Balicasag Island is diver's paradise.
Balicasag is one of the islands of Bohol province, which is an (bigger) island province itself in Central Visays, Philippines.
To go to Balicasag one emanates from the now famous Panglao island, which is noted for its pristine white beaches.
We visited Balicasag for the first time during the brief All Saints' Day holidays.
In going to Balicasag, one travels by plane from Manila to Tagbilaran City, the capital city of Bohol province.
The flight to Tagbilaran is only an hour.
Or one can travel to Tagbalaran City by fast craft from Cebu. Travel time is only about an hour and a half.
Plane fare would amount between P2,000 (US$40) to P4,000 (US$80), depending on when the ticket is purchased.
Fast craft fare is P800 (US$15) return.
Upon arriving at the Tagbilaran airport, there are many modes of land transport in going to Panglao island.
One can take the taxi, the rent-a-van for group tours, or by tricycle.
The latter is the cheapest, costing only P250 (US$5). The taxi could be twice this rate, or more.
From the airport, just tell the driver to take you to Alona beach, where the Lost Horizon Resort is. This is the jump-off point for a boat trip to Balicasag.
The road trip from the airport to Panglao island, alona beach should be around thirty minutes.
Upon arriving at Alona beach, you can already see a parade of motorized boats which you can lease for the trip to Balicasag island.
The boat ride would take forty minutes from Panglao to Balicasag.
The motor boats can be rented for P1,600 (US$32) return.
These motor boats can accomodate about ten passegners per trip so the fare can be divided among the passengers.
Balicasag island is a small piece of corral mass. The entire island can be hiked around in thirty minutes.
The island is small. It does not have its own source of water, eletricity.
But fortunately there is a government-run resort that takes care of lviing amenities while in the island.
The only resort in Balicasag is run by the Philippine Tourism Authority an agency attached with the Department of Tourism.
The PTA runs the resort until private investors bring their resources and take over the tourism affairs there.
The resort offers twenty affordable cottages. At peak time, one has to shcedule ahead in order to secure a room.
The rates are cheap, at P1,800 (US$34) for an overnight's stay. It's not the classy type, but it more than delivers the needs while enjoying the natural resources of the island.
The food is fresh, and affordable.
There is of course a restaurant which allows you to have your dinner even at the beach side, like we did.
There is abundant fresh water in the island brought in by boat from Panglao island, so its not a problem.
Electricity is 24/7 as there is a generator.
Needless, to say, since these resources are not organic in the island, common sense dictates that one should conserve.
The resort has complete amenities for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Sea water in the island is crystal clear. You can swim 24 hours a day.
In the evening, lights are beamed on to the sea, so everything is visible.
There is also a salt-water infinity pool for those who prefer to dip themselves under the shade.
But the highlight of your Balicasag experience would be diving.
Countless varieties of multi-colored fish are within your reach, you can even feed them with ordinary bread using your bare hands. It is a one-of-a-kind experience. There is a fish-sanctuary in the island. This is an area where fishing is absolutely banned.
The sea is perfect for snorkeling because the water is shallow, and corrals are everywhere.
But just less than a hundred meters from the shoreline, the water suddenly runs deep like a ravine.
This is the area perfect for scuba diving.
If you haven't experienced scuba diving, not to worry, as there are basic lessons for this sport in the resort.
Early in the morning, the water surrounding Balicasag island is swarmed with motor boats.
Dolphin watching is also an attraction for bohol, so many of these boat come from dolphin watching in the waters off Pamilcana island, another land mass like Balicasag.
Many of these visitors come from Panglao and other neighboring islands, and they just want to get to taste that Balicasag diving experience.
The locals in Balicasag are related to each other by consanguinity. There are only around under seven undred families who come from the island.
They have reaped the benefits of limited commercialization, as they are the ones hired as waiters, chefs, hotel personnel.
They have abandoned their source of livelihood which is fishing.
The women now weave sourvenir items which they sell to visitors in the island or export to Panglao island.
Accoridng to the locals, the island's name, Balicasag comes from the word "Balik" (to come back) and "Kasag" (a crab).
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