The bus ride from Bacolod City was four hours but nobody complained. The three of us have been waiting for this chance to visit Danjugan Island for quite some time now and the Araw ng Kagitingan Holiday gave us the right opportunity.
Imelda of Next Stop Negros Tours told us to ask the Ceres konduktor to drop us at Quadro de King at Brgy. Bulata, Cauayan and look for Bing-Bing Guanzon. I was a little embarrassed when I asked for Ms. Bing-Bing only to be greeted by a man. Bing-Bing contacted the staff at Danjugan Island and was told the motorized bangka is on its way.
A short tricycle ride took us to the shore where we are to wait for the bangka that will take us to Danjugan Island. From where we stood, we could clearly see the lush green tropical forest of Danjugan Island sandwiched between the cloudless sky and the calm sea.
The ride was short, around 20 minutes. As we approached Typhoon Beach, a most welcoming sight greeted us. A fish jump off the water as if telling us it’s looking forward to our arrival. Well fish, we’re glad we made it to your island. Danjugan, at last.
Getting To Know Danjugan Island
Tatay Ruben took the task of orienting us about the island and our itinerary. He’s probably in his late fifties but his toothless infectious smile makes you forget his age. His energy and passion for marine resources protection is very contagious. When asked where his family was, he replied, “Inday, nawili ko sg obra nalipat ko mangasawa.” (I was so engrossed with my job I forgot to get married). He has been a Bantay Dagat of EB Magalona town for several years before moving to Danjugan two years ago.
Imelda, knowing I would be interested to learn more about Danjugan, has left instructions for Tatay Ruben to lend me some reference materials. I browsed through a paper by Coral Cay Conservation and was amazed at the natural wealth of the Danjugan Island Marine Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary.
Danjugan Island lies in the Sulu Sea, 3km west of Negros Island. The island is just 1.5km long and 0.5km at its widest point but in terms of biodiversity, it is such a gem. Unlike most islands in the Philippines, Danjugan still retains most of its original tropical forest cover which is teeming with wildlife. The biodiversity of Danjugan Island’s coral reefs can be compared to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. When Coral Cay volunteers surveyed 40 hectares of the island’s coral reef in 1996, they identified 190 species and 73 genera of corals. On the other hand, the Great Barrier Reef stretching some 2,600km is known to have 80 genera of corals.
From Typhoon Beach, the bangka took us to the east side of the island where Science Camp is located. It is also where one of Danjugan Island’s five lagoons is located, the Third Lagoon or Moray Lagoon. It was so named because of the Moray Eels that take refuge there. The lagoon opens to the sea during high tide and it is surrounded by mangroves, offering a safe haven for the eels from natural predators and humans.
A wood and bamboo structure on concrete stilts serves as dining cabana. A full stomach, the symphony of the birds and the gentle breeze from the sea, proved lethal to a tired body. We dozed off for a few minutes and woke up just in time for snacks. After our badly needed caffeine fix, we’re ready to trek to the watch tower. It took us perhaps 30 minutes to reach the tower, through a canopy of tropical forest. Good thing we thought of buying aqua shoes. It served as our trekking shoes as well. The sole is thick enough to protect your feet from pointed rocks and its soft canvass is very comfortable for walking.
We passed by the Sixth Lagoon, its eerie stillness disturbed only by the occasional drop of leaves. A thing of curiosity was a flushless composting toilet near the lagoon. When you do your thing, it goes right into a septic tank. Do I hear eww? My thoughts exactly. But I was told by a friend who once tried using it that you won’t smell decomposing matter. Oh well, probably next time, when I can muster enough courage.
The watch tower is located at the highest point of the island, some 80 meters above sea level. From there you can see the Agutayan Island between Danjugan and the mainland which, I previously thought was part of Danjugan. Have your pictures taken at the watch tower with the scenic seascape as your background. Just a warning though, instruct Tatay Ruben how to use your camera, otherwise he’ll have your head missing from the picture. Much as we adore the old man, he is probably the worst photographer on the island!
To the Bat Cave
Our next stop was the bat cave located near the Third Lagoon which you will pass by if you are to trek to Typhoon Beach. The trail can become steep and rocky with occasional root outcrops and fallen tree trunks, so be prepared to get your hands dirty.
You know you’re near the cave once you smell the stench of guano. The Insect Bats are quite small and not too scary but the smell of their droppings can be overpowering. There are probably thousands of them inside the cave but you can only see a fraction of them hanging on the wall near the entrance. I peered over the cave opening and there’s actually a pool beneath.
We followed the trail until we pass by the Second Lagoon. The water looked very still and inviting that we told Tatay Ruben it must be nice to swim here. He said as long as we are ready to share our swim with a Barracuda then perhaps we should consider it. To Typhoon Beach then, we don’t want to be at the lower part of the food chain with the Barracuda on top of us. Adjacent to the Second Lagoon is the Turtle Beach. It was so named because it is a nesting ground of Hawksbill and Green Turtles. They often go here during rainy season to lay their eggs beneath the sand.
It was already late afternoon when we reached Typhoon Beach after about half hour of trekking from Third Lagoon. Tatay Ruben then asked me to follow him to the kitchen. At the back of the kitchen was a pair of Tabon Scrubfowls, regular visitors to the camp, according to him. I noticed a hole near the kitchen so I asked Tatay Ruben about it. It’s a well. They’re hoping to reach fresh water at 80 feet deep.
Mad About Mud
We still had some time to inspect the Mud House being constructed at the camp. As the name suggests, its main construction material is mud. Its walls are made from mud, its columns and beams from bamboo, and roof from cogon. Used bottles and plates are used for aesthetic purposes. Some of the workers are from Talisay City, the same workers who made a similar structure at Natures Village Resort.
We practiced kayaking in preparation for our activity the next day. Finally, we were able to do what we’ve wanted to do the whole day, swim. Worried that it will be dark soon, Tatay Ruben told us to continue our swim at the beach in front of the Third Lagoon. We were lucky to catch the Sunset which turned the sky to hues of red and orange.
Tired but still full of energy, we ate dinner with gusto. Nang Daday, the cook, must have thought we ate like sacadas (sugarcane workers). We were the only guests at Science Camp so the staff left us to have our privacy. We can hear occasional splashing of water below the dining cabana. It was probably the eel, disturbed by our boisterous laughter. The wine, the air of wilderness, or just the time away from the noise of the city, made us relax and enjoy girl-bonding. It was almost midnight by the time we bid good night to the staff.
Fresh water for bathing is available although we made extra effort to conserve the use of water since these are still brought in from the mainland. No need to worry, there’s regular toilet for those of us who are not yet prepared to embrace eco-living all the way.
Our sleeping cabana has basic items, a set of bedding with mosquito nets for each of us. There are no walls on the sides, just canvas which you can unroll. We chose not to unroll the front wall canvas to let the fresh air in. Electricity is powered by solar energy just enough for the lights and cellphone charging so there’s no air conditioning unit. It’s an eco-cabana in its truest sense.
A night owl by habit, I lay awake until dawn thinking of the day’s activity and already looking forward for the next day. I ‘m not sure what time I slept but I remember my last thoughts were of the movie Blue Lagoon.
Those who are interested in visiting Danjugan Island, you may contact the following:
- Ramie Babac Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc
Contact nos.: +63 34 4416010