read somewhere that they sometimes ‘end the life’ of animals on the spot but thank goodness, t I have not witnessed it. But still, come in prepared for the sights and sounds that can be a little intimidating.

Near the office for the Apo Island tour are eateries (called “carinderia” in Filipino) where locals like to eat. There’s all kinds of viands from meat to soup. As for me, I tried this porkchop that’s priced differently depending on size.

At the island

From what I heard, there are several spots for snorkeling in the island and the one that was used before the pandemic has been ruined by a typhoon and is currently getting rehabilitated. We then had to be at the other end.

There are cottages for rent right beside the beach (priced at Php300). Water reaches the tables during high tide so make sure to not leave behind slippers and other stuff. Once we were settled, there was this site where we tried on aqua shoes and got our snorkeling gears. Guides are available for a fee and can basically be with you the whole day. It’s also where you can rent your action camera and/or hire a photographer.

Since the action camera rental sounded unreasonable, I offered my camera to my boatmates. We were snorkeling together anyway so it should not be a problem. They just hired a photographer so I did not have to worry about their photos and the photographer would just have to be in charge of documenting for all of us.

We settled in a bit and as soon as we were ready, we walked to the snorkeling area. Five minutes into the water and we saw this giant hawksbill turtle! We were all so excited and then boom, the photographer approached me and told me he could not turn my camera on.

Right. What perfect timing, I thought. I think my boatmates were not aware of what was happening and they were kind of expecting photos to be captured so I knew I had to do something. I got out of the water and thought what could be done with the situation. After several attempts of still turning it on, which I think was wrong but I did anyway, I gave up and just asked that it be submerged in rice grains to remove the moisture. Then without having much thought, I gave in and just rented their action cam.

The culprit behind the GoPro disaster

We were speculating but I think water got in the battery and ruined it. It was partly my mistake because while having a last minute change of battery, the cover dropped in the sand. (This brand has this weird design that the cover detaches quite easily). I may not have cleaned it well enough that some sand remained and that was where water seeped in. But whatever the reason, such a bummer really.

MORE SNORKELING

Since we had the guide to ourselves until the afternoon, after lunch which was arranged and paid for by our sort of guardians for our group, we went back snorkeling for the second time. Personally, I liked it better because I felt a bit more relaxed and no longer pissed off about the incident.

When we got tired and a little less than 30 minutes left before our 3PM boat leaves, I broke from the group and started walking around. A local doing laundry nearby chatted me up and when I told her I’m about to leave soon, she suggested I could spend the night  and take the early morning boat tomorrow. I liked the idea because I was immediately in love with the community as soon as we got in earlier. I then decided that okay, I am staying. This wasn’t part of the plan but good too that I had my dry bag ‘designed’ to include everything I need to spend the night.

So I was left there and I walked around soaking in local life. Got some beer at a a barbecue place near the port. I was drinking alone but a Filipino-American couple joined me for chat about travel. I am not a very social traveler but it was actually the first time when I understood the kick that others get out of it. I mean, we were strangers but we never ran out of things to talk about – from places, swimming, locals and all that stuff. We were such different travelers. I am more the backpacker type but they are more the willing-to-spend-more-for comfort ones but there are common interests here and there it was actually a chat I find pleasantly memorable.  

Shortly before sunset, I did more walking, witnessed the sunset and locals on the other end. I went back to the barbecue place, met our photographer earlier who bought my camera to a dive shop to try to have it fixed (because the rice grain technique did not work) and spent time walking again. I didn’t notice it then but apparently, I was circling the island many times that later that night, that same guy told me others were worried about me as this person in a striped dress who kept walking around. Funny, I thought. It was just a stroll, really.

This stroll lasted until a bit before 10PM when I knew that electricity in the island about to be out. Before that, the Ate (Filipino term which is like an older sister) who got me to stay brought me to her house and kept me company over beer. I went on my own and saw this group of young locals practicing at a basketball court. After which, I called it a night and went to the homestay. There was this panic moment though when I woke in the middle of the night and it was pitch black. I came back to my senses within seconds though and realized that okay, I am on my bed and lights in town were just out.

Woke up really early in the morning, hopped on the boat which I again shared with the owner of the barbecue place and the strangers I drank beer with there. A small town, this island really is.  Then just like that, I was back to Malatapay road less the stalls.

Practical Details

Dauin is a 20-minute ride from Dumaguete City. Take any Bayawan-bound Ceres bus at the terminal. Ask to be dropped off in Dauin or in Maayong-Tubig (as in my case because I was staying in Mango Tree Eco-Hostel)

Where to stay in Dauin

There are several beachfront resorts in Dauin proper (about 5 minutes from Maayong Tubig). There are backpacker options but when I asked, the rates still at roughly almost a Php1,000.

If you’re on a budget and not particular with location being beachfront, Mango Eco-Tree Eco-Hostel offers hammock, dorm-type and cottage accommodation options. It’s 500 meters from the main road.

Guide to Apo Island, Dauin

Ride a tricycle and ask to be dropped off at Malatapay.  Fare at Php15.

The office where they arrange the boats is about 5-minute walk away from the main road. On Wednesdays, you will pass by a lively local market. On your right is a compound where there is a livestock market. For guests, they charge a minimal fee of Php5.

Since the pandemic, boats are limited so it’s more of a first come, first served basis. Joiners are allowed but since tourism is just picking up, there may be a bit of a wait.

If you’re traveling as a group, it still is best to reserve via your resort or directly at the office. If you are doing walk-in or traveling solo or as a couple, come in really early and even though you are waiting for others to join you, politely ask whether you can reserve the smallest boat available. A small party may come in, not let you join and get the smallest boat and you may be left with no choice but to get the bigger one which is usually Php500-1000 more expensive.

There is food and beverage in the island but there is a famous Malatapay lechon that’s being sold near the port.

Bring your own underwater camera. There are sure to be turtles in the island and the reef is teeming with underwater life that you may want to capture. They have GoPro rental and memory card purchase available but these are pricey at Php1,000-1,500.

Guides are required at the island. The ratio is 1 guide:2-3 guests. I’m not sure if it can be arranged but if you want the best photos, best to have one dedicated to you.

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