The Philippines: Siquijor Island

We recently spent 4 days on Siquijor Island in the Philippines. Before that, the only part of the Philippines we’d seen was Molboal, so it was great to see a new island and a different way of living

A very chilled out place

If you come to the Philippines looking for beachfront bars, beaches stretching for miles and luxury resorts, Siquijor probably isn’t for you. However, after the chaos of Cebu, Siquijor was like a breath of fresh air.

The beautiful clear waters surrounding Siquijor Island, Philippines

Siquijor experiences plenty of power cuts – usually once or twice a week they said. However, when we were there the power was on and off constantly, for hours at a time. You can kind of see why the island isn’t quite there yet for tourism… especially in this day and age when air conditioning and WiFi are expected everywhere you go.

I was worried about renting a scooter after seeing the madness of driving around Cebu, but there was no need to worry – the roads of Siquijor are really well maintained and there’s hardly any traffic, making it easy.

There’s not a huge amount of info or infrastructure for tourists so we just did our own research by reading lots of blogs to find the best things to do. There’s plenty of diving, snorkelling and a couple of boat trips, as well as a few nice beaches and some caves and waterfalls to explore.

Mandala Tribe Treehouses

Hostelworld is our usual go-to app for booking accommodation but they didn’t have anything listed for Siquijor, which was strange. Instead, we took to booking.com and found some beautiful newly built, air conditioned treehouses for only £18 per night. Bargain.

Mandala Tribe, Siquijor Island

Our treehouse had an open air bathroom below it, so you’d shower under the sky, surrounded by plants. We also had an unwelcome visitor in the shape of a giant crab lurking in the shower drain. I got the fright of my life when I looked down in the shower and saw these HUGE claws pushing up the drain cover. They looked like they belonged to a monster from the deep. We kept putting the shampoo bottle over the drain but the monster crab just pushed it off whenever he felt like popping up.

Open air bathroom, complete with crab

To be honest we were a bit disappointed by the treehouse… we thought we were getting a little bit of luxury but our stay there was a bit frustrating. They had a backup generator for when the power went off, but they hardly ever put it on, and even when it was on, you still couldn’t use your air con. This led to plenty of grumpy, sweaty nights without enough sleep. Their water tank also leaked one day, so we couldn’t have a shower of flush the toilet for hours, which wasn’t ideal.

So really, the place looked amazing (great for Instagram) but in reality they have a lot of work to do to make it as comfortable as even a simple hostel.

Beachtime

We had a fun day snorkelling at Tubod beach, just down from San Juan (one of the six towns on the island). We rented the snorkels for about £1.50 and spent a few hours floating over the corals near the shore, looking at all the bright and beautiful fish.

Tubod Beach, Siquijor Island

We decided againt diving in the end as we’d just spent a week diving in Moalboal, but if that’s your thing, Coco Grove runs some amazing dive trips apparently.

The beaches of Siquijor aren’t huge but there’s a few to chose from. One to the North – Salagdoong Beach, has a brilliant cliff jumping spot as well as a water front restaurant. The beach itself isn’t amazing, but still seemed very busy. We didn’t do the cliff jumping as we’d been canyoneering a few days before in Cebu so we’d had enough of jumping off cliffs.

Cambugahay Falls

Siquijor has plenty of waterfalls hidden away in the mountains, and going to find them gave us a great excuse to drive over the mountain roads, which were lots of fun on the scooter. We had a great time at Cambugahay Falls, which has a few tiers of pools. You can swim right under the waterfall of the top tier and find yourself in a little cave, where you can look out and watch everyone through the curtain of water.

Cambugahay Falls, Siquijor

We made a classic tourist mistake when we were there – we pulled up and parked the scooter and were immediately approached for a ‘parking donation’ which we paid. Then a guy can up and said he was a voluntary guide at the falls and he’d guide us down to it and went on to say we didn’t have to pay him, but another ‘donation’ would be appreciated.

Well it turns out you don’t need to trek through the jungle to reach the falls… you just walk down some stone steps and you’re there. We felt like right idiots. We gave the guy 100 pesos and sent him on his way. He looked disappointed, but what can he expect? We couldn’t have got lost if we’d tried. We sent the guide on his way and went to put our bag down on a bamboo table while we went swimming… only to be informed that to use the table, we needed to ‘rent’ a space. On a few bits of bamboo lashed together. We just put the bag on a rock instead. There were also a few rope swings so you could swing out and dive into the water… for another fee. Honestly… I appreciate the enterprising nature of the local people, but paying an entrance fee, a parking fee, paying for a guide, rope swing, and bag ‘storage’ is just a bit crazy. Maybe they should just increase the entrance fee to include all costs, which would stop people getting hassled once they were by the water.

Butterflies and coconuts

Siquijor Butterfly Sanctuary

While we were on the mountain road to the waterfall, we saw a sign leading to a butterfly sanctuary so we decided to explore. The owner was a really friendly local guy who’d started his modest sanctuary as a means of breeding endemic butterflies and releasing them back into the wild. He releases 40% and keeps the others in an enclosure as an attraction for tourists.

It was a really nice little place up in the hills, so chilled out. He even climbed one of his palm trees and fetched us down a couple of coconuts to drink. Can’t get fresher than that!

Freshly chopped!

The place runs on donations, so as well as paying the £1.50 entrance fee, we also gave him a bit more – he’s in the middle of building a café and expanding the project to include beehives.

Is Siquijor worth a visit?

If you’re looking for a party island with a big nightlife then Siquijor you might be disappointed. Although it does have some great bars – check out Monkey Business and Baha Bar. It’s very relaxed, chilled out and feels underdeveloped… as though you’re seeing the ‘real’ Philippines.

It’s easy enough to get there too, just grab a ferry from Cebu or Bohol and you’ll be there in a couple of hours. If you can put up with a few power cuts, I’d say it’s worth a visit for a couple of days.

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