Sitting on the beach at night on Gigantes Sur is a reminder that you are hundreds of miles away from Manila. The stars shine brighter, the air is cleaner, and you have space to spread out without bumping into anyone. Dare I say that it is even clear enough to photograph the stars? I gave it my best try.
Located about an hour and a half by boat off the coast of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines is the Islas de Gigantes Archipelago, a yet to be discovered ecotourism destination that rarely sees visitors from more than a few hours away.
There is no permanent electricity on this island, short of a few diesel generators; and the available resorts are primitive to say the least, barely more than “homestays” which are the Filipino version of a Bed and Breakfast.
So what makes Gigantes Sur in particular such an amazing place to connect with nature? A short walk along the beach at low tide will reveal the answer to that question, but one must be EXTREMELY careful. A fragile ecosystem lies right below your feet and it should be treated with respect, as there are no barriers, signs or any form of protection for the marine life here.
The shallow lagoon that serves a parking lot of the local fishing boats almost completely drains of water during low tide, revealing a multitude of life that you typically have to dive or snorkel to see.
Mating starfish, by the dozens dotted one section of the muddy beach; close enough to touch (but PLEASE don’t!).
An octopus, camouflaged by the sand and broken pieces of coral lies tucked away in its borough, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim by.
A walk further towards the jetty will reveal hard corals sticking out of the shallow water. Honestly, I’m not sure how they survive these conditions with the sun beating down directly onto them in the open air, but they seem to have adapted well.
Soft coral and marine animals such as Sea Anemones can even be found on this beach, small in size, but thriving nonetheless.
The calcium carbonate skeletons of giant clams also dot the beach. While they are no longer living, their shells decorate the landscape and often times provide shelter for other creatures.
The island of Gigantes Sur is a reminder of decades past, when the ocean seemed to be so abundant and plentiful that it was unthinkable that humans could affect its vast resources. The largest reminder of this is the Sea Scallop. Being so easily accessible and abundant here, it is sometimes even referred to as “a beggar’s food” because it is literally cheaper than water.
Antonia Resort on the eastern tip of Gigantes Sur is a popular lunch spot for tours, the highlight being scallops for 1 peso each: that is two cents when translated to USD. Make sure to bring friends because the minimum order is 100 pieces, fresh and cooked to order.
Despite the low cost and availability of scallops here, we now know that seafood no longer comes with a never-ending supply. The world’s oceans and each of their ecosystems are extremely fragile and we must be responsible stewards of our planet.
Please keep that in mind if you plan on visiting the Islas de Gigantes and more particularly the beautiful island of Gigantes Sur.