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!