Sweetie and I want our love celebrations to have a dash of exciting adventure. You rarely see us having dates in malls, cafes, theaters, or bars. We find secluded and pristine places more romantic, more in tune with our love for each other, and more likely to ignite the fires of our passion. That is why rarely visited destinations such as the rocky islets and green lagoons around Nueva Valencia in Guimaras never fail to charm us.
Once our boatman, a middle-aged and quiet fellow named Mario, arrived from his short errand, we promptly went under way, with huge smiles on our faces. On our way to our first destination, we came across large fish pens such as this one. The presence of fish pens indicate that the blue waters of Iloilo Strait and Panay Gulf are rich fishing grounds. The tender fish that we had for lunch must have come from one of these fish pens.
A fish pen generally consists of a large net that is tied along several bamboo poles that emerge from the water. Young fish are then bred and nourished inside the pen, with the net protecting them from predators. Once they mature, the fish are then harvested and sold in the market.
Soon, we approached a lovely white-sand beach devoid of people or artificial structures. Later, during our cruise, we found several more hidden beaches like these. All we need to do is to scan the length of an island and spot a white dash of sand.
In a few minutes, the bow of our pump boat plowed through the soft sand with a satisfying grinding sound. Except for a mother-and-daughter team of fisherfolks with their small pet dog who were taking a break from their work, we were virtually alone in the beach. A wall of coral stone blanketed by thick bushes hides the beach from prying eyes.
This is probably one of the beaches in Nueva Valencia where couples will be treated to a romantic picnic or dinner if they take Ms. Rowena’s package. Its seclusion and surrounding scenery makes it perfect for an intimate love celebration.
The talcum-fine sand felt great on our feet. Also, check out the gorgeous aquamarine water. We weren’t able to resist its charm, and we happily dove in. It has been quite some time since Sweetie and I played in the water. Hehehe!
Manong Mario earlier told us that there’s a snorkeling site a little bit up north. You know how excited we are when it comes to discovering realms beneath the waves, don’t you? So after half an hour of checking out the deserted beach, we were on our way to that secret snorkeling site.
We cruised slowly along mini-straits that cut across islets and the coast itself. The seascape reminded us vividly of our trip in unblemished Sohoton Bay in Bucas Grande more than two years ago.
We were totally spellbound at the rich variety of trees in the area. We can even spot separate species of trees among the groves. Such is the richness of flora in the island of Guimaras.
The abundance of various kinds of trees is not restricted in these tucked-away shores and outcroppings. On our way here and during our land tour the day after, we saw some of the densest concentrations of different species of trees in any one place in the country.
We had to stay away from this seaside cliff; we would never know if there’s a sharp spur underwater. Although the cliff is made of tough coral stone, the overhang makes it seem that it can topple any time. Better be safe than sorry.
As we approached our snorkeling area, the water became phenomenally crisp and clear. In fact, it was so transparent that despite the overcast, gray sky, we could easily see the seabed several feet below us! Just check out the photo below.
We arrived at the snorkeling site, which is located inside a tiny cove. Manong Mario said that only a few people, including him, know about this place. They decided to reign in that knowledge to prevent the place from being defaced by abusive and irresponsible tourists and locals.
In this tiny cove, we were all alone, except for unseen denizens watching us with utmost curiosity in the shadows of those rocks and foliage. We snorkeled in muffled silence, with only the gentle splashes of our strokes and the sound of our breathing through our snorkeling tube filling the air. Even our boatman, who moments ago was busy trifling with the boat’s engine, fell silent and smoked a pipe while watching over us.
The stillness of this secret place allowed us to truly experience its magic.
Just a few feet under the calm surface was a lovely collection of healthy corals. We found an assortment of both soft and hard corals.
Heteroxenia, a species of soft corals, are fun to watch. Their tentacles sway gently with the waves, and the small polyps at the ends seem to glitter. Heteroxenia are predated by certain sea slugs, and they provide shelter to small, young fish.
There are also a lot of leathery Alcyoniidae corals in the area. The thousands of greenish polyps on the brown skin seem to glitter as well. Alcyoniidae are very common in tropical seas and are usually the pioneer reef species. The coral has a characteristic of shedding off its leathery tissue every now and then, probably to get rid of algae growth.
Soft-bodied animals such as this Sabellidae, or feather-duster worm, are quite shy; after taking this photo, the animal quickly retracted its fan-like branchiae. This one seems to have grown its concealed tube body in this hard coral.
What seems to be lichen grows from hard corals. Lichen growth is quite possible despite the presence of salt water due to the abundant sunlight reaching below the surface. That means, these organisms can process their food through photosynthesis.
Various kinds of hard corals dot the place. These kinds of corals coat their soft and vulnerable organs with a hard casing of calcium carbonate. However, these corals should not be touched as the thin mucus membrane that protects it can be sloughed off at the slightest contact.
After about an hour of snorkeling and enjoying the sight of animated underwater biological wonders, we decided to head off to the next destination. On the way, we noticed extremely jagged seaside cliffs. Constant erosion by wind and waves caused the rough and irregular texture of these cliffs. Looking at them made us feel the unrestrainable power of Mother Nature.
Many of the cliffs featured holes and caverns. They are homes, roosting areas, and hunting grounds of various sea-borne animals such as sea snakes, gulls, bats, and more.
For lovers looking for utmost privacy, having an intimate moment with each other in any of these holes would probably be not a good idea. Better book yourselves at Nature’s Eye Resort for a comfortable, private, and safe celebration of your love. Hehehe!
Manong Mario plotted a southern course towards the opposite side of the bay. We had a nice view of the impassable cliff that divides a public beach (more like a community docking area rather than a beach) and Nature’s Eye Resort. Notice the eroded sections of the cliff which exposed its sandstone composition.
We passed by Nature’s Eye Resort and continued south. The bay is home to several hospitality establishments and beach resorts. There was no presence of usual resort activities such as people jetskiing, paragliding, and scuba diving. Later though, we did encounter a few tourists who, like us, were quietly cruising the bay.
Except for a few swatches of sandy beach, the coastline is usually made of rocky coral stone cliffs. Manong Mario told us that some of the beaches are actually nesting grounds of sea turtles who inhabit the area. Pretty cool!
The danger that the turtles face, however, is that some of these beaches are made into resorts or communities; you know how the presence of humans can harm these gentle creatures, don’t you? Other beaches became heavens for marauding stray dogs that would dig out the eggs and eat them.
The southwestern coast is lined up with dozens upon dozens of these rocky outcroppings, islets, and sandbars. They go all the way around the southern tip of Guimaras, ending with Lusonan Island.
They may not be as popular as the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, El Nido in Palawan, or Britania Islands in the Surigao del Sur. However, their extremely jagged makeup gives these islands their own distinctive “personality.”
Some of the larger islets are privately owned. In fact, we saw some structures—houses or resorts—built on some of them.
Some interesting ones have holes in them. No, that hole is too small for our pump boat to pass through. Hehehe! For some reason, this is called Turtle Island, probably because of its hump which resembles a turtle’s (actually a tortoise’s. There’s a difference) domed carapace.
Locals call this Crocodile Island since it vaguely resembles a crocodile whose snout is visible just above the water line.
One of the highlights around these stunning islands is this cave. During low tide, the opening becomes large or high enough so we can go in. That would have been awesome! Manong Mario said that the water inside the cave causes light to reflect around the interior. We envision the reflections to dance merrily around the cave walls.
Unfortunately, it was high tide, and it was impossible to go inside.
We can’t help but notice the lush mangroves, trees, and other vegetation that line up the shore. They keep the water clean, crisp, and sufficiently oxygenated for sea creatures to survive. The ultra-clear water, and the presence of fish pens (which speak volumes of the abundance of fish in the area), are clear proofs of an effective and working mutualism of the Terran plants and the marine world.
This symbiosis shows the importance of protecting and preserving littoral plants to help sustain a healthy marine ecosystem.
Our last stop was this cool bamboo floating cottage in the middle of a sandbar. What sandbar? you might ask. Well, it is submerged in the water; we went there during high tide.
The Floating Cottage, as it is aptly called was wholeheartedly donated by DENR Secretary Gina Lopez when she was still working with Lingkod Kapamilya. The project was created to help the community to earn through ecotourism.
The water was comfortably warm despite the slight chill in the air thanks to the warm sand, which was heated by the day’s sunbeams. The milky coloration surrounding the floating hut is caused by the white sand underneath the waves.
The cottage also gives us a nice view of the islets we passed. West of us are the cliffs of Taklong Island. The opposite side of the long island is dominated by swatches of uninhabited beaches, which may be turtle nesting grounds or roosting areas.
Further south was the vast mangrove forest of Tando Island, one of the islands in the protected Taklong Island National Marine Reserve.
It was already 4 PM when we finished the cup of hot coffee that we shared; how time flies when you are having fun! We decided to call it a day and head back to the resort before darkness overtook us.
Along the way, we passed by Crocodile Island from the other side. The gnarly cliff made our imaginations run wild; as a past Dungeons & Dragons player, I pictured an unnameable monstrosity from the depths of the Abyss.
Three youngsters swam and hunted for fish, hoping to successfully have a last-minute catch for supper.
From afar, a menacing black thunderstorm slowly sailed westward, bringing rain and wind. However, it looked like it was going to miss Guimaras, so we were assured of a calm, clear night.
Just look at how tiny that huge container ship is when compared to the thunderstorm. This photo struck us with a powerful note. It clearly proves how diminutive we are, despite the wonders we made, against nature.
It is quite obvious that we truly enjoyed this love celebration. Hehehe! But this was just half of our weekend Valentine’s adventure. The other half was waiting for us the next day.
We would like to thank Manong Mario for the ride. His quiet and gentle demeanor as well as his knowledge of the area is totally impressive.
For us, an ordinary celebration of love becomes more exciting and romantic if we include a bit of adventure into it. Cruising around the pristine bay of Nueva Valencia in Guimaras certainly brought smiles to our faces, butterflies in our hearts, and new insights about Mother Nature. So the next time you want to have a great time with your special someone, why not visit these less known but enchanting beaches, coves, and islets?
The Nueva Valencia Bay island hopping tour is part of Nature’s Eye Resort’s packages. For more inquiries and bookings, get in touch with Ms. Rowena Amancio of Nature’s Eye Resort by using the details below:
- Mailing Address: Nature’s Eye Resort, Brgy. Tando, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras Island
- Cellphone Number: (63) 907-757-9055
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook Page: Nature’s Eye Resort
For more information about Nature’s Eye Resort and the packages being offered, please check their Package Rates in our previous post.
Ma’am Rowena can also help arrange an island-hopping-only tour around the bay if you opt not to stay in the resort. However, we strongly recommend you take a package to make it worth your while.