When in Davao City and in search for some place far from the sight of the crowd and the nagging, busy streets, the nearby island, Samal, can give you just the right peace you need.
Today, Davao City is highly urbanized and its outskirts are mostly mountainous; so if you want to hit the beach, head to Samal Island to experience the other side of Davao.
Samal Island is located in the Northeast of Davao del Norte. Although it’s a sea-apart from the mainland, Samal is officially a part of Metro Davao. Samal offers beautiful white sand beaches and awesome water adventures for the laid-back or thrill-seeking tourists.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are activities that can be enjoyed year-round in the island. Samal’s crystal-clear waters boast unspoiled dive spots that have been attracting divers from all over the country. The rich biodiversity is a real-treat to snorkelers and divers who just want to enjoy the beauty of various water creatures.
Beach resorts in the island also have amenities like banana boats, waterski, slides, and kayaks for those seeking other water adventures. Maxima Aqua Fun has the longest slide in Samal, a must-try for extreme-sports lovers.
Other activities include mountain-climbing, rapelling, and cycling, Samal’s terrain is also a good venue for motocross.
Samaleños celebrate various festivals, too. The city celebrates its annual foundation on the first week of March. One of the highlights of Araw ng Samal is Bigiw Regatta, an event where local fishermen compete to show their athleticism, skills and paddling speed using sailboats.
Another attraction in the island is the Kabasan Festival, a weeklong celebration during the month of May consisting of activities like salo-salo sa kabasan. motocross, fireworks display, baile del calle, street party and many more. Kabasan is the lumad term for “seashells” that is why most of the essentials in the celebration are seashells and other sea creatures.
For the month of April, Caracoles Festival is celebrated. Similar to Kabasan, Caracoles is also a fest of shells. Every 8th of June, Kaputian Island celebrates its founding day in an event called White Nights. Pangapog Festival is another celebration to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and blessings.
How To Get There
Samal Island is a short trip from the city proper. You can get to the island via water, or land and water combined. Island Express bus lines travel from Magsaysay to Samal. It is convenient since you don’t have to get off the bus when you reach the port since there are RoRo ships (barge) that take big vehicles from the mainland to Samal. Bus trip is about 30 minutes while the water transfer takes only 10-15 minutes. The bus stops are Peñaplata market. From this point, hire a habal-habal (single motorcycle) to take you to the resort of your choice.
If you opt to take a water vessel, there are ferries from Sta. Ana Wharf in Magsaysay available to passengers going to Kaputian and Talikud Islands. Some resorts have ferries of their own for transferring their guests to and from the port.
You can also hire private motorboats to bring you from any beach of your choice via these entry points:
- Sta. Ana Wharf
- Lanang Beach Club
- Waterfront Wharf
- Pearl Farm and Bali Bali Wharf
- Paradise Island Wharf
Samal Island’s water adventures are perfect for families who can spend a whole day simply eating, swimming, or just playing in the water. Samal’s white sand may not be exactly how the famed Boracay sand looks and feels but if you want a relaxing and peaceful vacation, Samal is a perfect place because it offers less of everything, that is less noise and less people.
Laze around, relax, enjoy the sea, the sun, the fresh air, and the breathtaking views. For beach-loving people, Samal Island is a real paradise.
*Published in the February-March 2012 issue of Philippine Tourist Destinations