After interacting with the whale sharks and embarking on a night river cruise to see fireflies, we figured that we had nothing else to do in Donsol. Having a whole day still at our disposal we considered the possibility of exploring the nearby Ticao Island, as suggested by my very handy Lonely Planet book.
Finding a boat that would agree to bring us cheaply to the nearby Ticao Island was the challenge.
The longer we searched the petty task became more of a problem than a challenge .
Boat operator after another, we were shocked by the price they asked for.
It was definitely Donsol’s version of limousine service.
No matter how we haggled they wouldn’t budge to lower the price.
First of all these operators were nuts to believe that we can even afford to pay. Judging by the way we looked they should have turned us away rather than hoodwinking us.
The fact was our finances were running on fumes; such can be proven by us having a meeting the night before, determining whether we still had enough money to survive.
By tightening our belts we were able to generate some spare change, but not enough to go afford a luxury ride to Ticao.
We weren’t going to let the opportunity to go to Ticao pass without trying; we knew it would probably take a long time for us to be able to go back to Donsol.
In an effort to outwit these major players, we tried to find a small fishing boat which would pity us enough to accept our measly offer.
Walking ashore, we found two men prepping their boat for the night’s fishing stint.
Upon hearing our story and seeing our desperate faces, they hesitantly agreed.
“Ok. Bukas. Pagdating naming galing sa pangingisda. 6am ng umaga, para walang makakita kasi bawal. Huwag niyo na sabihin sa iba.” [Ok. Tomorrow, we will go after we are done fishing. Meet up is at 6am, so no one would see because it is illegal. Kindly don’t tell anyone.]
The next morning as agreed upon, they were waiting for us by the shore.
(Early morning fog. Off to Ticao)
As excited as we were riding the boat, we were quick to realize how crazy our plan was once the boat left for Ticao.
Even with no other boat insight, the fishermen still asked us to hide and cramp ourselves behind a tarpaulin. They didn’t want to risk anything, trying very to be inconspicuous as much as possible.
We definitely felt as if we were bandits trying to outrun authorities to the nearest border.
But if what we did can really be considered a crime, it was definitely worth committing.
As soon as the small islands slowly came to view we recognized that it was a great escape from the mundane world, to the extraordinary.
Everything about Ticao is so serene that you will think that it was Buddha himself who commissioned his monks to design the island.
Also being made to feel that visiting Ticao was a forbidden paradise, definitely added to the island’s appeal.
Skin diving the area while in view of the Mt. Mayon made the experience grander.
(View of the perfect Mayon Volcano from our boat)
Visibility was off the charts, as the clearness of the water allowed light to penetrate even up to several meters deep.
We were able to see the hue of the corals found deep below by swimming from the surface alone.
It’s sad that I haven’t bought the underwater dive casing for my camera yet, because I wouldn’t be able to show how amazing the view was underwater.
All I have are these pictures, which you would have to pardon me for, as they were just shot using a disposable underwater film camera.
(Ticao from underwater)
But these pictures don’t give Ticao justice considering how beautiful it is.
One can easily bet that it’s not often that humans swim in these waters.
A very curious sea snake continuously sneaking up closely on us can be taken as evidence that it has not seen humans for a very long time
(A sea snake sneaking up on us)
Even the nocturnal eel, bothered to wake up and get its head out of the burrow to have a quick peek of what is going on.
It can be claimed that the view above water is equally as amazing under it.
The abandoned island was split in half. A sandbar can be found between two identical hills, each having a damaged set of stairs leading towards the peaks. Reachable by engaging in a steep and hard climb, these peaks offer a spectacular view of the entire Sibuyan Sea.
(Sandbar in the middle)
(Broken hill stairs)
(View of Sibuyan Sea on top of the island)
Caves by the side of the island are also accessible either by boat or swimming. Serving as habitat to birds nursing their young, these caves are a perfect vantage point for bird watching.
(A bird captured by our camera while inside the cave)
Finally having explored every possible corner of the island, we decided to go back.
Leaving, we were feeling down. Suddenly out of the calm waters a pod of dolphins swam in front of our boat escorting us in an effort to console our loneliness.
Through the kind gesture they informed us that we are welcome to come back anytime.
“Soon”, I replied.
(A dolphin pod swimming in front of our boat)
(Nicco Lampa visited Ticao, Philippines on May 23, 2011)