Currently in soft opening, this new dive resort managed by the Exotic dive centre (of Malapascua fame) started welcoming guests last October. Last week, as part of a ten-day trip, I was lucky enough to be among the first few groups of divers to experience this charming resort and its interesting diving. In this post I’d like to provide a short review of the resort. In a second post tomorrow, I will give a write up of Kerikite’s dive sites with underwater pictures.
Kerikite is a tiny island to the west of the Philippine province of Samar, among a small group of volcanic islands whose rocky shorelines rise steeply out of the turquoise water. The island has very little development with only two very small fishing villages. The resort occupies a sheltered bay on the western side of the island with a coral beach. Beyond the beach, the grounds rises steeply uphill which makes for a very scenic setting and great views from the rooms but also quite a bit of stair climbing. The resort is not suitable for anyone with limited mobility.
The landscaping appears to be a work in progress but the layout of the resort makes good use of its natural features, with plenty of the original vegetation still present and a footpath leading to a viewpoint on a small headland from which to watch the sunset. With the transparent waters of the bay, and the rugged horizon of Almagro island beyond, the setting is unparalleled in its natural beauty. See this photo gallery for more pictures.
Like a lot of the more remote dive spots in the Philippines, some travel is involved to reach Kerikite. The quickest route is to take an internal flight to Tacloban airport. From there it is a four-hour car transfer to Calbayog pier, and an additional hour and a half by boat to Kerikite. An alternative route would be to fly to Cebu, transfer to Malapascua (four hours in total) and from there sail to Kerikite (also four hours). For our trip, transfers were all taken care of by Exotic staff and went very smoothly, though overnighting at Manila airport did not make for the most refreshing journey. However, as soon as we arrived at Kerikite, we forgot our tiredness.
Accommodation and facilities
The resort so far consists of a main restaurant building and a handful of rooms, both traditional wooden ‘native huts’ on stilts and more upscale ‘deluxe’ rooms with ensuite bathrooms. I stayed in a native hut which had shared bathroom facilities; this was not a problem since we were the only guests at the resort! The accommodation was very clean and new.
As it is still in soft opening, some aspects of the resort are still rather incomplete and diving supplies, staff and food were brought over from Exotic’s main Malapascua centre specifically for our short stay. Furthermore, construction of the resort suffered a setback when a typhoon hit in 2014, damaging a new pier, so work is still ongoing. The meals (full board) were quite simple and there was no menu to choose from but they were fresh and tasty nonetheless.
The island is remote and needless to say there is no wi-fi; only a very weak Globe mobile network signal if you are lucky. Electricity is supplied by a generator and only available for a few hours a day. A fully-functional dive shop has yet to be constructed; during our stay there was only a small compressor for filling our tanks and our gear stayed on the dive boat.
As a result of this, the experience felt more like some kind of luxury camping trip than a stay at a classy boutique resort, but the staff did their best to make us feel comfortable, and staying at this peaceful location felt like a genuine escape from civilization.
Of course, no review of a dive resort would be complete without a discussion of the diving itself. A full report of the dive sites at Kerikite (with photos) will be provided in the next post. The short version is that the diving is very decent, and quite varied. Although the sites were not the most spectacular I have seen in the country, there were still a few nice surprises and interesting topography. The other photographer in our party and I were kept very busy with both plentiful macro life and colourful and mostly healthy coral landscapes. There were also a couple of shark sightings and some fairly abundant fish life on some of the dives.
The dives were organized flexibly according to our requests. None of the sites were very far away and we usually came back to the resort in between dives. The sites were all relatively shallow coastal ones, and although a couple of members of our group would have preferred a bit more exploration, strong currents and excitement, for a photographer the choice of sites was good and would be suitable for all levels of divers. Our two dive guides from the Malapascua shop, Pusoy and Alfie (the latter born and bred on Kerikite!) took good care of us and did their best to point out critters of interest, although they too were not very familiar with the place yet and apologized for not being able to show us more stuff (it was plenty already!). The profiles were very conservative, with a long time spent in the shallows in the latter half of the dives, which is just as well, because Kerikite is remote and an emergency evacuation would presumably be no simple affair.
As mentioned earlier, the diving facilities were rudimentary, with only recreational air diving on offer, but perhaps that will change over time when the resort is better established. Our diving gear did not get much of a rinse for the three days we were there, as it stayed on the boat; with better facilities, this could be resolved.
Is it worth it?
In summary, I would say that Kerikite is a little gem that, although still needs polishing, is hard to beat in terms of its natural beauty, both on land and underwater. I would not recommend a trip to the Philippines to stay and dive here only and nowhere else, but if you have time, and the idea of diving at a new destination appeals, it makes a very good extension to a trip to Malapascua Island (as we did). The price is definitely mid-range rather than budget and I think will be better value once the resort is fully up and running and can provide more complete food and diving services, but for something a bit different and off the beaten track, it is worth a detour. Contact the resort for enquiries.
In upcoming posts I will describe the Kerikite dive sites in more detail, as well as report about our dives at nearby Sambawan Island, Malapascua, and Cebu Mactan. For more topside pictures of the Kerikite resort, take a look at this post.
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