“Number 1!” – the best way to describe Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary (BIMS) in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. This Marine Protected Area (MPA) was hailed the best in its category in the entire country for 2015. The Local Government has totally banned fishing in the waters surrounding the island. It has further taken protective measures by setting up a military detachment to protect the reef from fishing activities.
Buluan Island is nothing less than picturesque and you do not need any fancy camera filter to capture its magnificence. Its beauty has attracted swarms of tourists but we were lucky to have the island for me and four friends when we visited. Mr Edwin Pable, a community volunteer, wasted no time to take us around to explore the wonders of the island. The island is not yet fully developed and activities are limited to hiking, snorkelling and sometimes scuba diving.
We were told that visitors may camp overnight but a permit has to be secured prior to the visit. A few cottages line the beachfront where guests can chill out, grill seafood and marvel at the magnificent view offered by the white sand and blue waters. “I really had fun today! I enjoyed it more than any other island in the region!”, says Keith, a local who is now based in Cebu and a first-time visitor of Buluan Island. ”Unfortunately a lot of locals have not been to the island and I think they are missing out a lot!”
Community volunteers, not commercial tour guides, take visitors around, giving them a more homespun feel. Round-trip boat rides are affordable for a minimum fee of PhP 500 for a group of five (add PhP 100 for each additional person). Snorkelling gear can be rented for a small fee of PhP 100.
We found out that there are no food establishments so you may opt for packed meals or better yet, raw fish or meat to grill in the beach!
How to get there
Buluan is an island located in the Municipality of Ipil, Province of Zamboanga Sibugay which is situated in the center of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Flights from Manila are available daily via Zamboanga City, Dipolog City or Pagadian City. A three to four hour bus ride from these three cities is all it takes to reach Ipil. Once in Ipil, ride a “habal-habal” going to Barangay Buluan and ask to be taken to the where the island boats are docked. You can book your boats by texting Mrs Rosalie Inso (a local boat owner) through +639365281923. She can also help you coordinate with the local tour volunteers and the army detachment in the island for any assistance you might need.
Clearly the campaign for the promotion and protection of Buluan Island has paid off with its popularity rising among tourists. It is surely on its way to becoming a top destination in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Editor: Ariel Balofinos.