Location and getting to Sumilon Island
Located in southern Cebu, Sumilon Island is a 15 minutes boat ride from Oslob, the coastal town famous for whale sharks. Cebu City to Oslob is a driving distance of about 3-4 hours, depending on traffic. From Moalboal, it takes a little less than two hours to reach Oslob by car. Even though you can combine your trip to Sumilon Island with whale shark watching (or swimming with the whale sharks) at Oslob, I recommend not doing the latter. According to marine biologists, the practice of feeding the whale sharks (amongst other things) to keep them close to the shore is resulting in a decreased nutritional value in the food consumed by the whales. It also disturbs their natural behavior patterns. In some cases, the whales also get injured by human contact.
Sumilon Island Sandbar
The island is famous for its sandbar, crystal clear blue water and lots of marine life. It is the first marine protected area in the Philippines. Before visiting the island, you must check the tide times for the island. The sandbar gets submerged in water in high tide.
Bluewater Island Resort and entry fees
There is only one resort on the island called the Bluewater Island Resort with ocean views and direct access to coral reef beaches. It is a 4-star resort and also owns the island. There is an island entry fee of 50 pesos per person. You can also stay at the resort for a day or two and watch marine life from the ocean-view cottages.
For my trip to southern Cebu, I was staying at the Blue Orchid Resort in Moalboal, centrally located to all major tourist attractions on the island. Joining me was a friend from Australia, Brad Chilby, a landscape photographer based in Sydney.
I had also hired a driver (Bogs, phone 09677201369) and a tourist guide (Wilson, phone 09975063173) to take us around.
Leaving our resort at 5 a.m., we reached Oslob around 7 a.m. On my request, Wilson had already arranged a private boat to take us to the island just before the regular tours started. Even though renting a private boat was expensive (5,000 pesos, about USD100), it was worth it. We were able to stop the boat in the middle of the sea (wherever we wanted) and have the crew point it to any direction for us to take photos. I also wanted to shoot sunrise while riding the boat. At 7:30 a.m., the light was perfect for taking pictures as the sun rose sideways from the sea. We were also able to stop a fisherman in the sea on our way back, and paddle around in his boat!
I had read on the internet that the sandbar (the main attraction of the island) gets very crowded. Our boat was the first one to dock at the island, and we had the sandbar to ourselves for about half an hour. Slowly, the island started getting packed with tourists as more and more tourist boats docked there. A tourist boat costs about $10 return trip to the island from Oslob.
We only spent a couple of hours around the sandbar and in the sea as it got very crowded. By that time, the only popular activity on the island seemed like taking selfies on the phone.
After getting back to Oslob, we refreshed ourselves with some Sprite, chips, and coconut water at the local restaurant at the harbor. Around 11 a.m. we headed to the Boljoon Church (under considerations as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), about 30 minutes away from Oslob.