Islands and Beaches

Dive in Sipalay: An Underwater Adventure at the Summer Capital of Negros

Negros Occidental

I was born there 41 years ago. We left when my father came to another fishing ground to fish. We came back to stay when I was 10 years old. After a year we moved to Cebu to stay. From time to time we have to come back to stay and for my father to fish there. I used to come fishing with my father and my brothers.I always admired the abundance of fish in the area. Everytime we stop for lunch I always select the biggest fish that we catch and put it on the makeshift grill that my father made from driftwoods or from dried branches knowing that there will be another of the same size catch before the end of the day.

Life in Negros during those days was a little hard. There was the problem of hunger when the demand for sugar has gone down in the markets and worst of all government troops are having a hard time fighting off NPA insurgents in the area especially in Sipalay. I was in high school when former General Jarqui declared No Mans Land in Sipalay and that was the first time on my young life to witness the hardships of war. I have witnessed the hard life of being on the refugee camp as the people from the mountains occupied the primary school in front of our house.

During those days we have witnessed the horrors of war. We had a fox hole under the house and everytime the gunfire errupts in the middle of the night I remember my father dragging all my siblings down to the fox hole for safety.

That was long time ago.

Chances of revisiting Sipalay came every now and then. I happened to dive there for the first time when I was testing my new underwater camera. My first dive was at Eva’s Point with the Artistic Diving resort. Right away after splash I was face to face with my first Ghost Pipe fish. Then a leaf fish and nudibranch.  That started my interest on the little critters instead of looking for big stuff and coral formations.

On my second dive , I saw my first frog fish. By then I thought to my self that there are more for me to see on my next dives.
I came back to Sipalay to dive again and explore the place I used to call home and the places we used to fish with my father. I hooked up once again with Artistic Diving because I liked their being so friendly on my last visit and the dives are very reasonable at 1600 Pesos per dive. They also arranged me an accomodation for 1500 Pesos per night.

It was a bit quite in the resort when I came there. Looks like I just arrived in time for their change over. There are only few divers around. Then everything became very convenient for me. I can dive anytime I want and there is also no rush of being with lots of divers. Most of all I can surface whenever I want. I have never had a dive during my stay that was below 60 minutes. I even had a night dive for 80 minutes. Its like having my own personal dive guide and boat during my stay and I was so spoiled. I can even book for a massage at a hut in the beach whenever I want.

Every dive and dive sites have its own surprises for me. One time we were waiting for the Mantas to show up at Manta drop dive site but they never show up. Instead, i saw a very beautiful scorpion fish. First time I’ve seen this kind but to my dismay the guide said that its a just regular on the other dive sites. Another surprise for wa s are the colorful Nudibranche during the safety stop. I am sure that the other guys are complaining about being cold and bored on the boat waiting for me. I made sure I had every angles photographed before I surfaced but apologized to them about being 20 minutes late again.

Food on the restaurant was great but I also took the luxury of wandering through the bay area in the city and have a taste of the local BBQ and eat my favorite home cooked vegetable dish at the local restaurants.

Its not diving alone that Sipalay can offer. There are very nice beaches and resorts, caves and visiting  the wildlife at the little islands close by.

Being there I totally forgot that I am almost at the Boundary of Negros Occidental and Oriental. I forgot that it’s 5 hours away from the nearest airport. I was in paradise. I could stay there for months if I could.

Getting to Sipalay will have 2 options. Its the same distance either coming from Dumaguete or from Bacolod. You are right in the middle.

If you are coming from Bacolod. Since they have move out now to the new airport , there is an additional hour of travel from the new airport in Silay.

You can take the Ceres bus from the Bacolod Terminal. Just make sure to tell your transport from the airport  to take you to the terminal going to Hinobaan. That is the way to go to Sipalay. Sometimes you can take the aircon bus if you arrive early to the terminal. On the way to Sipalay from Bacolod I am sure you will indulge your self on a countryside scenery of rice fields, sugarcane and Mango plantations. Unfortunately most mango trees had been chopped away to make way for more sugarcane because of the sugar demand increase.

If you are coming from Dumaguete, there is only one Ceres terminal but there are few options. You can iether take the trip via Hinobaan that will pass through the city of Bayawan. The roads are nice up to the boundary of Negros Oriental but as you get closer to Hinobaan, the roads are not so well maintained. There are even roads  I have seen that have not tasted a single bit of concrete in years.

Another way is going via Mabinay and Kabankalan passing through the mountains. From Kabankalan you can transfer to another Ceres bus for a 2 hours ride to Sipalay getting off next to the City Public Market. From there you can either take a motorbike or a tricycle ride to Artistic Diving. The best way is to get hold of Artistic Diving and they will arrange a transport to pick you up from either end of Negros Island. Hopefully when the new airport in Kabankalan opens up next year it will just become a short trip from the airport to Sipalay and it will open up all posibilities of adventure.

If you are coming from Cebu City, you can take the Ceres Bus from The Cebu City South Bus terminal to Dumaguete. It will always be an aircon bus to Dumaguete that they will put on to the Roro Ferry to get accross the other side. You will need to get off the bus Turing the trip accross and get to the passenger area of the ferry where you will have to pay extra for the ride.
Even though its a long ride to Sipalay, once you arrive there, its worth a stay. Either going to the beaches, diving or snorkeling there will always be a secluded area for you to relax or have your own adventure.

Now that I have tasted a different way to enjoy Sipalay I will definitely come back regularly.

I will have a chance to visit my relatives there, but most of all, l can  do the best thing I love to do, dive and explore all the surprises each dive sites has to offer. I have not even done half of the very long list.

One thing for sure, if myself  a native of this place enjoyed it and even surprised by it I am sure every adventurers will like it too. Even though how many times I will come back there,I will always enjoy Sipalay, the summer capital of Negros……. My birthplace.

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