Adventure to Sugba Lagoon
There’s so many day-trips to choose from while on Siargao Island, it can be dizzying to research them all. The most popular option is a three-for-one island boat trip, where you visit Daku Island, Naked Island and Guyam Island. Each of these three islands are pretty small, and all visible from General Luna (the main tourist town). The photos looked gorgeous, but it didn’t seem like there was much to actually do once you get there. I mean, Naked Island is named ‘naked’ because there’s zero trees on the island. It’s just a strip of sand! So, hypothetically, we would go chill on the beach in the searing sun, then boat to the next one and chill at another beach, boat to the next one and sun-soak again? We knew it would be pretty and ultimately enjoyable, but we’d rather spend our time/money on more of an adventure. I started doing some more research and quickly discovered Sugba Lagoon…
Sugba Lagoon is accessible from the opposite side of Siargao from General Luna. There’s several options to get there.
Option 1: You can take a guided tour, which includes a van ride from General Luna across the island to Del Carmen, the boat ride out to Sugba Lagoon and even lunch while you’re out there. These tours run about 2200 PHP per person (=$42+ USD per person for everything included). Several of the General Luna resorts organize and offer these tours, for example Kermit. However, the down side (in my mind) is that you’re stuck on a guided tour with 8-10 other people, and also on a rigid schedule (i.e. meet the van at 6am..
Option 2: You could hire a private driver to take you from General Luna to Del Carmen and back (roughly 45 minutes each way), and then organize a boat to Sugba Lagoon once you’re there. The private driver (I’m guessing) would be at least 1500 pesos each way (~$28 USD each way / ~$56 round trip). The fee for the boat ride to Sugba Lagoon is 1600 pesos round trip (~$30 USD total). This option gives you more flexibility, and could cost less depending on the number of people in your group. The total cost would be around $86 USD, so if you’re in a group of four you’re down to just $21 per person! If Shaun and I had done this option, the total price would still be about $43+ USD per person, about the same as Option 1. Not bad, but it requires some planning ahead and organizing the driver(s).
Option 3: Spoiler alert! We opted for option 3. Since we already had a motorbike rental for our entire time on Siargao, why should we pay for an additional mode of transportation? I started thinking, what if we could just motorbike all the way to Del Carmen and back… or would that be insane? Obviously it will take longer, but it would be way more fun (!!!) and we’d be on our own schedule. I started to research it, and although it seemed an unpopular option, it was totally do-able. (Besides, we’ve already experienced the most intense two-hour roundtrip motorbike ride in Bali, so the roads of Siargao seem like a piece of cake in comparison). The ride took about an hour each way, with mostly empty roads and beautiful scenery. The cost of gas was nominal.
Upon arriving at the harbor in Del Carmen, we were in line to get a boat transfer to Sugba Lagoon when another couple approached us asking if we’d like to share a boat with them. The round trip boat ride cost 1600 pesos (no matter how many people are on it) and it can hold up to 4-6 people depending on size. Shaun and I were planning to just split the cost, but now with splitting four-ways, our cost went down to just $7.50 USD each. DIY for the win! Plus, the couple was a super sweet Filipino couple visiting from Manila. They basically coordinated the entire boat and payment, communicating with the locals for us. It was perfect!
After 45 minutes of winding through mangrove forests and wondering how the heck your boat driver remember which way to twist and turn, you pull up to a little standalone two-story wooden shack (see above) with a rickety pier attached. Right when you enter the building, there’s a small desk with a large chalkboard of prices behind it–– you can rent a standup paddle board (SUP), kayaks, bamboo rafts, snorkel gear, life jackets, etc. We opted for a SUP 1-hour rental for 200 pesos (about $4) and a snorkel mask for about the same rate. You can also “rent” a table in the shack building, so you have somewhere to leave your belongings. Our new friends that we shared the boat with rented a table and offered to share with us. It’s only 50 pesos = less than $1 USD for an unlimited amount of time.
At first, I felt apprehensive to leave our belongings there unattended. Although I purposely didn’t bring my wallet or credit cards, I still had my iPhone and camera with us… Initially, we thought only one of us should swim/explore at a time, so the other could stay with the stuff. But, (I know this sounds dumb), everyone was just leaving their stuff there in the shack unattended, and it seemed relatively safe. It didn’t feel sketchy, somehow. Like we were all just tourists enjoying the lagoon, with no one of bad intentions. Plus, our new Filipino friends were also hanging out at the table most of the time (they weren’t super into the water sports options), so it felt safe enough to leave our stuff with them–– we took off to SUP and snorkel around!
There’s one central swimming hole area that most the visitors are hanging out around. However, you’re free to explore any of the surrounding lagoons with your rented gear. We SUP’d pretty far away from anyone else, and snorkeled over some beautiful colorful coral and fish. However… the farther we went, the more anxious I started to get. There’s crocodiles here. I have no idea how rare or how common they’re seen in this area, but they do have a huge 10 foot stuffed crocodile at the boat launch, probably to serve as a reminder… As we started to drift farther and farther away from the main hub, I started to feel kind of paranoid and got startled by every twig or log in the water. I told Shaun I was feeling freaked out so we made our way back to the main hub. Thankfully, no crocs were sighted in the making of this blog post.
The most popular and recognizable part of Sugba Lagoon (besides the insanely colored water and beautiful mangrove forests, of course) is this decrepit wooden diving board (see above––that’s me!). It looks sketchy and creaks as you walk on it, but it’s pretty iconic! Everyone lines up and takes several jumps, some doing backflips (Shaun), some scared to do anything more than a pencil jump (me). Some people climbed all the way up there, got intimidated by the 10-foot jump, and were met with cheers and encouragements from the strangers on the shack behind them. (Everyone’s watching the diving board!) Some gave in to the peer pressure and took the plunge, but some cowered back down the steps. Some people even walked the edge of the board, took a selfie, and quickly climbed back down with zero intentions of actually jumping. It’s pretty entertaining to sit and watch from above on the second floor of the shack.
What to bring to Sugba Lagoon:
- Lots of drinking water! Several canteens, if possible.
- Bathing suit (obviously) and fresh change of clothes, if you’d like.
- Pack everything in a water-safe backpack or bag. We read that the boat rides can be choppy and could soak all of your belongings, however our ride was smooth the whole way with not a drop of water on board. You never know!
- We read misleading reports about the availability of food at Sugba Lagoon. Some websites/blogs said there was a restaurant on-site and that no outside food was allowed. Some websites/blogs said to pack a whole lunch because there’s no food available. When we went (October 2018), there was no restaurant or ANY food available at the shack. Luckily, we brought snacks. I recommend you pack a whole lunch. (There’s restaurants at the boat lunch in Del Carmen you can grab take-out from.)
- Bring a camera or phone if you’re comfortable leaving it on the tables in the shack, potentially unattended. Or better yet, bring a GoPro or waterproof camera so you can bring it with you!
- Towels to dry off and change.
- You’ll need to bring some cash along the journey for the boat fees and rentals.