Samal Island (Davao)
Samal Island lies a miles off the West coast of the Davao Gulf: a gulf that is embraced on three sides by much of southeastern Mindanao Island. Samal Island itself has received little publicity in the past because it offers little natural shelter for yachts (except in its southwest corner) and the seabed, in the immediate vicinity of the island, is either, peppered with shallow reefs and sandbars (predominantly West side) or, steep drop-offs (predominantly East side). The island has historically supported mostly indigenous peoples whose main source of income is agriculture (coconut and mango). However, since the early 2000s, Samal Island has focused on developing tourism as an alternative industry and has been quite successful, especially along its West coast, in the areas facing Davao City.
Marinas In Samal Island
Holiday Oceanview Marina
The Holiday Oceanview Marina is located on the North shore of Samal Island. It is a purpose built marina, originally designed to provide a boat-park for the many wealthy home-owners who were expected to buy property in the overlooking housing development. The housing development has not taken off as planned so the Holiday Oceanview Marina (see image above) now offers 60, modern pontoon berths, with electricity and water, to cruising yachts who have traveled across the Pacific or from Australia and Indonesia.
Visitors are made welcome if they make prior arrangements to access the marina.
By virtue of its location, the Holiday Oceanview Marina offers a number of advantages to cruising yachts: Samal is generally safe from extreme weather - being well below the typhoon belt; and, it is close to Davao International Airport. Following an incident in late 2015 the marina is now also extremely secure for visiting yachts, which is why prior arrangements should be made.
The Holiday Oceanview Marina has few amenities, apart from an honor-system coffee shop. However, an adjacent resort complex, that offer at least 36 rooms, with full-service restaurant and swimming pool has recently opened.
Visit the Holiday Oceanview Marina website: www.holidayoceanviewmarina.com
Anchoring Around Samal Island
Anchoring around Samal Island is possible in areas where there are no Marine Protected Areas or Marine Sanctuaries. However, anchoring is a challenge along the East coast because the water becomes very deep very quickly; anchoring along the northwest coast is problematic because of the numerous shallow reefs and sandbars.
Babak Ferry & Port
One place you may wish to anchor along the West coast is at the ferry terminal and Port of Babak, if for no other reason than you want to buy fresh produce from the many market stalls. The anchorage to the South of the town pier is not deep throughout but should provide good holding and is sheltered from prevailing winds.
Samal Ferry Terminal
About a mile to the South of Babak ferry & port is the Samal Ferry Terminal where there is a small anchorage immediately to the South of the twin piers. There is also a slipway here where commercial boats are hauled out.
Other Places to Anchor Around Samal Island
In the large bay to the South of the two anchorages mentioned above there are a number of places to anchor, especially off the town of Peñaplata. There area also many corals there so anchor with care and please use environmentally-friendly anchoring practices, so as not to damage the coral. About two miles South of Peñaplata town is the internationally acclaimed, five-star Pearl Farm Resort. Ask in advance if you wish to anchor in the vicinity of the Pearl Farm Resort.
You may be tempted to explore the very pretty Talicud Island to the South. Be aware that there are many protected scuba diving areas in the vicinity (snorkeling and scuba diving are the islands main attractions), so look for mooring buoys or be prepared to be moved on.
There are two islands to the northeast of Samal Island that look attractive. These are privately owned islands and visitors are not encouraged to anchor because of the coral reefs, which are also important scuba diving locations.
Samal Island Tourist Attractions
Samal Island has a wide variety of tourist attractions and most are based on Mother Nature. There are: mountain trails, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, mangrove islands and giant clams; and, from July 2023, a sailing adventure camp.
There is also the World famous Monfort Bat Cave, just North of the town of Babak. The Monfort Bat Cave is famous for its fruit bats – more than two million Geoffroy's Rousette Fruit Bat (Rousetteus amplexicaudatus) – that take flight in the late afternoon and darken the sky with their volume. Monfort Bat Cave is a Guinness World Record holder for the largest colony of a single fruit bat specie in a single cave, anywhere on planet Earth.
The recently formed Layag Bugsay Dabao sailing a paddling club will start operation in 2023 and will offer adventure camps using kayaks, sailing dinghies and native-design outrigger sailing yachts.
The best advice is to park your yacht in the marina and recruit a local tour guide who is familiar with the location. The best tour guides we have found can be engaged through www.travel-davao.com, who employ Samal born and raised tour guides who know the areas and attractions intimately.
Transport Around Samal Island
From the Holiday Oceanview Marina there are only tricycles and the occasional jeepney to get you to Babak town and beyond. The marina office can arrange a hire car most days. Most of Samal Island offers the same transport options.
There is a regular bus service that links Peñaplata town and Davao City - the route passes through Babak and crosses to Davao City by ferry. This is an easy and inexpensive way to travel between Samal Island and one of the popular market areas of Davao City.
Construction has just started on a bridge that will link Samal Island to Davao City so transportation options will surely expand once the bridge is complete.
The Davao International Airport is located to the North of Davao City. To get to the airport you can board a ferry at either, Babak ferry pier or, at the Samal Ferry Terminal, cross to Davao City (about 15 minutes) and take a short taxi ride to the airport. Travel time from Babak to Davao International Airport: between 30 minutes and one hour, depending on the ferry schedule and the availability of taxis.
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