Big surprises come in small packages. Much like this adage, the unassuming town of Dauin in Negros Oriental is a small bundle of surprise even to jaded travelers.
Located just a few heartbeats away from the provincial capital of Dumaguete, this coastal municipality is famed for its tourism gem, Apo Island, which is sought-after for its world-class scuba diving spots and rich marine biodiversity.
Named by Sport Diver Magazine as among the world’s top 100 diving spots, it is habitat to over 650 species of fish and about 400 species of corals, as well as sea turtles, school of jacks, and other aquatic creatures.
Recognized as a government Protected Seascape and Landscape, the 74-hectare island was recently awarded by the Zero Waste Cities Project as the Philippines’s first “zero waste” island barangay because of its upcycling initiatives for plush toys and home furnishings.
This accolade provides an exciting dimension to the island’s charm both as an underwater and terrestrial natural wonder, and a unique learning experience for divers and non-divers alike.
Inspired by Apo’s success, the municipal government of Dauin will soon be adopting a parallel zero waste policy to reduce solid wastes and preserve its pristine charm.
Beyond this idyllic island, the town is a relaxing retreat with the dozens of resorts dotting its sleepy shores. Arguably the most noteworthy is the upscale Atmosphere Resorts, which boats of its world-class facilities, bespoke amenities, tropical gardens, gourmet dishes, aquasports recreation, and yoga and spa services.
The resort also has an expansive and modern dive center which is a favorite among foreigners before the pandemic struck.
Also recognized as a wellness accommodation facility by tourism accrediting bodies, the sprawling resort pampers guests with an atmospheric resort experience that is second to none.
A boutique hotel which has captured both the diving and food market is Silver Reef Dive Resort, an artsy and environment-friendly lodging punctuated with its beachside payag native huts, paintings, indigenous crafts, and upcycled discards, which make intriguing conversation pieces.
Built mostly of steel container vans, the resort is sought for its all-time favorites with premium gourmet ingredients, freshly baked breads, donuts, pastries, deli, iced coffee drinks, and cocktails.
On top of restaurant stuff, it also sells biodegradable bathroom and daily washing essentials in refillable pump bottles under the PLS (Plastic Life Sucks) brand as part of its advocacy of reducing plastic wastes.
The resort is also engaged in social entrepreneurship and environmentally-sustainable projects with the community, as well as conservation of the town’s marine and coastal resources.
For a back-to-basics beach getaway with a dash of comfort, there is Dome Resort Dauin which has four 30-sq-meter tents with a comfy bed and private toilet and bath. Just like a typical hotel room, the glamor camping (glamping) facility has a wide smart flat screen TV for in-house family entertainment, and 2 Japanese Tatami chairs which can double as an extra bed.
With a theme for every dome, the most snapshot-worthy is the Hello Kitty dome which will be exciting playpen for little girls. Two beachfront domes, which sport classic and bamboo themes, have a private porch with table, chairs and lounge chairs for a front row seat to a kaleidoscopic sunrise and sunset.
What makes the dome a home are the solicitous German and Filipina couple owners who make guests like a part of the good old rural family. Guests can also do their own barbecue at the resort grill for an authentic camping getaway.
An intimate family-oriented resort worth checking out is Munting Paraiso for visitors who want to be away from the busyness of scuba diving activities. Just like its name suggests, it is paradise in a nutshell with its landscaped gardens, ponds and comfy bedrooms. A brainchild of the ageless business Bert Bravo, its tender steaks and wood-fired brick oven Bravo Pizza have become among the signature dishes in town.
Complementing the bevy of dive resorts for a ridge-to-reef ecosystem is Baslay Highland Coffee Brew which concocts organic coffee grown on the slopes of Mount Talinis. Guests can sip gourmet coffee farmed by the locals themselves, which have found their way in cafes across the Central Visayas region.
Nestled at an upland barangay, it is an inspiring success of a decades-old grassroots cooperative which has bonded together to protect and nurture the forest ecosystem, and offer a unique tourist experience along the way.
Moreover, for a no-frills artsy sojourn, Mango Tree Ecohostel will take you back to the basics of countryside living. A social enterprise of German tourists who have settled in Dauin, it is a cluster of native hostels made up of bamboo and other recycled construction materials.
With still so many homegrown restaurants, watering holes, yoga camps, and tourist establishments, a stay in Dauin is to always go for the win.
Image courtesy of Bernard L. Supetran