“You are going to Zamboanga? It is a dangerous place!” This is the usual statement I hear from friends, family and acquaintances. Every time they say that, I always end up explaining that Zamboanga City is a progressive and safe place even for tourists…hey don’t misunderstand me I am only referring to the city, beyond its border I cannot vouch.

Talking about Zamboanga City did you know that there are several tourist destination here? On of the most well-known even way back in the 80’s is the Great Sta.Cruz Island.

It is a small inhabited island inZamboanga City famous for its pink coralline sand.The Great Sta. Cruz island is located 4 kilometres (2.49 mi) south of downtown at the Santa Cruz Bank in BasilanStrait and boasts as the only pink sand beach in the Philippines (although there are reports that there is also a Pink sand beach in other region). The color of the sand comes from the pulverized redorgan pipe coralfrom eons of surf erosion mixed with the white sand.

The island is becoming famous so one day I decided to extend my stay in the city after my business trip. I checked some travel agencies that book a trip in the island but found the cost expensive, so best way to save on money is to plan my own tour. My local connections provided useful information and even accompanied me in the tourism office to enquire.

Without further ado, (I know you are eager to find out details of this trip) here are some important information that you should be aware of:

  • Only day tour is allowed from 7am-2pm. At 2pm its mandatory to leave the island due to changes in sea current, it is unsafe to sail beyond 2pm. So sorry guys, no camping here😊
  • It is just 30 minutes or less away from Zamboanga City by pump boat
  • To get there, book a flight via my favourite flagship airline Philippine Airlines (my only recommended airline, they are more reliable based on experience).
  • I recommend that you book your boat ride ahead of time, please read the booking system on the attached photo.

  • From the airport ride a tricycle or rent a car going towards Paso Del Mar where the tourism office and jump point to Sta. Cruz Island.

  • Boat fee is Php1000 for 10pax, if you are going solo the rate is the same. An option is to wait for other passengers and join other travellers to form a group of 10, thus each will pay Php100 per pax roundtrip. Which i actually did since i travelled alone, I was lucky to meet a family of 6, we just waited for 3 more to maximise the boat capacity.

  • Our ride waiting for boarding. The boat has 3 personnel, the captain, his assistant and a military escort.

The boats are very lovely to look at while afloat, this photo I took while sitting on the pinkish sand and staring at the sea. The land behind the boat is Zamboanga City… can you now imagine how near the island to the city is?

Each boat are provided security detail going back and forth the island. Security and safety are the priority, life vests are provided and we were required to wear them while on board even if you are an Olympic swimmer, weren’t allowed to chat with our security detail while he is on duty as well nor take pictures with him.

  • Pay the terminal fee and wait for the tourism officer to announce boarding. There are cottages available and rental fees vary depending on size, again if you’re exploring alone why not lay a mat and sit under the trees, its free😅 I however paid 100pesos for this cottage and spent halfday lounging on the bench while reading Kafka!

I cannot agree less, on the sign above the beach is my Heaven:) Well this is me trying to take a stolen shot while reading Kafka, and I think this was the stupidest thing I’ve done in the name of photography hahaha

As I have mentioned earlier the island is a protected area and uninhabited, naval/marine force maintain the place though, so in short there is NO DRINKING WATER in the island and limited food stalls too. There are several vendors that sell cup noodles, coffee and snacks but don’t expect heavy meal to be sold. I might be exaggerating here but the good news is, if you arrive early in the island, you might chance upon fishermen selling freshly catch seafoods! Yes! I mean it. It is so affordable and they can even have it grilled for you, if you’re even luckier they might have rice to cook too. I was prepared though so i bought something healthy to eat 🙂 biscuits and fruits!!!! Oh the cup of coffee i bought from the vendors.

Fishermen peddled crabs and fish and you wouldnt believe the good fisherman sold 12pcs of crabs for only 300pesos…

I was tempted to buy these fish as well for only 150pesos but realised I may not be able to consume alone.

My lunch after it was prepared yummmyyyyyy….. Crabs by the sea..

Anyway before lunch, our group went to a sandbar few minutes away from the island. I brought my snorkelling set, only to be disappointed😌 We weren’t allowed to stay longer than 15minutes because the tide can really get low and we might get stuck in the area. It was a small strip of sandbar but nonetheless lovely. Most of us had a great time taking selfie withstanding the scorching heat of the sun, I didn’t really care if I get burnt, how can I with this heavenly scenery.

Blue skies, a smal islet, crystal clear waters and some amazed tourist, try’s nag to capture the moment in still within 15mins window, that includes me😂

At last a selfie without my fellow traveller, please don’t stare at me, instead imagine yourself standing in this sandbar and taking a selfie

After that 15-minutes sandbar experience, we went back to the main island, the sun was so high and scorching that most of my fellow travellers rested but I opted to swim, I didn’t really care if I get burnt! I swam and realised that the current was strong and pulled me away from the shore! No wonder few dated to swim, all the while I thought they’re just afraid to get dark.

If you were there can you really say no to these; crystal clear water and blue skies

I was weak, didn’t know how to say no and stay away from the beach🤣😂A couple of hours after, when I was red and burnt, the group invented me to join them and check the Badjao burial site which is few hundred meters away. The tourism officer guided our group.

Mister tourism officer (I firgot his name) providing historical background of the burial site while we look around and doing our best to respect and not disturb the markings.

The tour to the burial site was brief but very informative.

I could have stayed in this place and wait for the sun to set but as I have stated early on we must leave at 2pm.

It was a short trip but I felt joy and rested. That halfday trip seemed like a 3-day pass from work related stresses! I had a piece of heaven and my spirit delighted. So to remind you to consider this island in your next getaway, I leave you with this video. Enjoy friends and let me know what you think.

Cheers- Arlyn

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