Let VALERIE LUMANOG show you how to maximize both the land and sea delights of this southern Philippine island.
Samal, anchored in the heart of Davao Gulf, is Davao region’s shining pearl. Highly accessible from Davao City, the island is a place not just for beach bums but also for those who want a destination that offers something authentically organic.
SUROY SUROY SA ISLA (INLAND TOUR)
8 a.m. Warm Breakfast in Davao Before leaving for Samal, enjoy warm rice meals from any outlet of TAPS, Davao City’s breakfast capital.
9 a.m. Off to Samal. Take a passenger jeepney (Php12) or a cab (around Php150) to your respective wharf. Depending on where you are staying in the island, travel time is from 10 to 45 minutes.
10 a.m. Hello, Samal There are at least 70 resorts in Samal, ranging from budget to luxurious accommodations. On the forefront are The Pearl Farm Resort (www.pearlfarmresort.com), Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort (www.paradiseislanddavao.com), Bluejaz Beach Resort and Waterpark (www.bluejaz.net), and Maxima Resort and Aquafun (www.aquafun.psdgroupph.com).
As you settle in your chosen accommodation, take pleasure in the pristine coast of Samal or lounge on the beachfront with your welcome drinks. Book your tours for the next 40 hours on the island.
12 p.m. Pani-udto (Lunch) Enjoy a Samal feast of panga (grilled tuna jaw), kinilaw (local ceviche), and sinuglaw (combination of sugba or grilled pork belly and kinilaw). Freshly opened buko (coconut) is an islander’s thirst quencher.
1 p.m. Fruity Bats Warm up your tour with something relatively unspoiled. Start with a trip to the Circadian Monfort Bat Sanctuary. With approximately 1.8 million bats that call the three caves their home, it is listed by the Guinness World Records as the largest bat colony in the world.
2 p.m. Extreme Adventure Visit caves, many of them unnamed. Those who want excitement can proceed to Bito Depression in Brgy. Guilon and rappel down to more than 270 feet deep (contact Samal Adventure Tours; www.samaladventuretours.com; +6382 300 7741).
4 p.m. Chasing Waterfalls Samal has two waterfalls: Hagimit and Mangongawong Falls. Hagimit Falls is the more popular and perfect for day-trippers. From the town of Penaplata, head off to Brgy. Cawag. From the entrance, hold the railing as you go down 50 steps to the falls. Cottages for overnight stays are also available (day cottage rentals, Php50). Meanwhile, Mangongawong Falls is located in Brgy. Tagbaobo (people prefer to call it “Tagbaobo” since it is easier to pronounce) in Kaputian District, the southeastern part of the island. These falls, believed to be developed by the Japanese, is less frequented due to its location, and it is smaller compared to Hagimit Falls, where there are many natural pools for swimming.
5 p.m. Relax and Get Pampered After a long day exploring Samal’s rough side, freshen up in your respective accommodations. Get a quick nap or sign up for a traditional Filipino massage or hilot.
7 p.m. Panihapon (Dinner) With day-trippers gone from the island, own your resort. Enjoy an informal dinner accompanied by live musical performances.
8 p.m. Nightlife in Samal No, this is not about going to bars. Grab your bottle and enjoy the island’s best entertainment: the moon and the soothing sound of the waves. Samal beaches are safe for night swimming under the moonlight.
With seven bigger islands and a cluster of islets and rock formations, island hopping and watersports are the best parts about Samal. Contact Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort for arrangements (+6382 233 0251).
7 a.m. Pump It Up! Pump your day with some early-morning exercise. Ditch the fitness center and jog along the shores. Want something more challenging? Run along the island’s slopes and hilly terrain.
8 a.m. Pamahaw sa Samal (breakfast) Native coffee and a nice breakfast. Enjoy the morning sun as you await your boat for your island-hopping trip.
9 a.m. All Aboard! White-sand beaches, small islands, deluxe accommodations like the Pearl Farm and Ekran Berhad Casino Resort, fishing villages, and private beaches. Get to see community projects preserving Samal’s coral reefs and fish population along the way.
10 a.m. Snorkeling Coral Garden, which is named after a natural underwater garden from colorful corals, is one of the most popular stops for snorkeling. Members of the indigenous group Badjao, also known as “sea gypsies,” peddle their pearls to travelers. Buying from the Badjaos is fun as they are very friendly to travelers. (Just a tip, don’t buy anything more than Php500.) Back at Davao City, you can also visit Nur Aimar’s Gift Shop at Aldevinco Shopping Center (+6382 301 5099) for South Sea pearls and hand-crafted accessories.
11 a.m. Beach Bumming Babu Santa Beach (babu means “grandmother”) at Talikud Island is a recommended stop. Though not highly commercialized. However, it boasts a longer shoreline compared to other beaches. Have lunch under coconut trees or rent a cottage for Php350. Most tour packages include meals (morning and afternoon snacks and lunch) and a member of their staff to assist you throughout your trip.
3 p.m. Satisfied Beach Bums Hop back to a banca to Samal.
5 p.m. Davao City Bound With a glowing tan and pearls in your pocket, you can bid Samal Island goodbye with a smile.