Have you ever imagine walking on the sea, in water not deeper than your knees, in a landscape, consisting only of an endless pale blue water surface, endless deep blue sky and pure shining sun? There was a similar landscape, created in the movie “Interstellar”, where a whole planet was covered by tiny water, and the astronauts just walked on the bottom of the sea. But since the landscape in “Interstellar” was too cold and depressive, there are places on our planet Earth, where you can feel like a water paradise, bathed in sunshine. One of these places is located in the Philippines. This is Manjuyod Sandbar, and it is called “The Maldives of the Philippines” (due to its similarity with such places in the Maldives).
What is a sandbar and how is it created
Sandbar is a kind of shoal, where the sea floor is formed by sand, instead of rocks or corals. Usually, the sea depth in such shoals is so small that the bottom is often exposed above the water surface during the low tide, creating temporary islands.
There are various natural factors in the sandbar forming. The main three of them are the rocky foundation under the sand layer- its depth and its location, the thickness of the sand layer, and the role of the water currents, waves, and tides. And sometimes the combination of all these factors can create wonderful forms like these sandbars.
Where is Manjuyod Sandbar
Manjuyod Sandbar is one of the largest sandbars in the Philippines. It is located in Negros Oriental province, beside the southeast coast of Negros Island. And there is a small bay, called North Bais Bay, with two towns on its both side- Bais and Manjuyod. There is Manjuyod Sandbar- a long and wide strip of sand stretched into the open side of the bay. And although the sandbar is called after Manjuyod town, in fact, Bais is more important, since it is traditionally used as a starting point for the sandbar cruise.
Bais is a small town on the southeastern coast of Negros Island. There is no some special destinations in Bais itself, it is just a nice and calm town, with its central square, its streets and houses, and its shops and restaurants (and of course, its Jollibee fast food, as almost everywhere in the Philippines). But the treasures of Bais, especially Manjuyod Sandbar, are located out of the town, which is only a starting point to visit them.
Our Manjuyod experience
As a part of our Philippines itinerary, we arrived in Bais from the north- from Bacolod. We took one of the morning buses from Bacolod South Bus station to Dumaguete and traveled around 5 hours until we reached Bais in the afternoon.
Our accommodation in Bais
When we planned our Philippines trip, we booked most of the accommodations (mainly hotels and hostels) in advance. But for Bais, since it is a small town and there is not too much choice in Agoda and Booking, we decided to look for an Airbnb room. And we found an excellent place there- the property of Ricky Soler, located in a picturesque and tranquil area in the northern part of Bais.
When we arrived in Bais and got off the bus, it was a bit difficult to find Ricky’s place, so he came and took us by his car. Actually, it was only about 200-300 m away from the road, but we felt like we entered a virgin countryside, an excellent place to relax. We had planned our Manjuyod Sandbar cruise for the next day, so that day we only researched our options, how to arrange everything in the best way.
Our house in Ricky Soler’s property
Ricky’s property was actually a yard with a few houses. Two of them, the largest, were his family private home. And the other two were prepared for his guests (actually one of the small houses was in repair just then). Our house was well decorated outside, with a nice open-air vestibule. And there was a hammock in the vestibule.
Our house inside was very comfortable and clean, arranged like a hotel room. But there was something different (which I really enjoyed)- there were a lot of books, especially encyclopedias. Ricky’s wife left a can with water, so we had enough to drink. And there was another joy, especially for the children: a few friendly pets- two big dogs, one small puppy dog, and a cute cat.
Ricky immediately helped us to book a boat for our Manjuyod Sandbar cruise. Then we went out to walk around the town and to see the port, from which we had to depart on the next day. We also looked for the mangrove forest, which is another attraction of Bais, but we couldn’t find it at that time. Then we back to the center and have a nice dinner with Ricky and his family in Mang Inasal restaurant (another famous and cheap restaurant chain in the Philippines, specializing in some of the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten).
On a cruise to Manjuyod Sandbar
On the next day, we woke up very early- around 6:30 am (actually, still not enough early), and prepared our luggage. Ricky has arranged a tricycle to take us to the port for Manjuyod Sandbar. They also invited us to their delicious breakfast with coffee and tea. We made some photos together and got on the tricycle.
When we arrived at the port, it was more than 7:00 am, and actually was already late. There we found our boat (it was a boat for 5 passengers- the smallest type of boats for this cruise) and left for the sandbar. We could see from the port the few cottages on the water, and the boat sailed straight to them. The whole trip by boat to the sandbar was around 10-15 mins.
On the sandbar
The boat anchored on the sand floor in front of the cottages, which was rising from the sea depths. We left our luggage in the boat, and our two boatmen remained there, keeping it and just relaxing, while we went to explore the sandbar and play in it.
The water was still shallow, lower than our knees. There were a few big red starfish, which could be seen clearly in the transparent water on the white sand. We also saw some sea urchins and our boatmen warned us to be careful. Anyway, the water was so clear that it was not a problem to notice the urchins from far.
Walking “in the middle of the sea”
I noticed a place, where the sand was still uncovered by the rising water. While Ying Ying and the kids were enjoying the starfish, I went to the disappearing isle and watched its shrinking until the sea waters joined over it. Then I started to walk “in the middle of the sea”, just like in “Interstellar”‘s water planet.
Manjuyod Sandbar is around 6-7 km long, so it could take hours to reach its end. I walked for almost one hour to the north. The sand was mixed with small stones and corals in some places. Then I back to the cottages again. The water was already above my knees. More tourists have arrived and the local vendors were selling some coconuts and other food on their boats.
In the cottages of Manjuyod Sandbar
I visited the cottages too. They were raised some 4-5 m above the seafloor. Two of them were actually still in construction, but I went upstairs to one of them, which was available now. It had a large balcony, a simple bedroom, a small toilet and another small room which was locked.
Some people stay the whole day in Manjuyod Sandbar, but we had to back to Bais at noon because the next points of our plan were Dumaguete and Siquijor Island. So we sailed again to Bais port, paid to the boatmen, and by tricycle went to Jollibee, where we could catch one of the buses to Dumaguete.
Useful tips of how to visit Manjuyod Sandbar
It was our experience in Manjuyod Sandbar. But how we arranged it, and what other, different options could you have?
How to reach Manjuyod Sandbar
The most popular way to reach Manjuyod Sandbar is from Dumaguete, the largest city in Negros Oriental province. Dumaguete has an airport and a seaport, so you can go there by domestic flight from Manila or Cebu. Or you can travel by fast boat from Cebu, Siquijor or other port nearby. Then you move to Ceres Bus station and take a bus to Bais for 55 to 80 PHP (depending on the bus).
Another option (and it was our way) is by bus from Bacolod, the main city in Negros Occidental province. As I mentioned above, we traveled 5-6 hours (depending on the road traffic), and the price was 280 PHP. There are buses every hour.
Then, from Bais, you have to reach Canibol Wharf. You can do it by tricycle from the center, for 100, even 50 PHP if you bargain.
Manjuyod Sandbar cruise
Basically, it is better to arrange it at least one day in advance. As in our case, Ricky Soler helped us to arrange our cruise on the previous day. Officially a boat for 5 persons is 2700 PHP (some operators offer a little lower prices, to 2500 PHP, but usually it is because they don’t have all the necessary licences). There are boats for 8, 10, 15 and more passengers, for 3000, 3500 and more pesos. And it is price without included lunch, and only to the sandbar.
You can try to join a larger group, but it is still not always possible. We tried to join such a group. Ricky Soler called at least 5 cruise organizers, and they all refused. As they said, it is due to the weather. Exactly on that day, the weather was not very normal- it was too cool for such a tropical location, and it was windy.
Yes, looking for accommodation near Manjuyod Sandbar, and seeing the photos of this paradise place with the few cottages built on pillars, I was trying to find more information about them. I was searching for the cottages in Booking and Agoda but didn’t found them. Only during our cruise, I asked the boatmen, and they said that the price is 5000 PHP for one night.
The conditions inside are very basic, but that’s the charm of the cottages- to feel like sleeping in a natural paradise. As they told me, they are managed by the government and again you have to arrange a night there in advance.
More activities from Bais
Manjuyod Sandbar cruise is not the only thing that you can do in this area. There are two more activities, which are not such popular but can be still included in your itinerary.
The first one is dolphin (and whales) watching. It includes sailing by the boat much further than the sandbar, so the price is higher (I was told, although unclear, something like 3500-4000 PHP of Manjuyod Sandbar+Dolphin watching cruise for 5 person boat).
And the second one is visiting the nearby Talabong Mangrove forest. We didn’t do that, but as they told me, it is on the far southeastern side of Daco Island (which is actually the peninsula east from Bais, separating North and South Bais Bay). Again, it has additional charging.
Another thing that you can do in Bais area is scuba diving. Again, Ricky Soler is one of the best managers, who organize such activity. For more information and how to contact him, for Manjuyod Sandbar cruise, Dolphin watching cruise, scuba diving and more, visit his page for contact here.
There are also some other local trips to nearby destinations. From them, I can mention Lag-It Beach, Niludhan Falls, Mabinay Caves, and river tubing, and Balinsasayao Park with its Twin Lakes.
Actually, the whole area of Negros Oriental is very beautiful, and it is really a pleasure to explore. But Manjuyod Sandbar is “the pearl in the crown” there and one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. It is, for now, untouched by the mass and the luxury tourism, and that’s what makes it like a virgin paradise.
We left this area and proceeded on our trip around the Philippines. And Manjuyod Sandbar remained as one of the Top best places to visit in this country.
Enjoy the Maldives of the Philippines!
Check out some travel books about the Philippines and scuba diving in this part of the world!
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