Davao is definitely a beach country! In the city alone, the shoreline of Matina Aplaya at the back of SM Mall has a lot of different beaches from raw to themed, developed or not. [Check my post of a city beach - Seagull Beach Resort]. However, the best beaches in Davao which can rival the best in the country and the world, like the “rent the whole island for a day” Buenavista Island Resort or the more popular Pearl Farm are found in Samal Island[a.k.a IGACOS, short for "Island Garden City of Samal" That's quite long! Why not just Samal!
There are a lot of beach resorts in Samal and more resorts being developed. From high-end to budget beaches, they are all here! [Here's a website of Samal Beaches]. For my first beachy trip outside Davao City, I wanted to have a Samal experience and who doesn’t when in Davao? For quite sometime, I cannot decide which beach to go for two reasons: either the resorts I wanted are expensive, or it may be affordable but either crowded [like Paradise] or severely face-lifted [like Bluejaz] – not my type, it’s just a personal preference and nothing more.
I was looking for beach resort with tranquility and silence. Pure, unassuming, laidback, unpretentious. It took me a while surfing the internet before I came across a resort located in Talicud Island at the back of Samal Island. Talicud from the root word “likod” which means “at the back.” The resort is called ISLA RETA.
Some facts I gathered in my search that made me decide to spend a weekend at Isla Reta:
The 1.5 – hours boat ride is not only an indication of distance but the nature of the resort, far from the more commercialized resorts in Samal Island. This may just be the one that I’m looking for;
The resort allows and [even] encourages bringing of food. Otherwise you buy in the “talipapa” and have it cooked in provided barbecue grills or have it done by the resort at P75 per kilo of any kind. Not bad. The canteen sells basic beverages with minimal mark-up;
Cottages are affordable but you may choose to bring your own tent, rent a “papag” or simply stay in picnic tables overnight;
No problem going to and from the island; the resort has an exclusive ferry-boat to carry guests with one-trip a day. It leaves 9AM at Sta. Ana Wharf and leaves the resort at 3pm;
No electricity between 9am and 3pm and it’s something I like, to make the stay more intimate with the island. From 3pm to 9am, you have the opportunity to charge your gadgets. Don’t expect wifi but having your wireless broadband is a great idea;
Lastly, the “talisay” trees grown low [they trimmed or continue to trim on purpose] along the beach. Branches graciously and generously hovering and extending to an ample portion of the shoreline [I never felt the heat of the beach the whole time!] Upon gathering all these facts, I was ready to go!
I never felt the long boat ride, thanks to the landscape, seascape and other things of interests along the way: the Davao City skyline with Marco Polo Hotel as the lone imposing building from afar, a view of majestic Mt. Apo, the terrain of Samal Island on one side and Talicud Island on the other, fishing boats and cool morning sea wind. Because it was my first time, everything seemed to be the most beautiful.
We reached the resort before lunch. Except for few cup noodles and junk foods, we did not bring any food that we can cook. We hit the “talipapa” and bought 1-kilo of fresh fish then grilled for lunch. Bought cups of rice from the canteen, a bottle of water from the drinking water tank of the resort, a bottle of alcohol, then we’re ready to eat!
The water is clear, you can see the bottom from a distance distance. The sand is fine white comparable to Boracay. True. That is if it’s not low tide. If it is, sorry but the shoreline becomes “corally.” Slippers may become your best friend in such case. The best spot at noontime in the waters is to the right of the shore where trees shade the waters. Huge coral boulders as backdrop is good for taking photos. Great for your FB profile pic!
At 6pm, it was time to prepare for dinner. Time to be at “talipapa” again. Bought 1.5-kilos of fresh fish and had it cooked by the resort this time. Medyo pagod na. Half was grilled, half with soup! Ahhh, nothing beats fresh fish hot hot soup!
Before dinner, a group arrived and occupied the table next to us. They are quite noisy but well, what can you do, it happens. We retreated to our cottage at about 9pm and thanks to the electricity, we were able to do some internet and charged our batteries. Hit the bed at 10pm and had a straight 6-hours of sleep! Sarap sobra.
By sunrise, I was already out taking photos of the beach, people and the calm serene waters shining in brilliance as reflected by the rays of the morning sun. We rented a paddle boat which is one of the better things to do. You can see how clear the water really is!
Before lunch, we were asked of our time preference to leave the island. On ordinary days, there is only one trip to and from the island. The boat leaves the island at 3pm but on the day we were suppose to leave which was a Sunday, there were more guests who arrived in the morning. The boat cannot accommodate us all in one trip so the resort decided to make an earlier trip at 12NN. We got the 3pm in order to stay longer.
Here are some thoughts for first timers just as I was:
Accommodation is not a problem. Concrete cottages with no aircon [not needed anyway] is at P1.5K. Bamboo Huts at P700 [though I do not recommend if you want privacy] The huts are “duplex-type” separated only by walls made of weaved bamboo. In our case, there was a radio playing 2-doors away which was quite annoying especially when you wanted to sleep already. Add 2-videoke’s outside, one to our right and another to our left. If you are not in the concrete cottages which are quite far from where the videoke’s are, you may better have your own tent and place it somewhere far from the noise. Tent, I think is the best – it will not hurt your wallet and you can choose a site most comfortable to you!;
Bring your own food and beverage. There are beverages ready for sale at the canteen but with a little mark-up. You can cook your own food in the barbecue grills found around the resort or have the resort cook for you at P70 per kilo, whatever it may be, rice, fish, etc. Steamed rice are sold for P15 per cup – expensive!;
The CR is not the best and the tidiest but it has privacy. It’s fine, you’re not there to take shower all the time anyway!:
The beach itself is great but because you’re not the only one in the island you may find the noise from videoke’s at night or loud-screaming-enjoying large group quite annoying, unless it does not matter to you. There are other venues in the resort where you may transfer just in case;
Ferry boat costs P70 one way. Entrance to the resort is at P150 overnight, 70 for day tour only, all with discount for children below 6-yrs old. The entrance fee includes free use of picnic tables and set-up of tent/s. If you rent a cottage, it’s inclusive of the entrance fee.
To close, I want to go back to Isla Reta because of the beach itself! Like, like! As for the other facilities, it’s fine but don’t expect it to be better. If ever I go back, I want it to be on a weekday to avoid large groups on weekends and see if I can already have the complete package of an island get-away that I always wanted!
Update as of February 2012: I have gone back to Isla Reta two more times since this post. As I have planned, I went on a weekday. It was not just me and my buddy, there were other visitors in the resort who I believe share the same interest for peace and serenity. It’s different when it seems like you are the only person in the beach. You own the world. It’s everything I wanted. The place is still the good old beach I fell in love with the first time. I planned to visit 2-other resorts of the same kind and nature, Babusanta and Dayang when I was here the last but I had limited time. I’ll do that next.
In my last visit though, September of 2011, our ferry on the way back to the City malfunctioned in the middle of the trip for about an hour. The motor fan belt broke down and fixing it was not easy. If there was any comfort, the ferry was light, we were only about 10 passengers and we’re already near the ferry terminal. It should be easy for any rescue, just in case. I realized, I really prefer flying over swimming!
You can see my Isla Reta images in Flickr here.
For reservations and more info about Isla Reta, please call MS. JOAN at 0928-2141487.
Related Post: Seagull Beach Resort Davao.