Hefting a ton worth of camera equipment and a week worth of clothes while traveling is a big pain in the back. The ferry that would bring me Iligan City is still some hours away and to while away the time while in Cebu, I decided to visit the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary off the eastern coast of Lapu-Lapu City. Without a choice, I hauled my gigantic backpack along for the ride.
Getting to Olango Island is fairly easy, but having a mammoth bag demanded quite a bit out of me. Coming from the Mactan Shrine, I boarded a jeep (Php8.00) that brought me to Movenpick Resort where the outrigger boats that transfer passengers to Olango Island (Php15.00) is located.
Waiting for the next boat to the island took longer than the ride to Olango; it took less than thirty minutes for our boat to reach the island. From Olango’s Sta. Rosa Pier, I tried to walk all the way to the bird sanctuary; tried being the keyword here. A few minutes walking with a heavy backpack felt like hours. I decided to forget about being the author behind Lakad Pilipinas and hailed a habal-habal (Php25.00) to take me to the sanctuary, pronto.
Ten minutes later and I’m finally at the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
There is a nominal fee in entering the grounds but I was surprised when they asked for a hefty one for bringing in a DSLR. Apparently cameras capable of zooming in to the birds in the sanctuary needed a premium fee. I immediately explained that although my camera looks real big, the lens attached is not a telephoto but a wide angle one; it can’t even zoom in to something as near as a meter ahead of me. They let me in.
The 920-hectare Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary is listed as one of the seven best known flyaway sites for migrating birds in the world and has the most extensive network of mangroves in the whole of Cebu. It is considered as having the largest concentration of migratory birds in the country and is a playground for birdwatchers all throughout the country. Pretty impressive eh?
Birds coming all the way from Japan, Northen China and Siberia frequent its extensive sand flats as wintering grounds and fueling depot en route to Australia and New Zealand. And so far, almost a hundred different avian species have already been spotted in the sanctuary; almost half of those, migratory birds.
Hopping through a concrete causeway, a local guide led us to a viewing station located in the middle of the sand flats. The water around the mini bridge is very shallow and you can actually wade through if you want, unfortunately I was wearing shoes, so through the bridge it is.
A birding telescope is set up inside the hut for visitors wanting to have a peek at the birds in the area. The guide first scans for our avian friends along the shallow waters and mangroves of Olango Island before letting visitors peer through the telescope. Aha! There’s one! exclaimed one of the guests.
According to our guide, the start of bird-watching season in Olango begins at September and ends in May. I visited the sanctuary in September, but to be honest, I was unable to see the flocks I was expecting to witness. I was able to gaze upon a few small birds and some egrets in the area, but they’re quite few and far between.
To be fair, the peak migration for the birds in the area is during November to February. I guess I got to Olango too early. There are hardly any birds around, unlike my birdwatching visit to the more popular Candaba Swamp of Pampanga some years back.
A few of the tourists I met at the bird sanctuary, frustrated with their inability to take pictures of the birds since they were too far away, removed their sandals and proceeded down the sand flats. I was totally envious. I should have ditched my trek shoes.
I had a long friendly chat with our guide Tony Quijano who really knows his birds. I asked him if guests are allowed to stay overnight in the area. They are allowed to, he says, as long as they have a tent with them. But one has to be respectful of the place. He relates unexplainable things happening to rowdy bunch staying overnight.
I was actually unimpressed with my visit to Cebu’s Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary. I was expecting flocks and flocks of birds but only saw a few. Resting a bit before hitting the road again, I looked up above the tree I was resting on and saw a huge bird perched just a few meters from me. It seemed unperturbed by my presence even as I took more than a few snaps. It was quite an experience to be this close to a wild bird this big; I misjudged the Olango’s bird sanctuary too quickly.
Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary
Address: Brgy. San Vicente, Olango Island, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu
Contact Number: (0915) 386-2314 | (0928) 713-0117
Entrance Fee: Php20.00 Adult | Php10.00 Kids
Camera Fee: P10.00 Normal Cam | P500.00 Telephoto
Open Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
GPS Coordinates: +10° 14' 39.62", +124° 1' 27.95"
View Location on Google Maps: Click Here