Monday, June 1, 2009

One Ticket to Paradise, Please

There is an urban myth in Leyte about a beach- better than Boracay, isolated and pristine, and teeming with marine life like dolphins and sea turtles. Last May we found out, it was not a myth at all but a sanctuary- a marine sactuary that is. The islands are known as Cuatro Islas, a friend told me, and they are off the coast of Inopacan, Leyte. During the last days of summer, me and my significant other, and a few friends decided to find this piece of paradise.

From Tacloban, we traveled by van to the town of Baybay, which is adjacent to Inopacan. The reason for the detour was that Baybay offered more choices when it came to hotel accommodations (unless one has camping equipment and would prefer to stay in the island- but more on this option later). The transport cost was 2,500 for the 14 seater van- although we were only eight people, but we didn't want to waste time by waiting for other passengers. We arrived at 8:30 am at Palermo Hotel after the one and a half hour travel.

The rates were reasonable at Php600 for four people (bunk beds), with hot and cold water, TV, and airconditioning. We dropped off our things and hurried to the port area. At this point, other than the prior reservations we made at Palermo, we no longer knew where or how to book the trip itself to the island since that kind of information is not available via the internet.

We ended up wasting more time asking pedicab drivers if they knew where the outrigger boats to Cuatro Islas where. In halting Cebuano, I managed to get the needed directions- go to the terminal to get a multicab to Inopacan, then from the wharf we can negotiate with boatmen.

The group was getting a bit frustrated by now. We ended up haggling with jeepney drivers of the price of "pakyaw" (meaning we pay fpr the entire trip, and again won't wait for other passengers). The final price was Php350, and so once again we hauled our beach gear and food to the jeep and got going.

It was 10:00am by the time we arrived at Inopacan. The next "tribulation" was haggling for the price of the boat trip. Initially the man told us Php3,500- which I promptly dismissed as bull. I mean, we once hired a small outrigger boat in Samar for island hopping for Php500. I'm not falling for this tourist trap. After a few minutes of Oscar winning acting, they finally agreed to Php 2,500 (that's a thousand off!). I wanted to push for Php2,000 but it was going too far, I mean they would all still be splitting that with the owner. Besides, our boatmen were nice enough to allow us to borrow a cooler for our drinks, and after buying ice, chips, and roasted chicken- we finally on our way.

The boat trip takes around 45 minutes. As it made the approach toward the islands, my breath was caught in my throat. The sandbars floated like illusions on the crystal clear waters. Right then and there I wanted to jump ship and wave goodbye to the others. But oh well, we managed to control ourselves and had enough patience to get off at the farthest, smallest island called Digyo. There were nipa huts in the island already, and the caretakers lived on the other side of the island (You can walk around in around 15 minutes). But from our hut, with the sandbar extending out to the clear waters- it seemed we had the entire island to ourselves.

The sights were certainly worth all the trouble! After taking about a thousand photos, we went snorkeling. Turns out, the marine landscape was even more arresting than the surface. The corals were alive, I've never seen so much live anemones and starfishes. And oh, in just waist-deep waters we met Nemo and friends (that's what we called the clown fishes and other brightly colored marine life). There were a lot of sea urchins,too so one had to be careful not to step on them.

The five hours we spent in Digyo proved too short, but at 5:00pm we had to pack up. The jeep we hired to take us to back to Baybay would be waiting for us by 5:30. And so we bid goodbye to the gorgeous island and our "colorful friends". And just as we thought the trip couldn't get any better, three dolphins swam alongside the boat. How's that for escort?

If you are planning on a trip to Cuatro Islas, the approximate cost per person is Php700 if there are 8 in a group- that is excluding food (we decided to bring our own for the picnic, although we did buy extra food at Inopacan town). If there are more people, then the amount would be a little smaller. Camping is not prohibited, but you must have your own equipment and most importantly your own drinking water because there are no fresh water sources here. And of course, there is no electricity so once your cellphone drains its battery that's pretty much it. Feel free to contact me for details, heck, I can't wait to go back there!

13 comments:

Emotionally Sloppy said...

oh wow i've been meaning to head off to that place. (turning green with envy) if my friends and I decide to go I hope you wont mind if a ask you for some haggling technique.=)

Phoenix said...

@ Emotionally Sloppy: I'd be happy to give you some acting tips hehe Wow excited ako if ever I get to meet you :-)

Emotionally Sloppy said...

actually I think it was you I saw eating somewhere but I was too shy (kono) to say hi. Plus you might say.. who the heck is this squealing twit?

Phoenix said...

@ Emotionally Sloppy: Agi kaupay nim lol! You should have said hello! Friendly man ak uday. Bayot gud la ako hahaha

Emotionally Sloppy said...

LOL.... upaya la.. =)

Firelady said...

Been to Cuatros Islas, friends went diving in Digyo and Mahaba, its a wonderful diving under. Im not a diver but yess oh yess snorkelling was great.

I like it so much better than Boracay, too bad Boracay is just going down.. hopefully Cuatro Islas remain this way, actually osmetimes I am hesitant to be talking about our hidden jewels in Leyte because I dont want them to become another Boracay, but on the other side, I understand , oftentime I also end up talking to people about them places. Footloses, and travel gypsysies live on the stories we tell to our listener and in your case your readers.

I am based in Tacloban for a year and a half now and mostly we travel alot...

Theres another island thats a must to go.. its farther but paradise... beyond compare I would say better then Cuatro Islas...

Boracay , waray bis ha tamuragko...
its somewhere in Palompon, if you have heard the from travel grapevine then that is the one.

Phoenix said...

@ Firelady: Sige la, amo ka man hiton hehe balitaw an ak mga sangkay nga taga Palompon waray man nag mention..

Ha Malitbog lugod. I agree, as much as possible I hope development stays away- that's one of the reasons why those islands stay pristine.

Ha Coron, they regulate tourism and development so it doesn't turn out to be another tired destination like Bora or Galera.

Agi, paki e-mail nala ha ak kun ano ito hehe I'll ask my friends if they've heard of it ;-)

ardee sean said...

i stumbled upon this thru linkwithin..

i think this is a great place, pasyal mo ko dito..hehhe

radz said...

grabe naman sumingil ung boatmen. P2,500? that's enough amount for a round trip for tacloban-sulangan(guiuan,eastern samar). beautiful white sand beaches, and plenty of islands to explore as well. i would love to go back to sulangan next summer.

roxi said...

Hi Im from Tacloban i really love to go to Digyo Island for my birthday this may my friend and i are planning to go there on the last week of may or early june.. How much would it cost us to go to inopacan? and riding boat to digyo island? we don't want to stay overnight so were planning to travel early in the morning and travel back home around 4-5pm.. how many hours would it takes us to go there renting a van? thanks a lot! need help :)

Thad said...

@Roxi: Suggestion ko lang, dapat marami kayo (mahal ang boat kasi prepare mga 2,500- but the boatmen would wait for you guys), then the other thing is that kung commute lang to and fro Inopacan di yata kaya ang day trip (balikan from tac-inopacan-tac. If you have your own vehicle at ok lang for you to leave it sa Inopacan town while you guys are at the island then probably you'd make it back by nightfall. The rate for the van would also depend upon your negotiation :-) Hope this helps...

roxi said...

Hi thad thanks for the immediate reply.. ;) were planning to rent a van. btw do you know how much would the fare be from tacloban-inopacan? sorry so dumb hehe been in tacloban ever since but really got no idea.. hehe.. my van naman po diba that travels inopocan-tacloban? most probably were 15 in the group so mas makaktipid kami.. do you know any lodge house that we can stay.in that's cheaper and nearest to travel going to Digyo Island? and it is safe to go there right?! hehe thanks for being a good help!

Thad said...

The van that we rented kasi, ang kontrata sa Tacloban to Baybay.. From Baybay 1 jeepney ride to Inopacan. I actually have no idea kung may van mismo papuntang Inopacan, and so far aside from those who have camping gear and stay at the island overnight, I don't know kung may hotel or hostel sa Inopacan

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