If you spend some time around the Philippines you will encounter beautiful scenery and amazing marine life, but also thousands of other visitors. More by accident than planning, we stumbled on an area of the Philippines that is still off the main tourist path: Ticao and Snake Island. If you’re looking to explore outside of the main tourist attractions, enjoy a little adventure and wildlife, and are not afraid of poisonous snakes, Snake Island might be a perfect place for you.
While we were on our way from Cebu to Donsol by ferry, passing through the island of Masbate, we met a couple that invited us to stay with them at their soon to be opened guest room on Ticao Island, just a short ferry ride from Masbate City. They promised us a quiet island and an adventurous day trip to Snake Island where we could get up close with poisonous sea snakes and see a cave full of bats.
Ticao Island sits an hour boat ride from Masbate Island (Masbate City) and so far tourists basically only end up here while transiting between Donsol and Cebu or to scuba dive at Manta Bowl. Ticao Island doesn’t have much to offer yet when it comes to accommodation and isn’t developed for tourism, but that is what makes it special. There are a couple of resorts, Ticao Island Resort in the north of the island being the most popular, where they offer scuba diving, horse riding, and other activities.
We stayed at the couple’s guesthouse which is a single beautiful bungalow, right next to a white sand beach, which they call Club De Ticao. Ticao Island’s draw is in its quietness and authenticity. We had the beach to ourselves with no other visitors around. The locals on Ticao were all very friendly and seemed genuinely happy to see travelers visiting their island. If you’re looking for a place to relax, far away from the crowds that persist in a lot of places in the Philippines, Ticao is a great place to visit. Aside from chilling at lonely beaches, you can also scuba dive, snorkel or take a trip to Snake Island just off the southern tip of Ticao, facing Masbate Island.
When our hosts told us about this tiny island next to Ticao called Snake Island, where you can get up close to tons of banded sea snakes and thousands of bats, we knew we had to see the place. A small boat took us and a group of locals out to Snake Island for 700 pesos total. A short ride later, the boat stopped at what looked like a cave mouth. We had to climb onto some sharp rocks from the boat and then walked down into the cave. Right when we stepped down from the boat we saw the first banded sea snake hiding in a gap in a rock. After 10 meters or so the cave opened up to some big rocks with a tree perched on top of it.
To get to the bat cave we had to climb over the big rocks, which required a bit of scrambling but was easy enough. We started smelling the bats before we could see them. As we got closer to the cave entry, we saw that the cave walls were black. Thousands of big bats covered the walls and once we got closer, started flying around in the cave – it was very impressive to watch.
Once we took our eyes of the spectacle above us, we started noticing all the banded sea snakes around us. There were a few hiding inside the rocks, just feet away from where we were standing. Others were swimming around in the beautiful lagoon beneath the cave. A few bigger snakes were curled up high above us in the rock walls as well. Although banded sea snakes are poisonous (their venom is 10 times stronger than a cobra’s) they generally don’t bite humans unless they feel threatened, so we felt more amazed than worried being around them.
After all the climbing around, we were ready to cool of in the ocean. We snorkeled next to the island for a good half hour, spotting two beautiful nudi branches (colorful sea snails), clownfish, and a bunch of sea horses. The highlight though, was when suddenly a banded sea snake swam right underneath us. Snake Island definitely lived up to it’s name. This may be one of the best places to get really close to tons of wild, poisons sea snakes.
If you’re on Ticao Island and like a bit of adventure, the trip to Snake Island should be definitely on your list. It was one of our highlights in the Philippines. Don’t forget to bring a pair of shoes you can climb up the sharp rocks in and your snorkel gear.
Getting There and Away
There is a boat connection between Masbate City and Lagundi on Ticao Island, the ride takes about 45 minutes and the boats depart from the fish port in Masbate City, not the main port where the big ferries to Pilar run from. Once on the island there are tricycles and jeepneys to get around. If you’re coming from or going to Donsol or other cities on Luzon, there are various options to get there and away. To get to Pilar (closest port to Donsol) there are boats running twice daily at 6:30am and noon (at the time we visited) from the port in Montreal, the northern most city on Ticao. There are also boats running between San Jacinto & San Fernando on Ticao and Bulan (3 hours south of Legazpi) on Luzon at various times of the day.