Escape to Siquijor Three: Buglasan Falls, Cambugahay Falls and Tulapos Marine Sanctuary



OK, here it is – the stunning conclusion to the two-day trip we made around Siquijor back in July.  If you missed the introduction to the series and want to start at the beginning, simply click HERE to be instantly teleported to where it all began.


Our second day on Siquijor didn’t exactly get off to an auspicious start.  I awoke around 6 AM and went out to the front porch for coffee only to be greeted by a decidedly dark sky filled with angry gray-black clouds.  Sipping my Nescafe, I settled down just as the skies opened up with a veritable deluge of rain.  The visibility dropped as the sheets came down, and I was more than a bit worried about our prospects for travel that day.  Chichay wandered out about 20 minutes later, peered about and looked decidedly glum.  Embracing ‘bahala na’ (what will be, will be), we found something to do for an hour and later exited the bungalow only to be greeted by sunny skies.  As I noted in the video, Philippines weather often reminds me of New England – If you don’t like it, just wait fifteen minutes and it will change to something different.


Soggy start
One hour later

And with that, we packed up, loaded up the Honda Beat and were off.

My little ray of sunshine


This is actually one of my favorite spots on Siquijor.  Lugnason – or Zodiac– Falls is still off the beaten track for most tour itineraries.  So, unlike Cambugahay Falls, it has not yet been subjected to overtourism.  The area is under the stewardship of a young American named Trevor (he of the luxurious rainbow hair) who has organized community volunteers to develop the falls complex.  Comprised of a series of twelve or so waterfall areas (hence ‘Zodiac), it is still under ‘construction’ (in an environmentally friendly way) and not yet fully fleshed out yet.  (If you are going to walk the circuit, be sure to have adequate footwear – flip flops for me resulted in a slippery, frustrating jungle traverse.)  The final falls is my favorite – a gorgeous rush of aquamarine water thundering down into an equally lovely man-made pool of deep, cold water.  There is a platform at the approach to jump off and for the truly fearless ones, a rope swing even higher up. Finally, there are a series of handholds along the right side of the falls where one can clamber up and jump off the actual top of the falls into the shimmering waters below.

Good frikken times.

Only there was one teeny-weeny little problem on this trip:  Reaching the final falls, we quickly noted there wasn’t enough water to make an actual waterfall. In the local lingo, we were faced with walay tubig (no water).  Sorry siiiiiir – out of stocks!  I mean, there was so little water, that you really couldn’t even go in for a refreshing dip. This echoed a previous trip Chichay and I had taken to Cebu to see a dry Tumalog Falls. (Come to find out, going on waterfall excursions is not recommended during water droughts….) 

Without water, it is just a fall…

Driving up to Lugnason earlier, I had noticed that a new pipe system was being installed alongside of the road.  Putting two and two together, I suspected that the lack of water might be due to flow being diverted upstream for irrigation purposes.  Sure enough, I later learned that the water was being used for a series of rice paddies further down the hill.  Alas!  Going forward, I am not sure what will happen with Lugnasan Falls.  Maybe if there is more rain, there will once again be a waterfall.  Asking around the neighborhood, I was told that Trevor was back visiting the US.  Hopefully, the water will return with Trevor and Lugnason will be restored to its former glory.

Bahala na!

Map and more information on Lugnasan HERE

Thongs should be mandatory…


This falls area is a prime example of what can go wrong with overtourism.  Indeed, along with Kawasan Falls on Cebu, it is pretty much the poster child of what can go wrong when too many tourists flood a specific spot.  When I first visited Cambugahay back in 2014, it was absolutely stunning – a series of beautiful green-blue falls laid out at the bottom of a steep gorge.  Nowadays, it is festooned with a bunch of bamboo platforms to swing and jump off from hordes of tourists.  Unlike Kawasan, though, at least they haven’t yet installed a karaoke system!  So that’s gotta count for something.  The best advice for this place is go early in the morning during a weekday.  If you wait until later in the day, there will be twenty or more big white tour vans up top and 200+ tourists gumming up works.  Then again, if you are looking to brush up on your Mandarin, Cambugahay is an excellent place to do so.  

Lower falls
Chinese tourists on Summer vacation
cambugahay upper falls
Upper falls – my favorite!

We arrived fairly early, and since it was a weekday, it wasn’t too bad.   The topmost fall and pool are my favorites, so we spent most our time up there, paddling about and enjoying the cool waters.  Chichay even gathered up her courage and jumped off the fall with me. (Aside from an inordinate fear of cockroaches, and despite being a good swimmer, deep waters give her the shivers.)  A few hours later, we had our fill and were off to our last destination – Tulapos Marine Sanctuary.

Map and more Cambugahay information HERE.

Beauty and the beast
Mermaid at Tulapos Marine Sanctuary

This place is the coolest and most memorable location during our most recent Siquijor sojourn.  In fact, it was SO memorable that I was actually having myself a little fantasy about buying some property there and building a home.  There is just something about that area of Enrique Villanueva that was exciting my neurons.  I don’t know if it was the cool trees (which reminded me of Autumn in the US), gentle mangroves, crystal clear waters, groovy little grottos or just a heady little mix of all the above.

Beach at Tulapos

Anyhoo, Tulapos has yet to make the Trainload-of-Tourist-Vans itinerary so it is still a real jewel.  As a matter of fact, we were the first people there that day.  Arriving at noon, we were ushered into a decrepit little structure filled with maps, snorkeling gear and a few gently snoring Filipinos.  Once woken, the guides gave us the lowdown and we soon set off into the turquoise waters with rented snorkeling gear, two guides and a boat.

I had heard [previously that there was barracuda in the sanctuary. What I didn’t realize was that there were THOUSANDS of them there.  There were so many, in fact, that I had mistaken the cloud of sleek forms for just a regular giant school of fish. As we came closer (the guides tow the boat and you swim alongside), it soon became apparent that it was indeed a massive school of over a thousand sharp-toothed barracuda.  AiiiiiIi, that was awesome!!!  Having dived down, split the school and gathered some GoPro footage, our incredibly hardy guides (don’t forget, they were TOWING the boat) next brought us over to see some black-tip reef sharks.  Now, keep in mind that my biggest fears in life are hypodermic needles, hairy spiders and sharks.  Yep, I was 10 years old when my babysitter, Ricky Skodis, brought me and my little sister to see Jaws.  Ever since then, I have been petrified of these aquatic apex predators – to the point where I am actually nervous when swimming in lakes.  Anyhoo, the novelty of the unfolding scene soon subsumed all of my fears, and I found myself kicking furiously to keep up with the handful of sharks that we spotted.  After the sharks, we were a bit pressed for time (3 PM-ish ferry back to Dumaguete), so we skipped the giant clams.  Not to worry though, there is always next time.  Getting back to shore, we shucked off our gear and shot some final video footage and photos.

Black tip reef sharks
Tulapos – Chichay’s 70D

My fellow dreamers – Tulapos is stunning and we highly recommend you find the time to A) actually find it (directions are a bit sketchy) and B) swim with the sharks.  Also remember to give your guides a nice tip – the locals survive on what you give.

More information and map to Tulapos HERE.

Finishing up our island to-do list, it was then time to hop back onto the Honda and blaze our way back to the port of Siquijor.  As they say, all good things must come to an end…

So, I hope you enjoyed this little series on our two-day jaunt around Siquijor.  If you are visiting this part of the Visayas,  I HIGHLY recommend taking at least a couple of days to check out the Isle of Witches.  Two nights/three days is actually the best, as there are a number of things to do and see that we didn’t cover in this series.  Among them are Salagdoon beach, Guiwanon Nature Park, Paliton beach, Cantabon cave and much more!

So with that, safe travels, my fellow dreamers and, as always, puppies and rainbows for all!



More of Tulapos – Chichay’s 70D



Cambugahay - Chichay's 70D
Cambugahay – Chichay’s 70D
Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
Steep climb out of Cambugahay Falls
Cambugahay Stairs
Couple of distant black-tip sharks
Cambugahay parking area
Adorable sign at Lugnason Falls parking area
Pointing out the lack of water at Lugnasan “Falls”
Won’t swim in that! – Lugnasan Falls
Cool snake carving out of wooden tree root – Lugnasan Falls
You are here! – Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
Closest gal is Filipina-American tourist
Angel and Briggette glad to see us home

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