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Diving in and Exploring Negros Oriental

Have you ever heard of Negros Oriental? I personally didn’t know much about it until I started researching on where to dive in Dumaguete. All this time I thought that the towns where you can find the rivers, falls, and sandbar are part of Dumaguete and that it’s also the gateway to Apo Island, one of top dive sites in the world, but this is not technically true. Sure, Dumaguete City is the capital of Negros Oriental (and there’s a lot to see there) but it’s not the only place where the adventure is! You have to visit the small towns around it to see the real beauty of the province.

About Negros Oriental:

Negros Oriental is a province in the Philippines. It is located in the Central Visayas region with Dumaguete as the capital city. The province is surrounded by other popular tourist destinations such as Cebu and Siquijor. In terms of language spoken, the widely spoken dialect is Cebuano but they do speak good English and most will know how to understand Tagalog. The place is known for Apo Island, a well-renowned diving site,  and also for its diverse natural resources from rivers to waterfalls. The name of the province came about because of the Spanish explorers back in 1565. When they arrived on the island, they saw dark-skinned inhabitants and called them “Negros” which means “black” in Spanish. Then, it was later on divided into two provinces thus the Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

I initially wanted to dive in Apo Island but unfortunately it was close due to covid restrictions. I still pushed through with the trip because after doing some research I was convinced that there’s more to see in Negros Oriental aside from Apo Island (but for sure I will come back to dive there!).

Now before I go through where to stay, what to do, and where to eat, let’s discuss some useful travel tips and how to get there.

If you haven’t read my previous post pandemic articles, I’ll emphasize it here. I’m sharing with you some travel tips that might be helpful especially now with all the changing travel restrictions and requirements.

  1. Know the travel requirements of your destination. Do your research. Websites and social media pages of local government units, Department of Tourism, and of your hotel usually post announcements on travel requirements and restrictions. As of July 2021, Negros Oriental is open. See more information here: https://www.facebook.com/lgu.negor
  2. Know the COVID situation of the area you are going to. Are there active cases? If there’s a high number of COVID cases and local transmissions, I would suggest you postpone your trip.
  3. Know the safety protocols and extra precautions that your accommodation is implementing. The more the better, the safer you can be. And make sure you follow them. Also, better to stay in a DOT (Department of Tourism) accredited establishment to make sure they’ve undergone the safety check.
  4. Wash your hands. Wear your mask.
  5. Research on what’s open and what can be done in the area. Your accommodation might be open but the places you want to visit around you may not be. This way, you can manage your expectations and fix your itinerary beforehand. (I was expecting Apo Island will be open because the province is open for tourists, but it wasn’t!)
  6. Get yourself tested before and after your trip. It’s additional cost but it will keep you and your family / loved ones safe too.

Travel Requirements as of July 15, 2021

  1. Negative RT PCR Test 72 hours before the flight. I personally prefer home service and I booked mine through Kapitbahay MD. There are more options so you can do your research.
  2. Hotel Booking Confirmation – make sure your accommodation is DOT accredited
  3. S-pass online registration: https://s-pass.ph/ You will need your Hotel Booking confirmation and RT-PCR test to complete the S-pass registration.
  4. LGU Acceptance letter- You will need this if you will be staying outside Dumaguete City. In our case, our hotel processed it for us so you can ask your accommodation if they can process it for you. You will need to give them your RT-PCR test result at least 12-24hrs before your flight so they have the time to secure the letter for you. We also had to send them a screenshot of our online S-pass travel application so the LGU can get the reference code.

Arrival at Dumaguete Airport:

There will be two lanes you need to go through.

1st lane: They will collect your travel information. Be ready with your RT-PCR test and Letter of Acceptance. You will need to tell them where you are staying in the province.

2nd lane: Traze Contact Tracing. Before the flight, download the Traze app to avoid delays. Just scan the QR code from the airport personnel and you can already go out of the airport!

The airport is small so you won’t get lost!

Where to Stay?

If you would like to be based in the center, then Dumaguete city will be perfect for you. This is also where most happenings are (though they have a 9pm curfew everywhere!). I had to choose between Dauin and Zamboanguita as these two small towns are just beside each other and offer good shore dives! Dauin is the gateway to Apo Island.

Mahi Mahi Dive Resort

I decided to stay in Mahi Mahi Dive Resort because of the following reasons:

  1. Good reviews online
  2. Offered discounted price: Php 3200 for 2 pax inclusive of breakfast
  3. Beachfront and a good view of the Apo Island
  4. Boutique hotel with a homey feel
  5. Hospitality is excellent. They can take care of the tours and the dives too
  6. Also they had a pool and massage

Mahi Mahi Dive Resort is located in Zamboanguita which is less than 30 minutes away from Dauin and around 1 hour away from Dumaguete city and the airport. There’s no traffic so the travel was a breeze! Alex, the owner of the place, and everyone were so accommodating!

Our favorite Nacho Taco Salad. Ordered it almost everyday!
Mahi Mahi Dive Restaurant
Pool in Mahi Mahi Dive Resort overlooking the beach
Beachfront Property overlooking Apo Island

What to order from their restaurant:

  1. Nacho Taco Salad
  2. Spaghetti Puttanesca
  3. Grilled Fish Meal
  4. Chicken Quesadilla
  5. Russian Pancake

Budget Breakdown:

I’m sure you can find other ways to save on the costs, especially with the tours. I coursed everything through Mahi Mahi Resort to make sure that they know the travel partner and therefore safer for us too!

What to do in Negros Oriental:

Here are the quick highlights of our trip!

 

Valencia, Negros Oriental

You can find different ecotourism sites in Valencia. It’s about 1-1.5 hours away from Zamboanguita. In one day we were able to visit the Forest Camp Resort and Pulangbato Waterfalls.

We weren’t able to see Casaroro Waterfalls, the province’s most photographed waterfall, because it was still closed due to covid.  Also, there wasn’t enough time, but Twin Lakes and the Red Rock Hot Spring are also a must see in the area! It is advisable to do 1-2 whole day tour in Valencia to cover all these.

Forest Camp Resort is a 6,000 square meter property with 2.2 hectares of land. They offer accommodations and they do have a restaurant. We ordered sinigang and grilled chicken and both were really good! There is a river that sits in the middle of the property. You can swim here except when there’s heavy rainfall. They also have several man-made pools connecting to the river where you can swim and relax.

Hanging Bridge in Forest Camp
You can swim in the river or in the pools

Pulangbato Falls is a swimming hole with red rocks, where its name came from. You have several options on where to swim, my favorite will be the hidden one. Just turn right after the entrance and climb the stairs. You will see a smaller version of the falls!

The secret falls in Pulang Bato

Bais and Manjuyod, Negros Oriental

We wanted to see dolphins in Bais but there wasn’t any during that day so we spent the whole morning in Manjuyod Sandbar. If you are lucky, you can buy fresh oyster and urchin while swimming in the sandbar!

Lunch as part of the tour
Fresh Oysters and Urchins! Half a bucket for Php150!
The famous sandbar
First time to try fresh oysters and urchins in the middle of the ocean!
No one but us in the sandbar!
Fresh Fresh Fresh!

Diving in Dauin with Mahi Mahi Resort

We did three shore dives in Dauin. Most of it are a mix of coral and artificial reefs. We saw three turtles, pufferfish, grouper, sea snake, mantis shrimp, batfish and more! We were even attacked by a triggerfish, good thing the dive master saw it coming towards us so we were able to swim away. Overall, even if it wasn’t in Apo Island, it was still a sight to see! I will definitely come back to do more dives!

Here’s the highlight of our dives:

 

My friends’ first time to scuba-dive! We saw an installed boat and artificial reefs!
Happy Diver!
Documenting our dives

Where else to eat:

We were able to try two other restaurants in Dauin. One is Fin Bar which serves a variety of food, including healthy options. I tried their poke bowl! They also have good burger and pizza and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. While Anahaw is a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, also located in Dauin! We loved all the food we ordered for very affordable prices.

FIN BAR:

Fin Bar- Not so good in photos but really tasted good in real life!
A long lost friend, last we saw each other was in Zambales back in 2017 or 2018.
Yes, they have alcoholic drinks!
Wanted to get the menu but it was too far

ANAHAW:

Anahaw Bar
Anahaw Menu: Healthy Food Option!
Jackfruit Burget, Pad Thai, Mushroom Chicharon

Overall, I do recommend visiting Negros Oriental for diving and lots of adventure. I liked the laid back vibe, and it actually reminded me of Camiguin Island. It’s not too developed and touristy so natural resources are still abundant and definitely the diving experience was awesome. I’m definitely coming back for Apo Island, and some hiking and exploring the other waterfalls and lakes!

Till the next trip!

Follow me on instagram @travelanyway for more travels and a random poetry!

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