All the News from Southern Leyte
Latest Update 1st February, 2014.
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) caused no damage in Southern Leyte and we are 100% open, offering the full range of facilities, services and activities. Mains electricity is 24 hours a day, mobile phones and internet access are operating normally, Tacloban airport is open and roads throughout Leyte island are in good condition.
On Valentine's Day we were delighted to host the religious marriage affirmation of Davis and Brianna, following their civil wedding in the US at the end of January. They had a lovely ceremony in the stunning surroundings of our private beach, followed by a wonderful reception lunch in the restaurant. For small parties of up to about 20 people, Padre Burgos Castle Resort is a superb venue for a wedding ceremony and/or reception, as well as a first class destination for an idyllic tropical honeymoon.
A tropical depression passed nearby last night bringing lots of rain and strong winds. The Philippine weather service called it a tropical storm, but whatever its definition it was a nasty piece of weather. Prolonged, heavy rains in the mountains during the middle of January have eroded the main road at Agas Agas and the route to Tacloban currently needs to pass through Baybay. This adds an extra 40 km to the journey but we are keeping the price our airport transfers unchanged. Anyway, February dawned with a spectacular sunrise and we now have clear blue skies, a delightful south-westerly breeze, and glorious powdery sand at the beach.
Whale shark sightings continue to be very irregular and we ran 2 tours during January without finding whale sharks. With lower water temperatures, increasing amounts of plankton and February sunshine, we are still optimistic that we will get some good, reliable whale shark watching now we are approaching mid-season.
The sun is back! Last week a weather disturbance charged across the north-western Pacific and then parked itself just off the east coast of the Philippines, bringing a few days of rain and strong winds. Although we're not yet back to full on sunshine, we've got some nice dry, calm conditions ideal for diving, snorkeling, dolphin watching and relaxing at the beach without getting burnt to a crisp. A plus side of the strong winds and associated waves is that the sand, last seen in early November, has at last returned to the inter-tidal area at our private beach and it's looking really great down there.
The Festive Season is now over and 2014 is underway. To get the year off to a flying start we are offering Free Dolphin Watching for 2 people with bookings in January of 4 or more nights.
Whale shark sightings continue but none of our guests, or those of other resorts, have taken their chances on a whale shark tour recently so the fisherman are enjoying them undisturbed by tourists! Stay tuned for news of the first whale shark tours of 2014.
Happy New Year!
We enjoyed a fabulous New Year's Eve dinner last night with free flowing wine, and then champagne and fireworks at midnight.
There's better news on the whale sharks, with regular sightings in the expected area over the last several days. If we get positive news of more sightings tomorrow then we should be running a whale shark tour on Friday and hoping for 3rd time lucky!
Our Christmas Eve dinner was a huge success with a great spread, including traditional (British) roast turkey. We were delighted to host a group of aid workers taking a well deserved short break from their excellent work in and around Tacloban.
The news on the whale sharks is still not great and we didn't see any on our tours last week, although a group of divers saw one at Napantao 4 days ago. The dolphin watching has, however, been outstanding often seeing separate pods of different species of dolphins on our tours. The guests going out today have advisedly switched from a whale shark to a Limasawa Tour and we are looking forward to some great snorkeling, a superb barbecue lunch and lots of dolphins!
Another superb Limasawa Island Tour yesterday, in perfect weather conditions. We saw lots of dolphins both in the morning and the afternoon, although they were not as 'playful' as they usually are and we couldn't get closer than about 20 metres away from them. We varied the programme to suit a family of 4, 1 of whom was a diver and he dived at Gunter's Wall and Adrian's Cove while the rest of the family enjoyed the superb snorkeling at both sites. Today the same guests are taking a whale shark tour, and a dive master will again accompany us to do a morning dive at Napantao. Stay tuned for news of our first whale shark tour this season.
Wind at last! After several completely calm days, with the breeze only kicking in about 4.30 in the afternoon, it was nice to get out sailing again yesterday. There was a really nice light wind and hot sunshine in the morning, which made for ideal conditions to give our new beach attendant, Marken, his first sailing lesson. The clouds rolled in after lunch, and as they did so the wind and waves picked up for some exciting sailing conditions later in the day.
The warm, tropical waters of Sogod Bay make for ideal sailing conditions, and we run superb skippered sailing tours around the bay. If you want to learn to sail, or you haven't sailed for a long time, we run introductory sailing lessons and refresher courses. If you're already a competent sailor, we'll give you a quick safety briefing and you're good to go on your own or together with up to 3 friends.
Another superb snorkeling and dolphin watching tour today, with stunning weather. With our new motor banca, 'Monarch of the Bay', we are now running a variety of boat tours in addition to our fabulous whale shark and Limasawa Island tours. For keen snorkelers there is a choice of a 1, 2 or 3 site tour taking in the best snorkeling spots in Sogod Bay. These are nearly always devoid of other snorkelers and the scenery above the sea is equal to the magnificent underwater views.
Absolutely stunning weather today, bucking the recent trend with a fresh north-easterly breeze this morning and an absolute flat calm this afternoon. Temperatures were up in the mid 30's Celsius and it felt more like May than December. Before the storm our private beach had been looking superb with a great covering of powdery white sand on the inter-tidal area. All that got ripped away, but it is slowly returning and the permanently dry area is always sandy. Most importantly the house reef was not damaged and the water visibility at the moment is just superb.
Festive Spirit! In the Philippines they say that every month ending in 'ber' is a Christmas month, which is just about true but we take a more measured approach and put up our Christmas decorations on 1st December. So we are now looking very festive and getting into the Christmas spirit.
We still have availability for both Christmas and New Year and are again offering packages including gala dinners with free flow wine, 'champagne' breakfasts, midnight 'champagne' and fireworks on New Year's Eve, and unlimited complimentary sailing and kayaking for the duration of your stay.
We are having beautiful weather at the moment, usually calm in the mornings with the breeze picking up in the afternoon for some great sailing. The dolphin watching is superb, and we are seeing dolphins on all our tours.
More flights are now operating in and out of Tacloban, both from Manila and from Cebu.
The whale sharks are here! There have been a number of reports of whale shark sightings from local fishermen. It appears that they have not yet established a regular pattern, as is usual at the start of the season as the plankton is not yet as dense in the whale shark sanctuary and the whale sharks are dispersed over a larger area in search as food. Of course, tourist numbers are very low and early season tours are a great time to enjoy whale shark watching with no other snorkelers around.
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Update.
The mains electricity supply was restored to Padre Burgos yesterday afternoon, and our free Wi-Fi internet connection today. Banks are open for the normal hours and ATM's are available 24 hours a day. So now all things here are completely back to normal.
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Update.
We went to Maasin City today, which at 30 km away is the nearest place of any size and is also the provincial capital of Southern Leyte. There was plenty of traffic and the place was busy and bustling, and a little bit noisier than normal as many places are running generators. Not all the petrol stations were open but there were no queues at those that were and fuel (both diesel and petrol) is in plentiful supply. All the banks and ATM's seem to be open, although some are operating for restricted hours. All the shops were operating as normal and there are plenty of supplies.
As far as electricity is concerned there is good and not so good news. The good news is that some huge generators delivered by US navy ships are being installed and electricity is expected to be supplied for several hours a day starting sometime next week. The not so good news is that the transmission lines from the huge geothermal plant near Ormoc suffered quite extensive damage and repairing them is a significant job. There are statements from the national Department of Energy saying they are committed to restoring full electrical power, not just to Leyte but to Bohol and Cebu which are also served by the Ormoc plant, well before Christmas. Let's hope so, but in the meantime the resort's power needs are being served amply by our generator.
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Update.
Those things that weren't working properly at the start of the week are now improving. The ports of Ormoc, Hilongos, Bato, Maasin, Liloan and Surigao are all working normally with regular ferry connections to and from Cebu City, Bohol and Surigao. Supplies, most importantly food, water and fuel, are being delivered by these routes. The banks are getting back on line, although there are long queues. The road at least as far as Ormoc is in good condition and public as well as private transport is using this route without any problems. It is also possible to drive to Tacloban, although actually going in to Tacloban at the moment is not advisable. There is still no official schedule for reconnecting the electricity supply but with fuel available resorts, hotels, dive shops, banks, medical centres and shops equipped with generators are able to operate more or less normally.
It's beautiful weather here in Southern Leyte with lots of sunshine and fresh north-easterly breezes. And with even less light pollution than normal, the night sky is a joy to behold.
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Update.
After the weekend businesses re-opened on Monday, and some problems started to surface. The banks' communication networks are down so there are no banking transactions at the moment, and only 1 ATM in Maasin City is operational - with a huge queue of people waiting to withdraw cash. People have stockpiled on fuel, some of them to re-sell it vastly inflated prices, so there is no diesel and very little petrol available. Supply chains are being re-routed to come by ship from Cebu and fuel deliveries are expected in the next day or 2. On the positive side, all roads are open, and there is plenty of food and drinking water. Again re-supplying will be done by ship rather than overland from the north of Leyte. There is no schedule for the electricity to be reconnected, although the distribution network is operational and will work when the supply to Southern Leyte is available again.
We have no first hand information on the situation in northern Leyte. Communication lines are down and our only information comes from the news. The situation there is obviously catastrophic and our hearts go out to all those there, and on other islands, who have perished, been injured and continue to suffer as a result of this massive storm.
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Update.
Super Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name Yolanda) traversed northern Leyte this morning. Down here on the most southern tip of the island we experienced very strong winds between 6am and 10am, before things started to settle down. Around the local area a number of trees have been brought down, including the mango tree we have been nurturing for the past 5 years, but thankfully there are no significant injuries to people or damage to property. There is currently no electricity supply so we are running our generator and the internet connection is painfully slow. It's going to take a couple of days to clear all the leaves and small tree branches from the beach and clean out the swimming pool, but otherwise the resort is functioning as normal.
The weather has changed and we have now seen the back of the south west monsoon or 'habagat'. For the next 7 months, whatever wind there is is almost certain to come from the north east. This will bring some significant changes: sailing conditions should be consistently excellent; sand is already returning to our private beach; and, above all, the whale sharks will soon return. The modifications on our boat are ahead of schedule and the plan is to re-launch the 'Monarch of the Bay' at high tide on Monday evening.
Although the 'Monarch of the Bay' has run well during extensive sea trials as well as on some great dolphin watching and snorkeling tours over the past week and a half, we've taken the tough decision to make a significant adjustment which means she will be out of commission for the next 2 weeks. When she's back in the sea the smoothness of the ride will be significantly better and definitely worth the time (and money) to get her in tip top condition for the forthcoming whale shark season. In the meantime, guest service will be unaffected as we will be using chartered boats for our dolphin watching, snorkeling, island hopping and, if we're lucky, whale shark tours. Fear not, the 'Monarch' will soon be gracing the 'Bay' again.
After a lot of hard work we launched our superb new motor banca, 'Monarch of the Bay', last Tuesday. After looking forward to the event for over 3 months the maiden voyage, driving the boat 30km down the bay from Sogod, was undertaken in lashing rain and an ear-splitting thunderstorm! The formal blessing, conducted by the local priest, took place on Saturday and was followed by a great lechon barbecue and free-flowing drinks down at the beach. We're still tinkering with some minor refinements, but the boat is now good to go for snorkeling trips, whale shark tours, dolphin watching and island hopping. Come and enjoy!
The Bohol centred earthquake this morning was very noticeable here, as were some much weaker aftershocks in the afternoon. Thankfully no damage to people, property or infrastructure occurred here in Southern Leyte, and everything and everybody is operating as usual. Our hearts go out to those, including our own close relatives, far less fortunate in Bohol and Cebu.
Tropical cyclones are currently trundling their way across the western Pacific with great regularity and Typhoon Nari (Philippine name Santi) is about to make landfall on Luzon. Here in Padre Burgos we are basking in hot, sunny weather albeit with a strong south-westerly breeze giving choppy conditions out in the bay and on south and west facing shores. At this time of year cloudy days are not uncommon, but for 9 days out of 10 during the 'rainy season' it is dry all day long, with the whole month of September seeing a total about 4 hours daytime rainfall.
The beautiful weather continues, with afternoon temperatures regularly into the mid 30's Celsius. After a prolonged period of very calm weather we've enjoyed some lovely breezes recently and the sailing has been sensational. Diving and snorkeling conditions are also excellent, as usual, and dolphin watching is as always very reliable and totally uncrowded. We are now completely booked out over New Year but still have a little availability up to 30th December for people looking to spend Christmas in an idyllic beach environment.
We are now into the low season months of September and October. As I have said here many times, the 'rainy' season is really a misnomer as far as this part of the Philippines is concerned. We were away for most of July, but the whole of June saw only about 4 hours of rainfall during daylight hours and August was not dissimilar. We expect similar weather during the rest of the 'rainy' season in September and October, but usually with less wind as the habagat (south west monsoon) draws to an end. Indeed the last 10 days have seen very little wind, which is not so encouraging for sailors, and the whale shark watching will only get better as the main season approaches. Looking a bit further ahead, we still have some very limited availability over the festive season, and are again offering gala dinners with wine, 'champagne' breakfasts and complimentary water sports - so make sure you make your reservations very shortly.
Dry and breezy weather has prevailed for the past couple of weeks, and there have been excellent sailing conditions. With a drop in the wind and waves yesterday we ran an excellent Limasawa Island tour. After experimenting on the previous tour we have modified the itinerary slightly and now take a lovely 15 minute stroll after lunch at the beach through one of the barangays (villages) to reach the site of the First Mass, and meet up with the boat again at Magellanes. There was a southerly breeze yesterday morning, and the resulting waves meant we didn't see dolphins until after lunch when we found about 40 Fraser's dolphins. These are less common, and if yesterday was typical, also less 'playful' than the pan-tropical spotted dolphins which we see most often. The other types of dolphins we see regularly in Sogod Bay are spinner dolphins, short finned pilot whales, melon headed whales and pygmy killer whales.
Some adventurous guests tried their luck at finding whale sharks yesterday, which was the first time we'd run a tour since the middle of June. Despite very calm conditions, and reports from local fisherman of 4 whale sharks having been seen in the same spot on the previous day, we failed to find any whale sharks in our 3 hours of searching. We also discovered that the beach cottage we rent for the barbecue lunch is being decommissioned so we'll need to find an alternative for our next tour. On the much more positive side we spotted sea eagles, turtles, enjoyed some fabulous snorkelling and rounded of the day in the company of about 100 spotted dolphins who were close enough to touch (which we didn't, naturally).
Delia, Nikka and I have now returned from a wonderful holiday and fabulous weather in the UK, with the family getting together to celebrate Dad's 80th birthday. The reports are that the whale sharks are still here, but a flat calm day is required to stand a good chance of locating them. Dolphin watching is a year round activity, and this morning we set off under challenging conditions with very threatening skies and still enjoyed 45 minutes watching about 150 spotted dolphins. We'd managed to stay away from the darkest clouds while looking for them, but got well and truly drenched on the way back to the resort. Judging from the smiles on the guests' faces it was well worth getting soaked, and our 100% record of finding dolphins on our 2-hour dolphin watching tours remains intact.
The excellent weather continues, with almost no rain during daylight for the whole month but regular rainfalls during the night which is just perfect, and after the 'drought' in March, April and May everything is looking lush and green again. Still no sign of the habagat, or south west monsoon winds, taking hold and whale shark watching is still available. We've now started work building our new boat, to be named 'Monarch of The Bay' which should be commissioned during September.
The whale shark season continues! We ran another whale shark tour yesterday, seeing 3 whale sharks in very quick time. After an hour of almost continuous swimming the young families were well satisfied and if we had stayed longer we would surely have seen several more whale sharks. The weather is now changing and after 3 months of almost unbroken sunshine we are seeing a few showers and the wind direction turning to the south-west. At the moment the winds remain very light so whale shark watching is still excellent but this is not expected to last for much longer so make the most of the opportunity while it does.
The stunning weather continues. We've now had 3 months of almost completely dry weather, and temperatures over the past few weeks have been consistently in the mid 30's Celsius. The past couple of weeks have been very calm so there has not been much sailing action but conditions for all other activities, as well as just relaxing at the beach, have been perfect. Whale shark sightings continue to be consistent and reliable, and things are looking very good for the group who have booked a whale shark tour for 11th June - which will be our latest ever whale shark tour if it goes ahead.
The 'summer' season is now upon us, so check out our Hot Deals for some great discounts!
Swimming with mantas! On our whale shark watching tour last Friday, our local guide spotted a shadow moving in the water and gave the signal for us to jump and swim in the direction of the shadow. To my surprise what appeared in front of me was a beautiful manta ray rather than a whale shark. These are very uncommon in Sogod Bay, although there had been reports of sightings over the past couple of weeks. As if to prove the unpredictability of nature we failed to find a single whale shark that afternoon, although 4 had been seen by snorkelers during the morning. Undeterred our 2 guests returned the next day and were treated to 6 whale sharks, as well as about 200 dolphins. The whale shark count is an estimate, because on our 2nd swim there were several swimming in a very small area and it was very difficult to work out how many different ones there were. Sightings of wild animals can never be guaranteed, and the whale sharks have proved elusive on the odd occasion, but things are looking promising for another month of excellent whale shark watching before the season draws to a close.
Stunning weather and even better whale shark watching! Last Saturday we had continuous drizzle all night, but that apart there has been virtually no rain since the beginning of March. There have been a couple of flat calm days, but most of the time we're enjoying lovely fresh breezes and having some great sailing conditions.
The whale shark watching is just sensational. Yesterday ours was the only boat at the sanctuary and we saw 11 whale sharks - an all time record! The Physalus conservation group have now identified about 50 different whale sharks since they arrived here in early February. Nothing is for sure, but things are looking good for excellent whale shark watching through to the time when the wind will turn to the south west around early June. We shouldn't forget the dolphins, as we have been enjoying some great dolphin watching on all our recent whale shark and Limasawa tours. We've also seen turtles every day while snorkeling at Limasawa, and yesterday also lots of squid and some huge jacks among the myriad of other fish and amazing corals.
The whale shark watching is just getting better and better! After seeing 10 whale sharks on 3 separate tours last week, we saw a season's record (so far) of 6 on today's tour. With the whole area to ourselves, the 2 guests on today's tour had a fantastic start to their first ever trip to the Philippines and commented that the journey from Austria was worth it just for today's experience. We missed out on dolphins today, but snorkeling with a turtle at Limasawa Island was ample consolation.
It was comparatively busy here in Southern Leyte during Holy Week. With Easter Sunday falling on 31st March, which is the exact anniversary of the First Mass, there were many visitors at Limasawa Island over the weekend. But away from the focus of the anniversary it remained wonderfully peaceful for diving, snorkeling, dolphin watching and swimming with whale sharks. A special mention to young Anton, currently residing in Singapore, who at 7 years of age became our youngest guest to swim with the whale sharks. Our oldest guest doing so was 84, so it really is an activity everyone can enjoy.
Summer has arrived early, and we are enjoying a prolonged dry spell of excellent weather with some great breezes for really enjoyable sailing. Whale shark watching continues to be excellent, with guests seeing whale sharks on every tour.
As anticipated, we are now experiencing much more stable and sunny weather, with hardly any rain since the beginning of the month. The north-easterly wind pattern continues but the sea is generally much calmer than a few weeks back. (Does anybody know why the same strength winds produce smaller waves in March than they do in January?) Sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and diving are all excellent, and whale sharks are being seen on all whale shark tours, with 4 or 5 per tour being the norm.
After advising the guests on today's tour that whale sharks were still difficult to find, we were rewarded with over 35 minutes right alongside a 6 metre whale shark. March and the advent of the 'dry' season here in Southern Leyte are just around the corner, and we can expect great conditions for all activities and some excellent whale shark watching.
More fabulous dolphin watching yesterday! This has to be one of the very best areas anywhere to watch dolphins: there are plenty of dolphins to be found; dolphins are here all year round and can be seen at any time of day; with so few tourists there is never more than 1 boat watching dolphins at any given time. Yesterday we saw a few pilot whales and a pod of over 50 spinner dolphins, with some of the latter swimming leisurely on their backs beneath the boat and looking up at us for some people watching!
Unfortunately the whale sharks are not as easy to find as we would expect at this time of year, and 2 consecutive tours have failed to find any. Of course, if you don't look for whale sharks you won't find any, but if you are going on a tour over the next few days you are well advised to consider seeing whale sharks as a great bonus rather than the only goal of your day's outing.
More great, calm and sunny weather for the past 4 or 5 days. This has not been much good for sailing, but all other activities such as diving, snorkeling, swimming with whale sharks, dolphin watching, and just soaking up the sun at the beach have been superb.
For the past few days we've enjoyed some glorious, calm and very sunny weather and we took full advantage of the conditions yesterday with another wonderful whale shark tour. Using the new large banca we have available, we took 6 guests who saw well over 100 dolphins and had 30 minutes swimming right up close with a magnificent 7 metre whale shark. Although the large banca can easily accommodate more guests, we much prefer to keep the group size to a maximum of 6 guests to give a better experience for everyone. And the small banca is still available so we can stil offer whale shark watching, Limasawa Island and dolphin watching tours for a minimum of just 2 people.
Happy New Year!
We've had mixed weather over the festive season, with the most siginificant factor being fairly continuous moderate to strong winds. This has interfered with our whale shark watching and caused a number of tours to be postponed. But we managed 5 tours, one time taking 9 guests in 3 boats, seeing a total of 16 whale sharks and several hundred dolphins and all our guests who wanted to take a tour were able to do so. We've added 2-hour dolphin watching tours to our programme of activities, and these have been very popular with guests not wishing to undertake a full day whale shark or Limasawa Island tour. We now also have a larger boat available for all our tours which is great value for groups of 4 or more people.
Our Christmas decorations will be coming down tomorrow signalling the end of a very busy and immensely enjoyable festive period. We look forward to seeing you in 2013!
3 whale sharks, over 100 dolphins and 50,000 huge fruit bats was today's count! Actually we saw the same whale shark twice (but who's counting anyway), and after having swum with it for 40 minutes the first time we were very familiar with it. Again we found the 1st whale shark immediately upon arrival at the sanctuary, and were later spoilt for choice when we spotted 2 whale sharks simultaneously. The dolphins yet again put on a great show for us on our journey back to the resort, and we were then treated to a spectacular and colourful dusk made even more amazing as thousands of huge fruit bats filled the sky, some flying just a few feet above the boat. With outstanding morning snorkeling at Limasawa, a visit to the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines and a tremendous barbecue lunch it was another unforgettable day!
4 whale sharks and probably about 200 dolphins on today's whale shark tour. The weather didn't look too great at 7.00am this morning, with overcast skies and a few showers around and 2 of the 4 guests cried off. (Note that we cancel the tour if the boat captain says the weather is too rough to go, but it is a 'rain or shine' tour and guests will be liable for some costs if they cancel at the last minute.) Anyway, the 2 guests who did brave the early morning weather were amply rewarded. We had some nice sunshine for the snorkeling at Limasawa Island and after a choppy sail across the bay we had a great barbecue lunch enjoying the superb views. After lunch the weather was still a bit threatening, but we saw 1 whale shark right away which put everybody in a great mood. The sun came out and the next whale shark was absolutely superb - a 7 metre shark feeding with a wide open mouth just below the surface for about 15 minutes. Just as that one started to disappear from sight a 'baby' (about 4 metres) appeared and 30 minutes later we found our 4th whale shark of the afternoon. After so much activity the guests decided that was enough, and we made a comparatively early departure from Sunok. Searching, as always, for dolphins on the way back to the resort we came across a pod of about 200 of them who were very happy to play alongside the boat and put on an entertaining display of leaping and spinning. Huge fruit bats silhouetted against a beautiful new moon was the final wildlife spotting before dark descended shortly before we arrived back at the resort. A truly fulfilling day!
Typhoon Bopha passed to the south of us yesterday as predicted. We had a day of very poor weather with no chance of doing any marine activities, but no exceptional wind or rainfall. Unfortunately thousands of others were not nearly so lucky, including Delia's eldest brother whose family home together with all their possessions was washed away in floods in Mindanao. Our hearts go out to all the people who suffered and continue to suffer as a result of this storm. But back here in Southern Leyte it's a beautiful day once again, and everything is normal.
Although it is a beautiful, sunny day with only the gentlest of breezes, we are preparing for the arrival of Typhoon Bopha. This is a very unusual tropical cyclone forming very close to the equator and forecast to track at typhoon strength much further south than the norm. We are expecting the typhoon to pass sometime on Tuesday and it is probable that there will be prolonged power, and maybe also communication, cuts after that. We are well stocked with food, water and fuel for the generator and are making every possible effort to protect the property. Unfortunately local residents are not yet taking the storm warnings seriously and let's hope their optimism is justified.
There is still comparatively little plankton around, so the whale sharks are spread around the bay hunting for it. A couple of guests were very keen to look for whale sharks, knowing that the chances of finding them when they are so dispersed are much lower, and we ran another great tour today. The highlight, even surpassing the superb barbecue lunch, was finding a large pod of anything up to 50 huge pilot whales on our way to Limasawa Island. These were swimming very slowly and we watched them for over 40 minutes and could have done so all day. As usual there were no other tourists in sight and the fishermen in the 2 boats we did see had no interest in watching pilot whales!
Work on enlarging the septic sevicing the beach bathroom is now complete, and the bathroom is operational again, saving guests enjoying themselves at the beach the need to walk back up to the hotel.
After a couple of miserable wet days, the weather has returned to the seasonal norm with plenty of sunshine and fresh breezes from the north east. The sand is accumulating slowly but steadily on the inter-tidal area at the beach, and the sailing conditions are consistently good. For those interested in knowing more about whale shark watching here in Sogod Bay, we've set up a blog with lots of information about that and will post regular updates on whale sharks and other matters of interest at sogodbaynews.worldpress.com.
Despite failing to find any whale sharks, yesterday's tour was another outstanding day out. We saw several large pods of dolphins, as well as a few pilot whales, and spent 45 minutes with anything up to 150 of them swimming around, beside and under our boat. An adventurous guest donned his snorkel and mask and experienced amazing close up underwater views of them. Delia accompanied the tour, and the barbecue lunch at the beach was sublime.
Yesterday's whale shark tour was a great success, seeing 2 whale sharks plus 50 to 60 dolphins and pilot whales. We were the first and only people to run a whale shark tour so far this season, and we had to modify the schedule when some very nasty weather blew up as we rounded the headland toward the whale shark sanctuary. So we backtracked for an early lunch and set off again about 1.30pm. We found our first whale shark quite quickly and at 3.30pm the guests had to decide whether to head to Limasawa for some great snorkeling, or to spend another half hour searching for a 2nd whale shark. Just as it looked like we would miss out, and we were getting ready to head for home, the spotters found a 7 metre whale shark for us to swim with. Full marks to the guides and spotters for hunting all day and to the guests, who were well rewarded for their patience and perseverence. There was a spectacular sunset with Limasawa Island silhouetted against a crimson sky as we sailed back to the resort, where we arrived well after dark.
We have just finished moving one of the garden walls to give a couple of extra metres of space, ideal for daytime relaxing by the pool while admiring the stunning view to neighbouring islands. It's also a great spot for a romantic evening, and last night a young couple on their honeymoon enjoyed a superb candlelit dinner overlooking the beach, with a beautiful bright moon lighting up the seascape.
The north east airflow is now well and truly established, the sun is out in force and sailing, diving, snorkeling and sunbathing conditions are excellent. After a few days without sightings, the whale sharks are being seen again and we are planning our first whale shark tour of the season for tomorrow. Stay tuned for news of the tour.
Tropical Storm Son-tinh (local name Ofel) made landfall in Leyte yesterday afternoon, a little to the north of us. We had a windy and rainy day, but nothing too significant although the mains electricity supply is currently down and we are running on the generator. As the storm approached the wind, and therefore the waves, turned back to the south west washing away the sand which had accummulated over the previous week so we're back to square one on that front. The winds have already veered towards the south east, and we can expect the north easterly airflow to re-establish itself very soon and the sand start to return once more.
After a few beautiful, flat calm days early in the week, the winds have now turned to the north east, signalling the end of the south-west monsoon. Already a lot of sand has returned to the inter-tidal area at our beach making for much easier access to the water on foot and with the catamaran and kayak. With the changing wind and wave patterns, and falling sea temperatures, whale sharks are now to be seen again in Sogod Bay, and we're looking forward to bringing you news of our first whale shark tour of the season very shortly.
Sensational Sailing! The past couple of weeks have seen quite a lot of overnight rain (which is always welcome) but, apart from 2 brief afternoon showers, the days have been fine and dry. Some flat calm days at the beginning of last week have been succeeded by some great breezy conditions making for outstanding sailing. The catamaran, which takes up to 4 adults, is very easy to sail and is ideal for less experienced sailors to gain in confidence, while more adventurous mariners will relish heeling onto 1 hull and, if they can find flat water, getting the boat to plane. For people completely new to sailing we offer great value introductory courses. And if there is no wind at all, take out the kayak for a close up exploration of the coastline and to access some great snorkeling reefs.
After nearly 2 months of glorious weather, we have seen a few days of grey skies and moderate to strong winds brought on by Typhoon Jelawat. This has followed the typical path of typhoons in the North Western Pacific and passed well to the north-east of us, and as it moves even further away we can expect the return of much calmer and sunnier conditions. Diving conditions have remained excellent although, with wavy conditions out in the bay, diving in the last few days has been confined to the dozen or so excellent sites on the west side of the bay. Sailing has been for the brave only, but snorkeling on the house reef and kayaking to Tangkaan marine sanctuary have been great options.
We have recently upgraded our internet access to provide fast web-browsing, social networking and e-mail via a Wi-Fi connection available throughout the guest rooms, lounge, restaurant and bar areas. Please note that we do not have a computer available for guests' use, but for those without smartphones or laptops, there is an internet cafe in Padre Burgos town.
The last few days have been very calm, which made for excellent dolphin watching last Saturday, and yesterday we saw the first north-westerly wind in several weeks which indicate that the south-west monsoon is starting to draw to a close. With the advent of winds from the north-east we will see the sand shifting back onto our beach making for much easier launching of the catamaran and access to the house reef. However, lightweight rubber or plastic shoes, which can be used for both walking and swimming, are always a good idea for people who, like me, have sensitive feet.
Delia, Nikka and I have spent the last few days in Singapore where we celebrated Nikka's 4th birthday. The highlight was surely the trip to the zoo, which is so well organized and set in such a great environment that it is as close as you can get to seeing the animals in the wild. We, therefore, missed the large earthquake on Friday evening, the epicentre of which was only a couple of hundred kilometres from Padre Burgos. Here it caused a strong and long shake, but there was no damage to roads, infrastructure or buildings and everything continued to work fine. Padre Burgos is set in a bay, and there are other islands in all directions so the danger from tsunamis is very low. Furthermore, our hotel is about 20 metres above sea level giving excellent protection from any kind of hazard from the sea. So if you are coming, or are thinking of coming, to this area don't be put off by alarmist or sensationalist stories - the wildlife, beauty, people and services are unaffected by last week's earthquake and the weather is great.
It has been a beautiful month weather-wise, with less than 3 hours of rain most of which fell during the night. There have also been pretty consistent south-westerly breezes which, combined with the sunshine, have made for some great sailing days.
We ran another truly excellent Limasawa Tour today, and saw many dolphins before snorkeling at our favourite and really outstanding site. We've had a 100% success rate on finding dolphins on this season's tours and we've been the only people out watching them which adds hugely to the experience. Throw in a visit to the site where Magellan held the first Christian mass in the Philippines, a delicious barbecue lunch on a deserted sandy beach and a 2nd excellent snorkeling reef and it all adds up to a perfect 'Adventure in Tranquillity'.
The weather this month has been quite variable for July, with several rainy days and also some quite windy ones. With the wave action 'ripping' along the shore the sand has shifted further up the bay making the inter-tidal area quite rocky although there is always sand on the permanently dry area. Bringing some reef shoes or diving booties is a great idea for walking across the rocks to access the swimming and excellent snorkeling on the 'house' reef.
With all the attractions on, under and by the sea we shouldn't overlook the interesting and diverse sights on land. Our 'South West Leyte Tour' takes in waterfalls, old Spanish houses, churches and bell towers, hill-top shrines, chapels in caves, and a visit to a tiny reef-fringed island with tremendous sandy beaches. Additionally guides are available to help explore the network of fascinating caves in the local hillsides and fish-feeding at a nearby sanctuary is a great hit with the young ones.
We are now seeing breezes coming from the south west, indicating the beginning of the south-west monsoon, or 'habagat' as it is known locally. We still expect lots of sunshine, and the change in wind direction means that the sea on our side of the bay, the east side, will be very calm making for great snorkeling conditions locally. For sailing, an off-shore breeze means small waves which are great for getting the catamaran to heel over onto one hull and really pick up some speed. The 'habagat' is likely to bring an end very shortly to this superb whale shark watching season, but we saw 4 different whale sharks on yesterday's tour with a total time in the water with them of about 35 minutes.
The superb whale shark season just goes on and on! Yesterday we ran another tour, seeing 3 whale sharks each for an extended time. The private tour comprised a young family and the youngest member of the party, just 3 years old, was able to ride in a kayak and see one of the whale sharks from there. For parents wishing to go on the tour with young children, we take along a child minder in addition to the cook so the parents and older children are able to snorkel while the young one(s) are well looked after on the boat. Being private tours we can modify the timing and itinerary to suit your group, and yesterday we skipped the visit to the First Mass site and stopped at a great beach with lovely calm, shallow water so the kids could run around and play, while the parents chilled out and took in the beautiful views across to Panaon and Surigao islands. On Saturday we ran our first 'new look' Limasawa tour. We have been running these for 3 years but have modified the programme along the lines of the extremely successful whale shark tours and now include dolphin watching, and a barbecue lunch on a superb sandy beach in addition to snorkeling and visiting the site of the First Mass. The dolphin watching on Saturday, and again on the whale shark tour yesterday, was outstanding with dolphins swimming and leaping right next to the boat for 20 to 25 minutes.
The weather is now changing, with the winds starting to move to a more southerly direction and in a couple of weeks' time the south westerly breezes should be firmly established. In this transition period, the days are very calm but we should quickly return to some great sailing conditions, especially in the bay in front of the town where the flat water will make for some really fast sailing. Regardless of the wind, the days are hot, dry and sunny and diving, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach are also all great options. And, of course, the whale sharks are still here!
We had an absolutely sensational whale shark tour today with well over 100 dolphins being seen on the way over to Sunok. We also had our youngest whale shark watcher, at just 9 months old! We arranged a child minder to accompany us, and the 3 and 4 year olds also had a great day and the parents were able to relax and enjoy their day out. To get the most out of whale shark watching you should have a certain degree of fitness and be able to swim proficiently but with our small, private groups anyone who can float in the water should be able to get a good close up view of the whale sharks.
.The glorious weather is well and truly set now with lots of sunshine, usually calm mornings and lovely afternoon sailing conditions. Water visibility is excellent and whale shark watching remains superb - with 6 or more whale sharks being seen on most tours. The Easter 'crowds' (there are never many tourists in Padre Burgos) are thinning out and this is a great time to come and relax in the sunshine, sail, enjoy some great diving and swim with whale sharks.
We've been having some lovely weather with superb breezes for great sailing, and excellent conditions for whale shark watching and scuba diving. We ran another top-notch whale shark watching tour on Saturday with just 3 guests. We timed it to perfection to arrive just after 2 dive boats with 18 guests on board had completed their 'interaction' leaving us to enjoy long sessions with 3 different whale sharks all by ourselves. On the way back to the resort I was acting as 'lookout' watching for dolphins but it was the eagle eyes of our excellent boat captain who spotted a large pod and we had 20 minutes with them frollicking around the boat.
Yesterday's whale shark tour with 4 guests was outstanding and is going to take some beating. We did the tour in reverse order to normal as the whale sharks have been proving easier to find in the afternoons. The snorkeling in the early morning sunshine was truly superb with fantastically clear water and a sea eagle hovering overhead before we soaked up the laid back, peaceful atmosphere on Limasawa Island and the great views from the site of Magellan's Cross. Out of nowhere dark clouds appeared as we sailed towards Sunok and, although there was minimal rainfall, a strong squall whipped up the waves making for an exciting crossing. As the squall eased and our thoughts were turning towards our barbecue lunch, we spotted a large pod of dolphins and had an excellent half hour watching them. The afternoon turned out to be even better, as for most of the time we were the only ones with the whale sharks, the sun was shining and we saw 4 sharks. Its was after 4.30pm by the time we left Sunok and again we saw a huge pod of dolphins on the return to the resort, before enjoying a glorious sunset and getting back to the beach just as the bats were doing their evening flyover. A truly outstanding and forever memorable day for everyone!
After a week of continual rain the skies have cleared and we are experiencing our usual warm, dry and sunny weather once more and hopefully that will be the last of sustained periods of rain for this year's 'rainy season'. The diving has been good despite the poor weather and those that have ventured across the bay in search of whale sharks have been finding them. With the return of the sun, diving and snorkeling, whale shark watching, sailing and just relaxing on the beach are all going get so much better.
For the first time bad weather forced us to cancel yesterday's whale shark tour. We had some guests checking out after lunch today who were desperate to see the whale sharks, and although it wasn't looking promising when I got up at 5.00am, the skies cleared about an hour later and we set off with 2 guests under heavily overcast skies but with a nice calm sea. Not surprisingly we were the only ones looking for the whale sharks, and with clouds hanging low over the mountains it was a very peaceful and atmospheric experience and our efforts were rewarded with great interactions with 2 whale sharks. Flexibility is the name of the game for our whale shark tours, and the guests were back at the resort in time for a great lunch and checked out on schedule at 1.30pm with huge grins on their faces.
The excellent weather continues and, as we had no guests yesterday, Delia went sailing for the first time in many, many months and really enjoyed it. We had a nice light breeze in the morning, with the wind picking up in the late afternoon as it often does. We get consistent and reliable north-easterly breezes at this time of year, and when there is no breeze the kayak is an excellent way to explore the coastline.
After more than our fair share of wet weather over Christmas and the first couple of weeks of January, the past week has been lovely with plenty of whale sharks being seen on our whale shark tours and some excellent sailing conditions. We ran an Introductory Sailing course for a couple of guests who have since had some great solo sails around the bay - and are looking forward to getting out on the lakes back home when the ice melts in their native Finland. Whether you have never sailed before, or are an accomplished sailor you will find our Hobie Cat to be exhilarating and a great way to enjoy the surroundings. Do please remember that if you take the catamaran (or the kayak) out on your own you are responsible for getting it back to the beach and if you need to be rescued extra costs will be incurred.
It was raining this morning, and when the guests queried the chances of seeing whale sharks I remarked that they weren't going to see them from the comfort and dryness of the resort lounge. So, after waiting for 20 minutes for a particularly heavy shower to pass, we departed and were rewarded with a fantastic day - 7 whale sharks all to ourselves. Although we got a good drenching as we started looking for the whale sharks, the weather brightened up after lunch and we had a lovely stop at the First Mass site, some excellent snorkeling and a sunset cruise back to the resort in the early evening.
January 1st, 2012.
Happy New Year! We had a full house last night, and Delia and the team put on a superb gala dinner with a whole letchon as the centrepiece. The midnight fireworks were really superb and everyone stayed up to watch them and enjoy the complimentary champagne. So if you couldn't make it this year we hope to see you next time around!
We lost count of how many whale sharks we saw on Christmas Eve - but it was a lot. Today we had a brief but very close encounter with just 1 whale shark. After an excellent lunch we saw maybe 100 dolphins on the way to Limasawa Island. Snorkeling with the whale sharks is the objective of the day, but with dolphin and pilot whale watching, snorkeling at a fantastic marine sanctuary and visiting the site of the First Mass our whale shark tours are all round and truly excellent full day tours.
There are at least 30 whale sharks over at Sunok at the moment, and our guests enjoyed great outings seeing plenty of sharks yesterday and today. The Castle is looking very festive, and provided a great setting for Club Vera's traditional British Christmas dinner complete with turkey and trimmings plus a superb letchon.
Tropical Storm Washi (called Sendong in the Philippines) has thankfully passed well to the south of us, and although we had 24 hours of poor weather it was nothing exceptional. Tragically the storm has brought severe flooding to parts of Mindanao causing considerable loss of life and extensive damage to property. Ferries have been severely disrupted with no ferries sailing to or from Leyte yesterday or today, but things should be back to normal tomorrow.
The penthouse apartment building is now complete, as scheduled. Over the next month we will be identifying and fixing any niggling issues which often arise with new buildings, and the apartment is available for guests starting from January 2012. The rate is fixed regardless of the number of guests, up to a maximum of 6 people, and includes our delicious Continental breakfast served in the restaurant. The apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, 'maxi bar' free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, DVD, CD, MP3 player, 2 very large bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a huge lounge/diner with a lovely balcony. Extra beds are provided for the 5th and 6th guests and can be set up in the bedrooms or in the lounge to suit your choice. On another note, whale sharks continue to be seen very regularly and our private whale shark tours are proving to be very successful and very popular.
The whale sharks are back! With sightings over the weekend, we ran our maiden private whale shark tour for 2 guests yesterday, including a bbq lunch on a secluded beach, dolphin watching, visiting the site of the First Mass, and some superlative snorkeling in a marine sanctuary at Limasawa to round it off. Being a private tour, the pace of and programme for the day was tailored to the guests and the tour was a huge success. Yet another reason to spend your vacation at Padre Burgos Castle Resort!
About a week ago the wind started to veer from the south-west, from where it has been coming since June, to the south and then the east and it appears already that the north-easterly windflow is now established and we can expect that to dominate for another 7 months. The sand is returning nicely to our beach, and we should once again have a complete cover from the permanently dry are to the low tide mark very soon.
We were on storm alert last night with a tropical storm forecast to make a direct hit on Padre Burgos. The storm was not that big as tropical cyclones go, and was in fact only classified as a tropical depression, but nonetheless we took precautions to protect people and property. Although we had a fair amount of rain and some strongish winds, there was nothing exceptional and according to the reports the storm seemed somehow to leapfrog us and is now heading west from Cebu towards Palawan. We had stocked up with about 3 weeks supply of gasoline for the generator, but the mains electricity has just been re-connected after a 27 hour power cut (our longest in the 3 1/2 years we've been here, but perfectly manageable). So we now have the task of putting everything back from shelter into its proper place but, as the saying goes, we're much better to be safe than sorry.
Today I had an absolutely fabulous sail accompanied by a huge pod of maybe 50 dolphins swimming in front, behind, to the side and underneath the catamaran for over half an hour. Also common in the bay are pilot whales which, although they are not as playful as dolphins, are much bigger and are very impressive close up. For the coming whale shark season, which will hopefully start around the beginning of December, we intend to run our own, private whale shark tours looking for dolphins and pilot whales, taking a barbecue beach lunch, visiting a marine sanctuary for snorkeling as well as whale shark watching. This service will be exclusive to Padre Burgos Castle Resort guests and tours will run for groups of 2 to 6 people so guests can dictate the pace and the programme for the day.
Nikka is 3 today, and celebrated with a pool party. She is already attending nursery school, so her classmates (and their parents), as well as children from our barangay loved swimming in the pool and the great food which Delia laid on.
The great weather is continuing, with sunshine pretty much all day every day, with some regular night-time rainfall to keep things fresh and green. The sailing continues to be excellent, with steady south-westerly winds (called the habagat), although these have now washed most of the sand further up the bay from us. The permanently dry area is always nice and sandy and the sand-free shoreline makes for really clear water and great snorkeling on the house reef.
We're busy constructing a new and very luxurious 2 bedroom/2 bathroom penthouse apartment. Together with the huge lounge and fully equipped kitchen, this will provide fabulous accommodation for families or groups of up to 6 people - with all the services and facilities of the resort. Completion will be in late November and it is bookable from January 2012.
I never believed it myself until I saw it, but the sand here is seasonal. There is no fixed time of year, but the sand moves up and down the coastline following the pattern of the prevailing wind. Generally the wind comes from the north-east from November until May, and from the south-west from June til October. So with the recent change to south-westerly wind and waves a huge amount of sand has washed up on our beach which is always stunning but is currently really impressive - and it makes launching and beaching the catamaran very easy.
We have recently re-configured our guests rooms, and we are now offering a Family Suite and a Single/Double Room in addition to 2 Doubles and 1 Twin/Double Room. The Family Suite, which is priced at a fixed rate for up to 4 people, has a king-size bed and a single bed (or we can change it to 3 single beds), and an extra bed can be added for a 4th child. The Single/Double Room is a genuine double room but is offered at a great discount for a single traveller, or a 3rd or 5th person who is part a small group. The Twin/Double has a double bed and a single bed, so it is ideal for a couple or for 2 people sharing, and can accommodate a 3rd person at extra cost. Of course, all the rooms are beautifully furnished and have air-conditioning and private, en-suite bathrooms and can be booked via our secure on-line booking system.
Delia, Nikka and I have just returned from a very enjoyable and relaxing few days at Anda, on the east coast of Bohol. We had a couple of chill out days and a day touring Bohol's famous Chocolate Hills and a trip on the Loboc River, all of which Nikka really loved - as did Delia and I! There are many guests who look to combine a visit to Southern Leyte with a few days at another destination in the Philippines, and that part of Bohol makes a perfect combination with Padre Burgos. It is not as touristy or commercialised as Panglao, offers great beaches with good diving and snorkeling, and travel in either direction to or from Padre Burgos is quick and easy to arrange. So, if you're looking for a 2-centre holiday in beautiful beach environments, Padre Burgos and Anda are hard to beat.
The 'low' season starts tomorrow, with room rates reduced accordingly. 'Low' season is really a misnomer, because all the facilities and services, with the exception of whale shark tours, are available and conditions are at their best. After 2 or 3 days of grey weather but with excellent winds for sailing, we are enjoying the seasonal norm of beautiful sunshine and clear, calm seas. With the change of wind and wave direction, the beach is in superb condition and the 'house reef' is providing amazing snorkeling.
As we approach the end of the 'high' season, we are now planning the new building to be constructed at the entrance gate. The upper floor will comprise a luxurious 2-bedroom apartment while the ground floor will house, amongst other things, a scuba gear washing and drying room. Disruption to guests in the Castle will be minimal, but we will be reducing the room rates during the construction period so continue to check our web site for 'special offers'.
We did have some guests who spotted whale sharks last week. Unfortunately, they saw them from the beach and by the time they got back out on the boat and donned their snorkels, the sharks had dived too deep to be seen. Even the 'locals' are now saying that the whale sharks are no longer around so it does look like this unusual and disappointing season is truly over. There were plenty of whale sharks to be seen in December and January. But the prolonged wet and windy weather reduced sightings and from the beginning March onwards the majority of whale shark tours were unsuccessful. But the weather and the diving, apart from watching whale sharks, should just continue to get better and better and the 'off-season' is a great time to visit Southern Leyte. At the Castle we have catamaran sailing for breezy days and the kayak when it is calm.
Happy Easter! Still no confirmed whale shark sightings yet, although the Limasawa locals say they are seeing whale sharks both mornings and afternoons on a daily basis. Our Limasawa Island tour is hugely popular and enjoyable, so why not add on a search for the whale sharks to the standard tour on the basis of 'no see, no pay'?
There have been reports of regular whale shark sightings at Limasawa Island. As yet, we are unaware of any whale shark tours finding the sharks but there may yet be a good end to this whale shark season.
At last we've had a prolonged spell of dry, if not completely sunny, weather. The winds have continued to be superb and the sailing excellent. We recently hosted a private dive club from Cebu who made the trip in their own well appointed dive boat. We are delighted to accommodate such groups and can arrange re-filling of tanks and the services of experienced local dive guides. Of course, such groups are required to respect all the local ordinances and pay all the sanctuary and diving fees, and generally protect the marine environment they are here to enjoy.
It does look as if we might have to give up on whale sharks for this season after 2 more consecutive unsuccessful tours. We're still getting a lot of showery weather, but the winds remain consistently good. So diving in the morning and sailing in the afternoons makes for a pretty good holiday! With the prevailing winds coming from the north-east Ampo reef and the Coral Garden offer excellent snorkeling in calm waters.
We've augmented our range of wines with an excellent Argentinean malbec, a delicious Chilean merlot and a crisp Chilean sauvignon blanc. So whether you wish to enjoy a relaxing cocktail, refresh yourself with an ice-cold beer or savour a bottle wine, the bar at Padre Burgos Castle Resort is the best in town - in fact, in Leyte!
The last couple of weeks has been disappointing for seeing whale sharks. They are being seen sometimes during regular dives, and we had guests who participated in a successful tour last week but there have also been some tours failing to find them. We had some guests who were caught out, not realising that the public transport system within Padre Burgos closes down at 6.00pm. If you're going out in the evenings make sure you pre-book your return transport - or enjoy the 3km walk back from the town!
Finally we've had a sustained spell of good weather and whale sharks are being spotted again - although not as easily and frequently as normal at this time of year. We're also getting some nice winds and sailing conditions have been excellent.
Delia and I are now back from our visit to Edinburgh combined with some skiing in the Swiss Alps. We had great weather in Switzerland - cold, sunny days but no snow - and got back to continuing rainy and windy weather here. More discouraging is that the whale sharks are proving to be elusive and there have been unsuccessful whale shark tours conducted. Let's hope they surface again soon.
The whale sharks are here in abundance now, with an average of 5 being seen on each whale shark tour. If you've never seen whale sharks before, or you want to see them again at very close quarters, now is a great time to visit Padre Burgos.
The 'low' season has come to a close and bookings are already good for the high season. The whale sharks are around in Sogod Bay but still in rather too few numbers for a sighting to be probable - and the 1 tour run last week was unsuccessful - but signs for a great season are very promising. If you want to take a whale shark tour so early in the season, we recommend going with an operator who will offer a scuba dive (or two) if the whale sharks prove to be elusive. We still have some availability for both our Christmas and New Year's Eve festivities, so contact us soon if you are looking for a warm tropical environment, great activities in peaceful surroundings and superb food and drinks over the festive period.
We now have DVD systems with 22" LCD flat screens available for rent at a small cost for use in the bedrooms, for those that wish to enjoy a movie in privacy. We have a selection of DVD's available for guests to borrow, including some children's programmes.
We have now installed a booster aerial for our internet connection, and the speed has improved considerably. While it is still not up to broadband standards, the free Wi-Fi connection provides very good internet access for e-mails, social networking and web browsing.
Sailing is proving to be a big hit, with generally excellent conditions and superb scenery to admire. There is also plenty of fauna to see, with sea turtles swimming beneath the boat, eagles soaring overhead and regular pods of dolphins and pilot whales swimming through the bay.
Our Water Sports Centre offering catamaran sailing, kayaking and snorkeling is now fully operational. These great sports are superb ways to enjoy the natural splendour of Sogod Bay, in complete harmony with the peaceful surroundings.
Happy Birthday! Nikka celebrated her 2nd birthday today, inviting the local children to a great party down at the beach with letchon, ice cream and of course birthday cake. Nikka was on much better form than last year, and really enjoyed having so many other children around. We've just ordered a sailing boat and a 2-person kayak which will be delivered in a couple of week's time. Sogod Bay is a great place for sailing and the kayak will allow guests to explore the wonderful and varied coastline.
Jackie gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Jadericks, last night. Congratulations to Jackie and husband, Maasin.
Weather and sea conditions here remain great. Limasawa tours have been very popular recently, with dolphins being seen regularly on the trip over there which is always a great bonus.
Having been laid low with a mystery virus, I am now pretty much back to normal form. We've been taking advantage of a rather quiet period to do some painting to keep the place in tip-top condition. We've also being doing a little re-arranging of the garden landscaping - as things grow they need to be re-positioned to maintain our superb ocean views.
The Castle facilities now include free wi-fi internet access, allowing our guests to surf the web and access e-mails from anywhere inside the Castle and from the patio.
Snorkeling conditions on the 'house reef' are currently excellent with calm, ultra-clear water conditions and the usual plethora of fish, hard and soft corals being boosted by regular visits from sea turtles.
We have just implemented a secure, encrypted on-line booking system with Reseliva. This allows guests to make and receive instant confirmation of a booking up to 12 months in advance. Guests who have special requirements or seek further information before making a booking can continue to e-mail email@example.com or telephone us and make a booking in the traditional manner. We anticipate that the new on-line reservation system will enhance our booking procedures and we look forward to receiving your feedback.
Delia, Nikka and I have just returned from a very pleasant few days in Bohol, attending the fiesta in Delia's home barangay in Loon. It is interesting to compare the touristic development of Bohol with that of Leyte, with Bohol being much better served by regular fast ferries from Cebu and several daily flights from Manila and having well advertised attractions for visitors to enjoy. Of course the downside is that tourist vans swarm around the Chocolate Hills like bees collecting pollen, while Leyte's sights are far less publicised and can be enjoyed in a calm, unhurried and harmonious fashion. With several daily boat services between Leyte and Bohol, combining both these islands into a single holiday is becoming increasing popular and we thoroughly recommend doing so.
Election Day has passed very peacefully and although I wouldn't discount all the stories reported in the press the picture of nationwide violence portrayed by the media is far from accurate. Here in Padre Burgos there were some issues with the electronic counting machines and queues to vote were quite lengthy, but everyone was very good natured and there was a real sense of community purpose. The whale sharks are still here with 8 being seen on a single tour to Limasawa last Monday.
Yesterday Delia and I paid a visit to Maasin Forest Park and the shrine at Monte Cueva. The park offers superb views into the mountainous interior of Southern Leyte and across the Bohol
Sea and is an excellent place to explore on a mountain bike. Monte Cueva also affords fantastic views and the chapel in the summit cave offers physical and spiritual relaxation after the hot sweaty climb up the 400 or so steps, and it is very well worth exploring.
Holy Week saw mixed conditions for diving with stiff breezes, moderate waves and a fair amount of rain reducing visibility from the normally excellent conditions we experience here in Sogod
Bay. The whale sharks are still around in large numbers and all whale shark tours continue to report sightings. With the north-east monsoon winds becoming less dominant, the crowds thinning out after Easter and the whale sharks still around, the coming weeks look set to be superb.
Happy Birthday Delia! She hasn't had much time for relaxing as we've had resident and non-resident guests dining this evening, but it has been a rewarding day. We've also had 4 hours of rain this morning which was desperately needed, and things are already looking markedly greener than they were a day ago. Jade has joined the Castle team and we wish her success in her new role.
We are now back from our trip, having had a wonderful time. The beautiful architecture of Edinburgh and the cold mountain air of Grimentz in the Swiss Alps were quite a change from the tropical surroundings of Southern Leyte and it was wonderful to spend time with David's family. There's been no rain here for nearly a month which has been great for guests and visitors but the Castle garden is in desperate need of a significant amount of water. The whale sharks are still being seen reliably at Limasawa
Island and all 3 dive shops seemed to have settled on a formula of 2 morning dives plus snorkeling with whale sharks in the afternoon. Options also exist for non-divers.
Delia and I are departing tomorrow for our trip to the UK and Switzerland. We will be monitoring the e-mail although there may be a longer delay in replying and, of course, we will be in a different time zone. We will also be contactable on both our phone numbers.
One of our guests has posted a very interesting article on his visit to Padre Burgos on his on-line journal.
The easy access to the whale sharks at Limasawa is now starting to cause some problems with too many boats and too many people trying to get too close to the fish. In addition to the 3 established local dive shops, transient liveaboard dive boats and local bangkas are also taking customers on whale shark tours. Our guests have also been seeing whale sharks as part of our popular Limasawa
Island tours, but our boat driver will not take guests close to the whale sharks if there are already significant numbers of people around. If our guests want to do a whale shark tour we encourage them to use one of the 3 dive shops, but if they take a Limasawa Island tour they may enjoy the huge added bonus of snorkeling with the world's largest fish. However people go, they should all treat the environment and the marine life with complete respect.
It finally looks like the weather is changing with dry settled weather predominating again - right on cue for the busier holiday periods, not that it's ever busy in Padre Burgos! Whale sharks are continuing to be seen in numbers around Limasawa Island and all the dive shops are now offering whale shark tours there.
Delia and I have just returned from a short trip to Manila we made in order to process a visa application for Delia. It's the first time we've been to Manila since we've been based full time in Southern Leyte and it's a world apart - skyscrapers, tree-lined boulevards, wall-to-wall financial institutions in Makati
City, office workers thronging the streets at rush hour, international restaurants on every corner. The traffic and attendant fumes are horrendous (although not nearly as bad as many big cities in Asia) and it's wonderful to be based here with the clean sea air and lush vegetation whatever appeal the convenience and sophistication of the city may hold.
After rain on New Year's Eve and a very strong breeze yesterday, we were finally able to set of our fireworks this evening and everyone enjoyed a great display. After some rain and a few breezy days the weather is now looking settled and conditions should be great for enjoying the full range of activities in and around Padre Burgos.
Two of our guests took a tour to Limasawa
Island yesterday and while snorkeling they saw 3 whale sharks. Four more guests decided to try their luck today and spent about 30 minutes snorkeling with a 5 metre whale shark. So the world's largest fish are still around in Sogod
Bay but are proving rather more elusive than usual and are still not reliably to be found at their normal feeding area.
The whale sharks seem to have gone walkabout recently, and there was another unsuccessful tour today. A strong breeze has been blowing down the bay for the last few days which doesn't make whale shark spotting any easier. Let's hope things pick up soon and we start seeing whale sharks consistently again.
Yesterday we celebrated the 1st Anniversary of the opening of Padre Burgos Castle Resort, and commemorated the event with a superb dinner attended by 17 guests. The previous evening we hosted a private dinner for some of the provincial and municipal leaders and officials. Over the last 12 months we've been guided by our mission to provide excellent service to you, our cherished guests and customers, to enable you to make the most of your time visiting this beautiful and peaceful part of the world. From the feedback we've received we are being successful in achieving that objective and we aim to continue to raise the standards over our 2nd year of operation.
Diane has decided to seek new opportunities elsewhere and we wish her well in that and thank her for her excellent contribution over the last 12 months. Charmine and Joecyl are now leading the Castle Service Team and have done a fantastic job during the last very busy week. Well done and keep it up, girls!
Mixed news on the whale sharks, with 1 successful and 1 unsuccessful tour last week. So the advice on the Nov 23rd update still holds good. The bats are now back in full force and we've been getting some great dusk time shows as these huge bats fly directly overhead on their way to their nocturnal feeding grounds.
Positive news on the whale sharks. The sea temperatures have been falling and there is a lot more plankton in the water now, which is what attracts the whale sharks into the bay at this time of year. The last 4 tours have all been successful with great snorkeling up close with these magnificent creatures. Whale sharks have also been spotted several times on our side of the bay and things are looking very promising for a great whale shark season.
While I have been writing this a beautiful sea eagle has just soared gracefully over the Castle. Superb!
Even after 6 years in SE Asia I can't get used to Christmas in a warm climate. Delia would put up the Christmas decorations in September if she could, so we compromise on 1st December each year. So we're now looking very festive and are well stocked up with 'champagne' and smoked salmon for your Christmas Day breakfast.
Whale Shark Update....The good news is that the whale sharks are back in Sogod
Bay, and should now be here until late April giving visitors the chance to see the world's largest fish at very close quarters. Not quite so encouraging is that 2 tours last week failed to locate the whale sharks so viewing opportunities aren't yet as reliable as they should be later in the season. The best advice for divers is to go on a tour which combines a dive with snorkeling with the whale sharks. Non-divers should be realistic about the chances of finding whale sharks - so far there has been only a 50% success rate. Stay tuned for further news.
We have now completed upgrading the Castle bar area and are very pleased with the result. As well as looking really good, our selection of wines continues to expand and improve with recent additions including a refreshing merlot from northern Italy and a deliciously fruity Chilean chardonnay. We have also hand built and installed a couple of display cabinets housing souvenir items and holiday essentials such as sunblock and insect repellent.
The first whale shark tour of the 2009/2010 season was a success today. Only 1 of the world's largest fish was sighted on the "official" tour but another was lying on wait back at base on this side of the bay. It's early days, but with whale sharks remaining in the bay until August the signs for a great season are very promising.
Padre Burgos Castle Resort witnessed its first marriage proposal this evening - and a successful one at that. Gus and Amor visited us in October, and then returned here for another 5 nights so Gus could make his proposal in the glorious natural environment here in Sogod
Bay. Congratulations and very best wishes to the pair of you, and we are looking forward to hosting a wonderful honeymoon for you!
The Municipality of Padre Burgos has been celebrating its 52nd Anniversary this week with a series of events leading up to the Grand Dinner & Ball yesterday evening. Activities have included basketball, volleyball, boxing and, undoubtedly the highlight of the week, the Search for Miss Padre Burgos 2009 where 11 glamourous ladies competed for the prestigious title. On a more serious note both the Municipal Mayor and the Congressman of Southern Leyte reiterated their commitment to 3 key areas: development of the agricultural industry; protection of the environment and natural resources; development of touristic infrastructure. More power!
A good easterly breeze around dusk this evening, saw the first flypast of giant bats we've had in many weeks. These bats dwell in caves on Limasawa
Island and feed at night time in the mountainous forests above Padre Burgos. When the wind is from any sort of northerly direction their evening flightpath is directly over the Castle which makes a great spectacle and it was a real pleasure to observe them again today. It seems that the south-west monsoon is finally drawing to a close and that bat-watching at dusk time will be on the early evening agenda once again.
Jackie celebrated her birthday today. A last minute booking and dinner reservation meant she had to cancel her plans for a day off and help prepare some wonderful dinners. Thanks very much, Jackie, and Happy Birthday! It's been a good day for wildlife spotting with turtles swimming over the Castle reef and sea eagles soaring gracefully high above Macrohon.
Typhoon Parma, thankfully downgraded from it's earlier ferocity as a super typhoon, is now sitting almost stationary off the north west coast of Luzon and while very northern Luzon continues to be battered by this storm we are enjoying perfect weather here with a light south-westerly cooling breeze. Last night we enjoyed a classical Sogod
Bay full moon and the image of small fishing boats plying the moonlit waters was simply stunning.
Our good friend Pete Green has just completed the UK '3 Peaks' comprising Ben Nevis, Scaffel Pike and Snowdon - the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales. He was just outside the magical 24 hour mark, but contending with driving rain, low cloud and a puncture en route it was a magnificent achievement. Bravo Pete!
Tropical storm Ketsana, which susequently developed into a full blown typhoon, has brought tragedy and loss of life to Manila and other provinces on the island of Luzon, but fortunately the island of Leyte has been unaffected and services at Padre Burgos Castle Resort continue to function normally. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to all the victims in Luzon, Vietnam, Camodia and Laos.
It was another cracking day for snorkeling today and I'm getting to grips with the camera now. I need to take care to equalise the pressure in my ear while diving to the sea bed and concentrating on the camera settings - even a couple of metres of pressure can be quite painful. But a good shot of a spotfin lionfish was the reward today for a slightly sore right ear.
Another perfect day weatherwise, so Canigao Island looked a good bet for a day out for Delia, Liezel, Nikka and I. Canigao has long been a favourite picnic destination for locals but more recently the municipality of Matalom has put time, effort and money into developing it as a managed beauty spot. And beautiful it is - only a half hour's stroll all the way around with white sand beaches on 3 sides, and lush tropical vegetation in the middle. Everything is well organised with bangkas departing from 3 separate points on the mainland; snacks, drinks and delicious barbecued seafood for sustenance; running water and clean toilet facilities. I explored the snorkeling possibilities and with very strong currents on the western 'scuba diving area' found the best area to be on the eastern, landward side of the island with some lovely corals and a huge variety of fish. Despite the good organisation, Canigao is still a very peaceful, quiet place and makes a super day out or lunchtime stop on a day tour of southern Leyte.
After several days of perfect snorkeling conditions, Delia and I opted for a change of scene today and dug out the hiking boots which had last seen action in the Western Highlands of Scotland over 2 years ago. We decided on the 'Kinderhilfe Circuit' which starts near the Children's Village and after 20 minutes in the forest opens up into open meadows with glorious views across Sogod Bay and to more distant islands of Bohol, Camiguin and Mindanao. From up here the Tangkaan peninsular and Limasawa
Island follow an identical sweep and it is no surprise that an underwater ridge covered by relatively shallow water connects the two. Although more distant hills beckoned we decided on the shorter route back to Barangay Buenavista, near the centre of Padre Burgos and a hable hable to take us back to our motor cycle at the Children's Village.
There wasn't a ripple on the sea today and the sun was shining brightly in a clear blue sky so it was time to try out the new underwater camera on the Castle reef. The camera is a very nifty Canon D10 which looks, and functions, very much the same as any modern small digital camera apart from a small protruding lens. It is waterproof to 10 metres and is therefore ideal for snorkelers and experimentation quickly showed that the 'underwater' setting did indeed produce the best results. There are some stunning creatures to be found and pictures to be taken on the 'house reef', but time and patience is required. Fish have an annoying tendency of moving quite quickly and not coming very close to the camera and to get side-on rather than top-down pictures requires a fair bit of underwater swimming. But great pictures can be taken so look out for the 'Photo of the Week' on our Homepage or check out the Photo Gallery.
Beautiful weather with clear skies and a light breeze so Delia, Nikka and I headed off to explore Hinunangan on Leyte's Pacific
Coast. The road journey winds round Sogod
Bay before heading east over the hills to the Pacific. Promises of mile upon mile of soft golden sand proved to be a little exaggerated, but Hinunangan is still a delightful place on a long sandy bay with the nearby twin islets of St Peter and St Paul beckoning for a return visit. The return journey turned into something of an epic as I decided to take a short cut, which entailed 1 ½ hours crawling along just 15km of extremely rough road winding through stunning countryside with not a soul in sight. So lesson learnt - if the road's not on the map, the cement mixer hasn't been near it.
Delia laid on a superb spread for Nikka's 1st birthday party, with a 30kg lechon as the centrepiece accompanied by beef steak, fried chicken, prawn sotanghoon, grilled milkfish, lumpia shanghai, all cooked in Delia's unique Filipino style followed by fruit salad, caramel cake and fresh tropical fruits. A brief shower around noon caused a swift removal of the serving tables to the shelter of the dining room, but that passed quickly and around 35 guests passed a wonderful afternoon on the terrace. The only person who didn't relish the moment too much was the birthday celebrant herself - hope you're on form next time round, Nikka!