Memos from Asia

Island Garden City of Samal: Living up to Its Name

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Malipano island, Philippines, Samal.

The Philippines is a popular tropical destination for a lot of tourists because of the many hidden island gems that can be found in the archipelago. It is why the country is a famous destination during the summer season. The country has over seven thousand islands, so even after a couple of visits, tourists still find themselves surprised with new destinations available.

One of these islands is the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao Del Norte, which is south of the country. Simply known as the Samal Island or IGaCoS, the whole island has turned into the largest resort island in the country. Almost every coastline houses different resorts that cater to each economical range. You can find a variety of Airbnb options, family resorts to 5-star class accommodations. Every purpose for travel on the island, whether it be for a family vacation, a couple’s romantic getaway, a fun trip with friends, can be catered by the island.

How to Get to Samal Island

Samal island, unlike some of the more popular tourist destinations in the country, does not have its airport. So, to get there you will cross the water through a 40-60-minute boat ride. Although Samal Island is part of the Davao Del Norte region, to get to Samal Island, most of the pickup points to get there will be coming from Davao City that is in the Davao del Sur region. On the upside, the Francisco Bangoy International airport in Davao is also relatively close to most of the docking areas so you do not need to worry about a tedious land trip if you are coming from air travel.

Passenger motorized boat with tourists on Island hopping in Island Garden City of Samal, Philippines

Some resorts have their boat and designated pick up docks. It is since it would be easier for some to have their guests travel shore to shore instead of traveling by land from the docking area on the Island. Most of the resorts that do this are making use of the large passenger boats. But if the resort you are staying at does not offer this, or if you are uncomfortable to travel in smaller boats, you can get to the island through the Sta Ana Wharf or the Sasa Wharf. These wharves have ferries that can carry cars and passengers. There are a couple of ferry boats that go back and forth and they operate from the wee hours in the morning until late night.

Davao, Philippines

Upon reaching the island, you will be greeted by various habal-habal drivers, which are passenger motorcycles that are the primary mode of transportation on the island. This option of travel is better when navigating narrow and rough roads to get to your destination. If you are quite sure that you can get to your accommodation through the main roads then another option you can go for is using a tricycle, which is a motorcycle with a sidecar. If you are not sure, you can always ask these local drivers since they would know the roads you will drive on to get to your destination.

Things to Do in Samal Island

When you get to the island, you will be greeted by the natural white sand beaches that you get to feast on the entire duration of your stay. The waves are also calm for most resorts facing Davao city, so you do not have to worry about bringing little children with you. Also depending on your choice of accommodation, resort attractions can range from a serene stay to nights of endless partying. If you are also into water activities, most of the resorts have their own or partner with businesses that offer banana boat rides, kayaking, and jetski rentals.

There are a ton of activities and places you can visit while you are on the island besides the beaches and the amenities from the accommodations. One of the popular activities on the island is scuba diving. There are more than twenty diving spots on the island. There are also beginner diving spots that are more popular with tourists, these are Angel’s Cove and the Coral Gardens. There are also diving spots and night diving for more experienced divers.

A small island in Samal

Another activity that is popular on the island is the island-hopping tour. Usual island-hopping tour in Samal will take you half a day to a day to explore different surrounding islands that might include the Vanishing island, Talikud Island, Malipano island, and Ligid Island.

Teal color water in Hagimit falls at Samal island

If you are looking at other places to visit in Samal, you can try going to Hagimit Falls. You can simply marvel at the falls or take a dip in the waterfall pools that range from 3 to 7 feet in depth. For the hiking enthusiast, there is also a hiking option on the island which is mount Putting Bato. Those who want to climb Mt Apo usually conquer this mountain first to test and build their stamina. The mountain height is steep enough to give you a picturesque view surrounding Samal.

Fruit bats colony in Samal island

Another popular sight you should not miss out on while on the island is the Monfort bat Cave. Housing thousands of bats that are asleep during the daytime, you can get to witness these creatures in their natural habitats. Looking at a lot of the bats hanging from the cavern will be a spectacular picture you will remember from this visit.

These are just some of the activities you can enjoy while you are in the Island Garden City of Samal. You can also go spelunking and go cliff diving on the island. There are also a few more places you can explore, like visiting the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Maxima AquaFun, and Kaputian Beach.

Samal Island may have a portion of it that was modified to make it a more tourist-friendly place, but a large portion of it has retained its raw natural beauty. So if you are looking for a destination where you can enjoy the comfort and activities while enjoying the natural beauty, then the Island Garden City of Samal might just be your next Philippine destination.

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