I’ve also written an article about Samal island for The Australia Times Travel Magazine. You can read more about this beautiful island there too. Hopefully, this would inspire you even more to visit Samal island. And oh, that’s the first time my article got featured in an international travel magazine so I’m really happy!
I know very little of Samal Island before. All I know was, it’s where the popular high-end resort, the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, is located. I happily discovered that this island is more than just Pearl Farm.
This had been only my second time in Mindanao. During the first time, I visited Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin and Bukdinon. I’ve never been to Davao City so I booked a flight there and have it ticked on my list before 2015 ends.
While researching for Davao City tourist spots, Samal island kept coming up on the search results. I got curious and started looking for travel destinations in Samal island. I love what I see so far, so I decided to spend 3 of my 4 vacation days there.
I really had fun exploring the Island Garden City of Samal (yes, that’s its official name) and I’m sure my readers would love this island getaway too. Now, I’m excited to share to you the 7 reasons why you definitely should visit Samal island:
1. More bang for your bucks
Well, the plane flare from Manila to Davao City is never the cheapest but once you arrive there everything is actually pretty cheap. The taxi fare from Davao International Airport to Sasa Wharf (the port going to Samal Island) is just less than P100 ($2.25), ferry boat fare is only P10 ($0.25), habal-habal (motorbike) is just for P50 ($1.11) to P100 ($2.25) depending on your destination and food just cost about P100 ($2.25) per meal. A hostel in Agoda or Airbnb would just cost about $10 per night.
I booked 2 nights in an 8-bed dorm room in La Vida Orchard Samal for just about P479 ($10) a night. The rate already includes breakfast. A real bargain! The facilities are basic but everything is clean and looks new. Another great thing is, they’ll treat you as family. You can also use the kitchen to cook or reheat food. And yeah, I know you’re going to ask.. they have wifi in the common area 🙂 For security reasons, they lock the main gate by 10pm. Just make arrangement with them if you’ll be arriving late.
2. No hordes of tourists
I’m traveling solo for this trip. I’m almost always the only one in a particular tourist spot in Samal… and I love it! I took my time to just take in the whole experience without having to compete with hordes of tourists. I would appreciate some company though so we could split the expenses especially with ferry boat from Kaputian Wharf to Isla Reta Beach.
I asked the locals when are the busy days for tourists. They say it’s usually during weekends or holidays, but even so it’s not as commercialized as other beaches I’ve been to. Samal is a perfect place for some ME time.
3. Calm seas and fair winds
The island is located at the center of Davao Gulf and surrounded by mainland Mindanao which shelters it from strong winds. Also, this part of the Philippines rarely experience typhoon which makes its waters ideal for water activities like swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
The sea is not only calm but crystal clear too. I’m not kidding! Check out this video from the Kaputian Wharf.
A video posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on
4. Guinness World Record Holder
It’s amazing to know that there’s a bat sanctuary in Samal Island. What’s even more amazing is it’s a Guinness World Record holder for the most number of Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats. The Monfort Bat Cave is home to 2.5 million bats!
A video posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on
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Some info about the fruit bats in Monfort that I learned from my tour guide:
- The bat caves in Monfort are actually sinkholes and it was used as hiding place by the locals during the Japanese occupation. There are only few bats living there during that time.
- Fruit bats are attracted to the strong smell of the durian fruit which they help pollinate and scatter the seeds.
- Each of the bat cave serves different purpose:
- a. Mating
- b. Pregnant and Baby Bats
- c. Teenage bats to practice flying
- d. Male bats outnumber female bats that’s why male bats have their own cave to “hang” out.
- e. Senior bats
- After they exit their caves at night, they fly across the sea then go to the different provinces of Mindanao. They were reported to reach as far as Bukidnon.
- The bat emergence, the process where the bats exits their caves, can take as long as 3 hours.
- The caves emit foul odor (that is expected) but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Still, you should bring extra shirt.
Best time to go there is at 4pm so you can still take photos of the bats and tour the area. Flash photography is not allowed during the night since it will startle and stress the bats. Wait until it gets dark then you’ll see one of the amazing sights the animal kingdom can provide. The bats would fly in circles as they get out of their caves and find food. It is kinda magical to see thousands of bats squeaking and flapping their wings at the same time.
To get there, just tell your tricycle or habal-habal driver to bring you to Monfort Bat Cave on the district called Babak.
Entrance fee is just P100 per person for day tour and P200 for night tour.
5. White Sand Beaches
Who doesn’t like a white sand beach? Samal island have a lot of white sand beaches especially in Talicud island just 10 mins away from the main island. A popular resort there is the Isla Reta Beach Resort. The view is just perfect. It has white sand beach and turquoise water. The beach is lined with big Talisay trees. It’s very relaxing to just sit under the shade while the cool breeze is touching your face.
The resort charges P100 ($25) per person for the day pass. They have tents and rooms available. Just choose whatever suits you. I chose the day tour and just spent most of my day just admiring the beauty that surrounds me.
They have a restaurant there so you won’t need to cook, a meal would cost about P200 ($4.5) to P300 ($7), but they also have grilling stations if you prefer to cook. You can bring food and drinks from outside but I believe they charge a corkage fee.
To get to Isla Reta, ride a habal-habal from your hotel in Samal to Kaputian Wharf. In Kaputian Wharf, ride a bangka to Isla Reta, Talicud Island. The boat charges P600 ($13) per trip. If you have fellow travelers with you, you can just split the fare. They also have regular trips from Davao City to Isla Reta but I’m not sure about the price.
A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on
6. Get to see 3,500 giant clams
Giant Clams are in the endangered list because people harvest them for their shells and meat. So when I learned that there’s a giant clam sanctuary in Samal, I was super excited to visit. It’s difficult to find them in the wild anymore. I saw just a handful during my other snorkeling trips in the Philippines but this place has 3,500 giant clams in different colors and sizes. It feels so awesome to get this close to these beautiful and wonderful sea creatures. There were also starfishes and other kinds of fish. The coolest thing was these small and colorful fishes were surrounding me as I snorkel. It was like they’re touring me around their home!
I wish I had a GoPro with me so I could have shown you how beautiful it is. I was being cheap so I only use my cellphone camera with a cheap waterproof casing which turned out to be totally useless. Yeah, it protected my camera but it only focused on the plastic cover and not on the subject so everything is blurred. I would definitely recommend that you get a GoPro or any other underwater camera so you could document your experience here. If you can’t get one, just remember to enjoy the whole experience and don’t stress yourself out with taking photos without the proper gear.
7. Visit Samal island’s other natural wonders
The places I mentioned above are some of the must-see Samal island tourist spots but there are also other tourist destinations in the island which are equally beautiful. Samal island has so much natural wonders that I wasn’t able to visit them all. If you have more time and resources, you definitely need to check out the Hagimit Falls, Vanishing Island, Turtle and Dugong Sanctuary, Maxima Aqua Fun, Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Sabang Cliff Jumping, Kaputian Beach and Mt. Puting Bato. I hope that by mentioning them here will make it easier for you to plan your trip now to Samal island.
Are there any other destinations I missed? Share it to us below.