Philippines / Visayas / Negros Occidental / Sagay
With no permanent structures, plant or animal life, including human inhabitants, Carbin Reef is by every definition of the word sandbar.
What is Carbin Reef?
This year-round tourist destination is a small sandbar. Think of it as a beach that is unattached from the mainland.
Facing north towards the Visayan Sea, there is nothing but open water in 270 degrees of view, and the tiny strip of white sand beneath your feet is a reminder to appreciate the beauty of the Sagay Marine Reserve. While standing on Carbin Reef, visitors can not help but feel one with nature.
The 32,000 hectare sanctuary that contains Carbin Reef was set up by the Philippine Government in 1999 to protect the many species of coral and marine life that thrive in this nutrient rich region of water. This was the first of its kind in the entire country.
The sandbar itself, is a testament to the power of ocean currents, and also serves as a revenue stream to help offset the maintenance costs the reserve. While this is the case,tourism alone does not generate a massive income because at low tide Carbin Reef can only hold about 100 people at a time.
Because there are no overnight accommodations or camping allowed, this is only possible as a day trip destination, but quite an enjoyable way to be out in nature and get away from the mainland.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Carbin Reef
While this amazing place is considered a year round travel destination, the dry season, which runs from November to May is ideal. The busiest time of year is the summertime, which runs from March to May.
Getting To Carbin Reef Requires Planning!
As mentioned earlier, the island (no it's not an island, but rather, a sandbar) has an occupancy cap of 100 pax (persons). The local department of tourism allows only 30 walk up spots per day, with the remaining 70 held for people that make reservations ahead of time. This means that poor planning could potentially leave you waiting on the dock with no place to go; therefore, it is HIGHLY recommended to call ahead and reserve space.
From Bacolod City
The closest transportation hub to Sagay City is Bacolod City, and the destination that most visitors to Carbin Reef arrive from. More specifically, the North Ceres Bus Terminal. From here, there are hourly trips to Sagay for about P170 (170 PHP or 3 USD). Drivers queing outside of the bus terminal will also attempt to offer you a quicker, but more expensive trip to Sagay in a van. Either is a viable option that will drop you off at the Sagay bus terminal. This is actually little more than a dirt and gravel parking lot with a few shops along the edge of the road. Here you can find a line of tricycle drivers eager to give you a lift the final few kilometers of the trip to the Old Sagay Port for about P70 (70PHP or 1.3 USD).
From Cebu City
The small Port of Tabuelan on the North West end of Cebu Island is the jump off point for this trip. It is accessible by many bus and van trips from points in Cebu. The transportation options here are limited to ferry services from shipping companies with regular schedules available.
The Costs Involved
As with any trip, it's good to have an understanding of the costs up front. Here is the most complete guide to what it costs to be on Carbin Reef for the day:
An adult will be asked to pay P100.00 (100 PHP or approx $2 USD) This includes the 'General Admission' to Carbin Reef, an Environmental Fee and the Terminal Fee. There was no clear breakdown available of how much actually goes towards each, but that information is usually. unimportant to most tourists. You will receive receipts when paying at the tourism office located at the end of the pier. Currently (2019) only cash is accepted.
Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities (often abbreviated as PWD in the Philippines) will be asked to pay a slightly lesser fee of P82.00/ pax (82 PHP per person) and Children that are twelve years old and below will cost p40/pax (40PHP or about .80 USD per person)
Cottages are a MUST RENT!
Well, renting the cottages is not actually a requirement, but if you have a group, the last thing you want to do is be on the sandbar for the entire day without any relief from the sun. Remember, there are no trees here, you will NEED a cottage to stay cool and keep your belongings safe. Furthermore, each of the cottages comes with a grill, so you will need to rent one if you plan on cooking your ulam (meals) on the sandbar.
A Single Cottage will cost P300.00 and a Doublewill cost P500.00. Those prices are PER DAY. The use of a changing station (which is little more than just a few pieces of wood) is free.
The Pumpboat Ride
The 20 minute pumpboat trip from the old feeder port in the Brgy. (Barangay) Old Sagay, to Carbin Reef will cost you about 1200 pesos (20 US dollars) for 10 people or less, and the boat will stay with you on the reef until you are ready to leave.
The Entrance Fees, Cottages, and Pumpboat ride make up the majority of costs for the day, but it is extremely important to make considerations for food and drink as there is no place to purchase either once on Carbin Reef.
Here is a quick list of some additional food related necessities to consider bringing along:
* A cooler with ice
* Water, soft drinks
* Charcoal for the grill
* Easy to prepare foods
* Plates and utensils
* Trash bags
All visitors to Carbin Reef will be expected to pack out all of their trash, so do yourself a favor and make it easy to contain and transport!
What Else Should Visitors Bring Along on a Daytrip to Carbin Reef?
Everyone has different expectations on what their ideal day trip to Carbin Reef should be. Some people like to spend more time underwater, while some prefer to enjoy a nap in the shade (make sure you rent a cottage!). With that being said, basic protection from the sun is essential, so some combination of sunblock and shade will be very important.
Here are a few more considerations to bring along for the ultimate day trip experience:
* Snorkel and fins
* GoPro or Underwater Capable Camera
* Folding or inflatable chairs
* Microfiber towel or blankets
There you have it: A complete guide to daytripping on Carbin Reef. Enjoy your visit!