Nature-based tourism meets beach tourism on the shores of Buenavista, an island resort in the south of the Philippines. Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio.
Davao City, 10 December 2017. If there’s an island that I keep looking forward in going to, it’s none other than Buenavista (a combination of two Spanish words: “buena” for good and “vista” for view). Located at the Island Garden City of Samal, it used to be known as Little Ligid Island.
After all, Buenavista is Davao’s version of Palawan’s Amanpulo (which means “peaceful island”). The good thing about Buenavista is that you can have it all for a night for you and nine others.
“In this island, we give a new dimension to the words privacy and exclusivity,” explains Brenda Ocampo, the resort’s marketing manager. “When we say that the island is private and exclusive, we mean you own the island for the period that you have it booked. There’s nobody else in the island except you and your companions – and of course some of the staff who will do the nitty-gritty chores like cooking your meals and fixing your beds.”
The island is only four hectares at high tide but approximately eight hectares during low tide. It may be small, but size is just a state of the mind. Everything else is big – in terms of fun and memories!
The first thing you can do to see what this island can offer in terms of nature tourism is to explore the whole area. As you loiter, you can take refuge under the shade of coconut trees swaying now to gentle sea breeze then to howling winds. Try to take off your slippers and walk over the fine white cottony sands.
On a clear day, you can go to at the gazebo and stay there while having a communion with nature. Watch the adjacent Big Ligid Island while sipping a cold pineapple juice or eating some Filipino delicacies.
As the day is set to end, take a glimpse of the pastel sunset. You can sit there and relax while gazing up to a velvet canopy of brilliant stars and silvery moon. You can even talk with Our Creator and marvel at His creations.
But most people come to the island because of its crystal-clear turquoise waters, where they can swim to their hearts’ contents. However, currents around the island are very strong and the shallow waters suddenly drop to deep fathoms in some areas. Among the recommended areas for swimming are the lagoon on the southern side of the island and the part facing Davao City bounded by the causeway to the pier.
During the early afternoons, when the heat of the sun beats down on the pier’s side of the island, ideal swimming area is directly opposite this location. But there’s a hitch: coral reefs are all over the place. If you go swimming, stay clear of the corals to avoid damaging these live marine critters. Wearing booties or fins can help protect your feet in the event that you inadvertently scrape against the sharp and cutting edges of the corals.
Snorkelling, Scuba Diving at Buenavista
If the salty water is not your fancy, you can always go for freshwater swimming. There’s a swimming pool located just a few walks away from the pavilion, where most of the non-water activities are done (sitting around, playing parlour games, entertainment, seascape viewing, or singing).
You can do more than just swimming; better still, go snorkeling. The best snorkel area is off the northwestern side of the island. Another best area is by the gazebo. If you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of the Hawksbill turtle as it is a sanctuary for this endangered marine species.
“Any place is a good place for snorkeling,” Ocampo maintains. “There are floaters on the island’s side facing Davao City which allows for safe snorkeling, too. But we suggest you don’t venture out of these floaters as currents are strong.”
Another reminder: watch out for those black spiny sea urchins hugging the corals or resting on the sand. Your day will be completely ruined if you step on them.
For certified divers, they can also do scuba diving. “We have numerous dive spots around the small and big islands,” Ocampo says.
Kayaking is another fun thing to do. “You can explore the amazing coral reefs without getting wet by using our kayaks,” Ocampo points out. “See our abundance of exquisite sea life that exists just below the water surface.”
Since it is an island, you can always do fishing the sustainable way. “It’s just amateur type of bottom fishing,” Ocampo clarifies. “Even if you don’t catch fish, you can still enjoy the pleasure of circling around the island in leisurely fashion.” But be careful not to catch juvenile ones but only mature fish and the ones that are not flagged by WWF as threatened or endangered seafood species.
These are just of the few things you can do while in the island.
Since it is quiet and far from the madding crowd, Buenavista may be the place where you can pen that romantic poem you have been wanting to write or start the first chapter of your autobiography. Or you may try your hand in taking those award-winning photographs.
There are four places where you can stay at the Buenavista. First, there’s the Family Villa which can accommodate 13-15 persons. One of the most striking features is the see-through shower in the master bedroom (very good for newly-married couple).
There’s the Executive Suite, which is nestled in the beachfront. “Be overwhelmed by the serenity and immerse yourself with the luxurious suite forgetting the concept of time,” the press kit described.
At the Island Suites, you get to experience peace and relaxation a few steps away from the beach.
There are six Beach Huts, an each hut can accommodate two persons. “These Balinese-inspired huts promise true intimate and comforting luxury right beside the beach,” the kit stated.
Again, you can have this island for a fixed rate of P105,000 for ten persons for a night’s stay. Inclusions include exclusive use of the island and its facilities and amenities, accommodations, round trip boat transfers, and three buffet meals and two snacks.
In excess of 10 persons, the rate is P5,200 per person. The maximum number of persons that can be accommodated is only 35.
There is also a tour package with a fixed rate of P38,000 for 10 persons. An additional of P2,500 per person in excess of ten. The maximum is only 70 people.
Going to Buenavista Island from Davao City takes about an hour. The boat will leave Waterfront Insular and travel all the way to the island. The travel is not boring since you get to see the other resorts of Samal on the way.