[PH Travel] Ayoke Island: the secret beach

Arvin C. Escatron

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Discover an island where solar energy is the way of light

EDGE OF THE PACIFIC. There's no place like Ayoke Island for the wanderlust. Photo by Arvin Escatron

UNDISTURBED, UNABUSED. Ayoke Island is not for beach party people; rather, for wanderlusts who want to enjoy the sound of the sea and the feel of clean sand. Photo from Arvin Escatron

MANILA, Philippines – For sometime, Ayoke Island enjoyed the seclusion.

Isolated from mainland Surigao in Mindanao and right at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Ayoke is an oracle for the soul-searching nomad or a playground for the restlessness of youth. Depending on one’s persuasion, Ayoke Island is an adventure button waiting to be pressed.

Long before the buzz about Ayoke gained momentum in the backpacking radar, the island had already been home to a couple of retired expats. And each summer and habagat season, local sunworshippers and surfers in search of new territories come to the island to wag their boundless energy in Ayoke’s surf breaks.

National media came and introduced Ayoke Island to the world. They brought with them not only media mileage but goodwill in the form of surfing and paddling lessons (among others) for the out-of-school youth in the island. Well-known surfing instructor Paolo Soler came by and shared his time with the local kids.

TIME TO GET STOKED. Surfing in Ayoke Island this July is something worth catching! Photo by Arvin Escatron

The buzzword in the local surfing community is that Ayoke has excellent surf breaks. I was unlucky because, during my visit, the Pacific Ocean was very calm. What greeted me was an equally interesting new hobby: paddling (on top the surfboard). The kiddos looked so swift!

There isn’t any accommodation on the island. For travelers who want to spend a night or more in Ayoke, a tent should come in handy. In the future, a home-stay program will be put in place.

So word of caution: Ayoke Island is not for the jaded tourist.

BAYANIHAN LIVES ON! Gawad Kalinga came and, with the help of the Ayoke community, restored dilapidated classrooms. Photo by Arvin Escatron

Adventure and rough play

If you have traveled extensively around the Philippine islands (we are talking about 7,000++ islands in the archipelago), chances are, the things you will find in Ayoke Island are very common, to say the least: a secret cove, white beach, riot of palm leaves, blue skies and clear water.

While patches of deserted white beach, swaying palms and eternal sunshine make a tropical island a perfect idyllic getaway, Ayoke Island offers something small islands at the edge of the Pacific Ocean don’t have: a supply of (sweet-tasting) springwater!

This makes Ayoke Island an island like no other.

SWEET SPRINGWATER FOR EVERYONE. If you've grown up drinking only bottled water, visit Ayoke and taste the natural sweetness of unprocessed water. Photo by Arvin Escatron

Ayoke Island residents get their power supply from solar panels. While the sun is for free and the solar panels are donated by a foreign government, residents need to shell out an amount for maintenance. Some houses still use gas lamps since not all residents can afford the monthly fee of Php220. 

The island, grouped into two barangays, has a population of about a hundred. The main source of income of the people are fishing, farming (copra) and banca-making. During stormy weather when it’s difficult to get supplies of rice from the mainland, kulo or breadfruit endemic in Ayoke Island becomes the residents’ staple food.  

A good 15-20 minute walk uphill toward what the locals call torre (tower) is a good exercise for the body and for the eyes. The top of the hill offers a 360-degree amazing view of Ayoke Island!

CLIMB TOWER, SEE AYOKE. One of the must-do's when you visit the island is to go up the 'torre' and see the magnificent view. Photo collage by Arvin Escatron

Now that the secret is out, come visit Ayoke before everyone else does. Beyond the summer months of April and May, expect the waves to be ginormous in size!

Just kidding!

THE CHILDREN OF AYOKE Island give Arvin Escatron their best smile. Photo collage by Arvin Escatron

How to get to Ayoke Island:

  • From Manila or Cebu, fly to Surigao City or Butuan City.
  • From Cebu by boat (daily except Sundays). Cokaliong (economy: P800; tourist: P1,025) ETD 7 PM, ETA 7AM) and 2GO Travel. Overnight trip. Travel time is 12 hours.
  • From Surigao City pier, take the jeepney (Php10) to city bus terminal. Take the Bachelor bus (Php158) with Tandag signboard or v-hire to Cantilan (Php 180). Travel time 3-4 hours.
  • From Davao: Davao-San Francisco-Tandag-Cantilan
  • Through Cantilan town in Surigao del Sur:
  1. There is no regular schedule between Cantilan town proper and Ayoke Island. The schedule is highly dependent on the weather and the islanders need to replenish supplies like rice and other goods for the island’s sari-sari stores. 
  2. The usual jump-off point is Cantilan Wharf behind the town wet market. Travel time is between 30-40 minutes. There is no fixed fare. According to the locals, depende lang sa abut (depends on what you can give). Php50 per way on average. 
  3. The other option is the privately-owned Banug Wharf at Hotchkiss Learning Center. – Rappler.com

(PH Travel is the home of wanderlusts constantly discovering the beauty of the Philippines through a shared love for recreation, food, sports, shopping, traveling, or the environment. This is where communities come together to share their stories and adventures — whether they’re into surfing, diving, yoga, mountaineering, hiking, rock-climbing, sailing, eating, cooking, responsible tourism. You name it, you can share it. Send us your stories, photos, and videos with subject heading PH TRAVEL to desk@rappler.com.)

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