Hi everyone! I am still in Zamboanga and yes, I’m in the mood to write an almost up-to-date blog post about my adventure last weekend. It was an adventure that almost didn’t happen. Almost. But of course it did! I, together with my aunties (the 90s’ kids) pushed through. I am staying in my father’s auntie & uncle (meaning, my lola & lolo) for a week now. Of course being a protective granny, daddy (lolo) didn’t let me go to the island. You know, perks of living in Mindanao (haha!) and being a retired Navy, he’s just worried I’d be kidnapped. And me being stubborn (a member of “you tell me don’t do it and I will do it” squad), I still pushed through with what I wanted. Okay guys, relax. Mommy (lola) gave us the blessing to do it, okay? She works in the Coast Guard and she knows, the island is S-A-F-E. PNP escorts are everywhere in the island. I actually feel safer here than in Manila. LOL!
So on a Saturday morning, we got up at six and prepared our stuff then drove to the nearest Jollibee drive-thru to grab some food to bring along in the island. Yes, we didn’t bring the usual food prepared on a normal beach outing but instead brought our Chickenjoy. Haha!
Our starting point going to Great Santa Cruz Island was Paseo Del Mar. I can’t remember how many minutes we waited for the weather to be steady. While waiting, I already munched my Chickenjoy. The weather was a little gloomy and we were advised that if the weather won’t cooperate, our boatman (provided by the tourism office) will pick us earlier than our scheduled time.
So after we got the signal from the tourism office that the weather is safe to board, we payed our terminal fee (5php), proceeded to our assigned motorized boat, advised to wear our life jacket at all times while in the boat because the water current of the adjacent Basilan Straight is strong. Did I just say Basilan? Omg. And after 20 minutes, we arrived in the island!
The island greeted us with its warm hues of faint pink even from the boat. I expected it to look like an ordinary white sand because it’s what I saw from the photos online. But it looked pretty pink when we arrived. According to our guide, the color varies depending on position of the sun (position of the earth towards the sun actually). During noon time, where the sun’s reflection is direct, it looks more white. But during 9am to 11am it looks pinkier. Perfect timing for us because we arrived past 9am!
The Great Sta Cruz Island is probably Zamboanga’s pride among its gems. There are more spots for adventures like mountain climbing and waterfalling in Zamboanga but I chose to prioritized Sta Cruz because there are only few pink beaches in the world. And I cannot miss this one. 😁
The weather that day was a little bit unpredictable from gloomy to fair to little gloomy again but nonetheless, everything was perfect. And this is my photo diary from my little adventure in Great Sta Cruz Island..
*My photos were all post-processed in VSCO because I can’t help it, VSCO IS LIFE. Hehe! But believe me, it looks pink even without VSCO. 😊
The island is actually white sand but due to years of surf erosion, the red organ pipe corals were pulverized and mixed with the white sand making it look like a pink sand in the naked eye. Look at my photo below. 👇🏻
The red organ pipe corals in this photo (👇🏻) are actually 70 kilos in weight. According to our guide, the red organ pipe corals don’t look this vibrant when alive. The coral’s color turns into vibrant orangey to red when it is dead.
I was lucky enough that the island wasn’t crowded on a weekend during my visit. So of course, I did a mini photoshoot with the help of my company, kuya Jhong (our guide), and my tripod for self-portraits. 😅
I love this spot in the island because the sand is so fine.
The sea gets deeper with just few feet away from the shore. So be careful when swimming, especially that current is strong. I was snorkeling few minutes while trying to shoot a video a school of fish, and it was kind of tiring to swim against the current. Really.
The island is one of the protected areas in the Philippines. High security and officials from the City Mayor’s Office are always present supervising the landscapes and seascapes of the island. We met Kuya Jhong, our tour guide to the old Muslim burial site. He is the resident forester in the island, he told us that the island doesn’t only boast on its pink sand and mangrove forest lagoon but also on its rich history. The island was first inhabited by the Subanens and then the Badjaos. At the current, there is a Badjao village near the mangoves but we didn’t get to visit but instead we visited the old burial site.
I find it interesting to visit unique burial sites like this one in our country. I remember the hanging coffins in Sagada. But this is special too. Instead of ‘lapida’, the Badjaos used a boat miniature placed on the ground of their deceased loved one. It is a symbolism of their journey on the sea throughout their lifetime. The Badjao tribe is widely known as the “sea gypsies” living on houseboats where they make their livelihood solely on the sea as expert fishermen, deep sea divers, and navigators. Isn’t it amazing?
For this area, kuya Jhong said that deceased are mostly the Sama Bangingi tribe with some Tausugs and Yakans who are our Muslim brothers. As you can observed, there are mostly mosques on their ground.
I am planning to come back hopefully I will be able to witness the releasing of the newly hatched hawksbill sea turtles. This breed of sea turtles are critically endangered according to kuya Jhong. He let us watch the video of his footage of the last time they released the hawksbill and they were so many but sadly one 1% of the population of the baby sea turtles will survived according to Kuya Jhong. 🐢😔
On our way back home, I wanted to make a stop at the Little Sta. Cruz Island. This island is a protected area and a military base so going to the island without permission is illegal. We weren’t able to explore the island itself but we were able to dropped by at the sand bar connecting to Little Sta. Cruz. It wasn’t low tide enought to see the full bar afloat. The sand is little course but then it’s worth the stop for a jump shot. Lol!
The Great Sta. Cruz is a very interesting island that I’ve been to with a lot of stories to be told. And all I can say is..
🐚 Paseo del Mar is the starting point going to The Great Sta Cruz Island Pink Beach.
🐚 Register and pay your terminal fee for 5php/person.
🐚 The trip going to the island is from 8am-3pm only. But subject to change depending on the weather situation.
🐚 Travel time is about 15-20minutes by motorized boat/vinta.
🐚Boat rental is 100/person roundtrip for a group of ten (1000php). Tip: for solo travelers or less than ten, ask for other travelers if you can join their group, or else you have to pay for the whole 1000php.
🐚 In the island, entrance fee is 20php/person and cottage rentals range from 100php-200php. Tip: you may stay under the Talisay trees if you want more laidback feel and of course, no rent!
🐚 Camping is not allowed.
🐚 There is no resort/restaurants in the island, so bring your own food. But during my visit, there were fresh seafood for sale. There is also a grilling facility that you can use for ihaw-ihaw.
🐚 There is no fresh water in the island, so bring your own water. 💦
🐚 If you plan to explore the island, please ask for a tour guide. You’ll thank him/her for the knowledge after the tour.
🐚 Visit the mangrove forest when it’s high tide.
🐚 Ask to visit the sand bar in the Little Santa Cruz Island, because it’s pretty cool it the lowest tide.
🐚 Play volleyball and meet new friends! 🏐
🐚 The island is a protected area, so LNT. Leave no trace.
‘Til next time!