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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Great Sta Cruz Island: Zamboanga City's Famed Pink Sand Beach

We only had a one full day in Zamboanga City and we didn't let this chance pass without visiting the Great Sta Cruz Island. I was actually hoping to visit Little Sta Cruz Island as well but we learned that it is off-limits to visitors. You have to secure a permit (usually for research purposes) before being granted access to it. Okay, madali naman kaming kausap. And I don't like complicated things haha! ;)

Isla Santa Cruz Grande: Hermosa!

The Tourism Office pointed us to Paseo del Mar to inquire about this trip. We just walked-in and asked. The boat rental costs Php 1,000 and its capacity is up to 10 pax. That already includes 2 police escorts which is required to ensure the safety of the visitors. Exciting, isn't it? ;)

quite a nice day to sail, eh?

It is quite steep for the 3 of us, it will cost us Php 335 each. But then it was a weekday, so the chance of us getting additional companions was really slim. The heck, we just went ahead and crossed the sea. We also paid Php 20 each for Entrance Fee and Php 5 each for Terminal Fee. After sailing 4 kilometers from downtown, here we are!

touchdown Great Sta Cruz Island

It did not disappoint. It is a beauty. It has crystal clear waters and a long stretch of pinkish-white sand. The beach is decorated with colorful vintas and it has trees which provide natural canopy shade from the sun.

just chilling after sailing under the sun
They have cottages for rent starting from Php 100 to 500 depending on the size. The caretakers also offers fresh crabs and other seafood catch, in case you didn't bring your own food or if you simply love seafood.

small cottages
We brought our own packed lunch for this trip. We already spent too much for the boat rental so might as well spend less on food haha. Frugal friends that travel together, stays together. Pauso ko lang yun. ;)

You can also play beach volley here if you're looking for something else to do. We were actually the only guests in the island for that day, so you won't see any other people in the pictures. It was all so quiet and serene.

volleyball, anyone?

As soon as lunch was over, we explored the island. Look at what we found! A bunch of dried leaves exquisitely scattered in the sand under the trees. We all looked at each other, thinking of the same thing: autumn parody photo shoot! Haha!

there goes our autumn in Zamboanga ;)
The following never occurred to us: What if there is a snake under those leaves? Or big ants or a scorpion? Or what if those leaves were just covering a big hole or something? I know it was crazy. We all just willingly took turns lying over those pile of leaves without checking it. Boy, that was fun! ;)

trust your instincts, be safe

We continued our exploration to the east side of the island until we saw this signage. Can I tell you a secret? We went beyond it, shhhh... Just the three of us, without a guide/police escort. But we didn't went past through the curve to circumnavigate the island. The other side of the island is well... facing Basilan. And we don't want us to suddenly "disappear" on that side where nobody can see us. You can be adventurous, but you can't be reckless.

sea urchin... not!

This island used to be a very popular destination. But after series of kidnappings that happened in the 70s and 80s, tourist numbers went downhill. At present, bombings in Zamboanga City also scare off travelers to visit this island. Let me tell you this: take away all your fears, it was worth it! If we'll be allowed to camp here overnight, I will! Imagine waking up to this every morning.

such a gorgeous beach

We reached this somehow creepy place when we passed the warning signage. We figured that it is a traditional Muslim cemetery.

Blairwitch-like setting
The island used to be uninhabited and was a sacred traditional burial ground for the ethnic groups in the area -the Samas and the Badjaos.

a Badjao tomb

They are nomadic sea dwellers or sea gypsies. In their culture, they should bury their dead near the sea since they live in the sea or in the coasts. Notice the boat-shaped wooden carvings? It's easy to tell they are people of the sea.

do i see things you don't see?
I don't know but that particular tomb in the picture above looks like Pieta to me. You know that Michaelangelo artwork depicting Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus? That one. Am I weird?

hello beach!
It feels more eerie the longer we stay there, so we headed back to the pristine beach after taking some photos. We walked back to where our escorts can see us and enjoyed the super clean and clear water. Wee!!!

we have the beach to ourselves! :)

The water is so clear you don't even need goggles or a snorkel to see what's under the water! The next 2 photos were just taken while we were simply standing there.

I was so happy seeing the fishes just swim with us. They didn't swim away and was not bothered by our presence at all. They even get near us as if they wanted to play with humans.

friendly fishes!

Oh and did you see the crushed pink corals in the sand? That's what makes this beach's sand pink. Actually, it wasn't that pink anymore because according to the caretaker the remaining red organ pipe corals were destroyed by recent illegal coral reef mining activities in the area. Quite sad.

loved this beach!

What made me think that the sea water here is so clean is that, after swimming, we still went around downtown sightseeing without taking a shower or changing our clothes haha! We never felt a single itch in our body. In other beaches, even staying a few minutes in the water will make your skin feel itchy. That's really something for me hehe.

obligatory group shot before leaving the island
Overall, we had so much fun! I highly recommend you visit this beach when you're in Zambo City. Though I've been to countless beautiful beaches in the Philippines, it still delighted me. It has its own charm.

you won't regret it! ;)
I couldn't say that it's 100% safe to travel in Zamboanga City but I can tell you that the city government is doing their best to secure the place. We never felt any threat while we were there.

Special thanks to our police escorts that day. Thank you, Sirs!

Most importantly, I think it's also about how you see things. Don't go if you will just be paranoid that something might happen. But when you go, go with all your heart.  Bring with you a happy disposition and an open mind.

"Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them." ~Rabindranath Tagore

This is Part 2 of my Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi travel series.


  1. My hometown. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit.

    1. Yes we did! Still a lot to explore. Thanks for dropping by! :)