The moment I stepped into Danjugan Island, I was smitten by its raw, quiet – almost surreal – beauty. A clear green lagoon and swaths of mangroves greeted my arrival. What followed was nothing short of a magical experience. Hands down, Danjugan easily became one of my favorite islands in the Philippines during my three-day stay, if not my favorite.
Danjugan is a 43-hectare island 15 minutes away from Antol, Cauayan in the province of Negros Occidental. I already wrote an article on the island’s unspoiled beauty for Rappler.com, but here I attempt to list in detail the reasons why I, as well as others, have fallen in love – and will fall in love – with this island:
1) Colorful and abundant marine life. Danjugan is the first island I visited so far that is so bursting with marine life, whether in shallow waters or the deep. There are colorful fishes, moray eels and even small sharks in ankle-deep waters. Whenever I walk along the beach during low tide, I have to be careful not to step on sea cucumbers, star fishes, baby clams, and other sea creatures I cannot identify.
Underwater, Danjugan is a rainbow of corals and fishes. I saw tomato clown fishes, which are darker variations of Nemo, wispy angel fishes, giant clams, and more! It was also my first time to see a small octopus squirting black ink.
I was told that scuba divers are regularly treated to sights of big black-tip reef sharks, and sometimes, to manta rays and whale sharks. With ten dive sites in Danjugan, I’m sure divers will have their hands full.
Danjugan has also been a nesting ground for sea turtles, which is why one of its beaches is named Turtle Beach. I was not lucky to see turtles during my trip, though.
2) Hauntingly quiet and clear lagoons. The lagoons are perfectly still and beautiful in an almost eerie, though appealing way. People up for kayaking can explore the five lagoons around the island. A volunteer in Danjugan told me his favorite is First Lagoon, which is so quiet – perfect for just being alone with nature and looking up at sea eagles circling above you. Which brings me to the next reason I love the island…
3) Majestic sea eagles and other fantastic birds. White-bellied sea eagles calling and circling the sky are not uncommon in the island. During my stay, I was lucky to see some in the mornings and afternoons. Watching these eagles proudly gliding in the open sky always left me in a trance. The young campers I was with during my stay were equally transfixed with these magnificent creatures.
Other birds called and made an appearance during my visit. The campers and I were only able to briefly spot the Tabon scrubfowl, a rare bird which built its nests as hills of sand in Danjugan.
4) White beaches with rugged rock formations. Danjugan has four beaches – all white, with some parts fine and some parts rocky. The white expanse of sand is beautifully punctuated with craggy formations.
My favorite is the East Beach, which has a seemingly endless white shoreline. Danjugan volunteers told me that the beach usually has a sand bar that snakes left or right, depending on the wind direction. During my visit, though, the shore was just a great expanse of sand, which suited me fine. Above the beach are forests on limestone cliffs.
(Left) East Beach. (Right) Turtle Beach.
5) More of nature’s delights like mangroves and caves. Danjugan is very rich in life. There are different species of mangroves, forests thriving on limestones, a cave full of bats, and more. The island is very much alive – many kinds of life flourish here. No wonder the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PRRCFI) calls Danjugan “nature’s perfect classroom” – there are just a plethora of habitats and ecosystems here.
6) Going back to the basics and connecting to raw beauty. The island lacks modern conveniences like private rooms and 24-hour electricity. The only people living in the island are the staff maintaining it. The island is thus free from distractions and visitors can fully commune with nature.
I, along with Danjugan volunteers, slept on mattresses in an open-air cabana, which gave me a welcome view of the mangroves and the changing colors of the lagoon upon waking up every morning.
7) People with a big heart for the environment + warm and friendly staff. What made me relax and love the island more is the assurance that this raw, untamed beauty will remain unspoiled. The PRRCFI is preserving the island and is also educating students on environmental conservation. The volunteers I met who teach the kids are enthusiastic on what they do.
The island staff are also very helpful and accommodating, giving the impression of a warm, welcoming family.
8) A chance to volunteer and teach kids – and be a kid again. During my stay in Danjugan I was part camper, part teacher, part writer-observer. I sat in classroom lectures with the eager campers and gained a better understanding of information like the growth and development of fishes as they moved from mangroves to sea grass beds and to coral reefs. I watched in amazement along with the kids as we saw a black-tip reef shark for the first time.
I was also honored to facilitate an activity with the kids, as well as observe their energy and delight in the various camp activities.
For those who want to teach kids about environmental awareness or those who simply want to help preserve the island, Danjugan Island accepts volunteers.
While I have outlined the main reasons that can make one love Danjugan, what I have written here still pales in comparison to my actual experience of the island’s beauty. What makes my Danjugan experience unforgettable is more than the sum of these reasons I gave – indeed, the wisdom “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” holds true for Danjugan. You would have to be there and allow yourself to be amazed by its charm and magic to really get it.
This is the first of three entries on my Danjugan Island series. Read the second entry here.