Part of my tour — well, actually an optional addition — is an island-hopping trip one morning to Balicasag Island. The island is a 45-minute boat ride from Panglao Island and is administratively part of the municipality of Panglao, but it might as well be a world away. Balicasag Island is ringed by a coral reef that stretches a few meters away from the shore before plunging into a cliff about 50 meters down.
We leave — I and the two men operating the boat — the resort shortly after 6 in the morning and sail first to a spot about a few kilometers east of Balicasag to do some dolphin watching. A pod of spinner dolphins regularly emerge from the water to do some synchronized leaping. It’s quite a surreal sight, especially them appearing in such large numbers.
And then we reach Balicasag Island itself about half an hour later. After a short orientation on what the itinerary would be, as well as some dos and don’ts, I am taken by a small oar boat to the turtle site. Here, a couple of large sea turtles graze the sea floor, occasionally rising to the surface to the amusement of snorkelers.
It’s not just turtles, though. A wide range of marine life can be found going about their lives. It’s to a marine life enthusiast what a bibliophile feels inside, say, the New York City library.
After my snorkeling session, I have some ceviche back on the shore.
We depart Balicasag Island at around half past 10 and move on to the Virgin Island. It’s a shallow pool of ocean just off Panglao’s coast, where multiple sea creatures (mostly sea urchins and starfish) can be found in the shallow tides. Vendors sell sea urchins to cook on site. I try three small ones just for the experience since I have never eaten a sea urchin in my life. It tastes, for lack of a proper term, strange.
Then, as heavy rain clouds begin to hover directly above, I return to our boat.
A heavy downpour hits us on the way back, drenching my bag in the process. But aside from that, I’m fine. The sun shines shortly after, and I arrive at the resort’s shore safe and my things mostly dry.