This tiny, undeveloped island of the coast of Negros Occidental may not be what most vacationers have in mind, but for those willing to forego a few creature comforts, it’s paradise
Written and Photographed by April Cabatit
Special Thanks to Philippines Reef and Rainforest Conservation Inc.
As soon as the tiny white outrigger boat that had picked me up from the shore of the Negros mainland docked on Danjugan Island, a man—roughly in his twenties, in a simple white shirt, shorts and slippers—took my backpack, slung it over one shoulder, and without saying a word, led me along a rocky trail through the island.
I knew his name even though he hadn’t told me. Tikyo is one of Danjugan’scaretakers. Like the handful of other caretakers here, Tikyo guards the island from fishermen who tend to trespass on its waters. I first met him six years ago, on my first time in Negros, when I joined Danjugan’s Youth Marine and Wildlife Camp. Held on the island every year, participants of the camp get to spend several days here, swimming, snorkeling, trekking, bird-watching, and in the process, learning about the natural environment.
You see, Danjugan isn’t like most island resorts. It’s not even a resort at all (and guests who come here expecting uniformed bell-hops and minibars will be severely disappointed). Declared a marine protected area through the effort of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Inc. (PRRCFI), Danjuganis one of the few remaining islands in theWestern Visayas region with unspoiled vegetation. It may be a blip on the map—barely 1.5 kilometers long and half a kilometer wide—but it is home to numerous plant and animal species,including coconut crabs, fruit and insectbats, and rare doves and pigeons. It also houses six lagoons, five of which are colonized by mangrove stands.
Education is central to PRRCFI’s advocacy. It aims to raise awareness of environmental issues and instill principles of conservation in the younger generations. DEEP—which teaches a curriculum centered on biodiversity conservation to elementary and high school students in coastal public schools in Negros Occidental—and the Youth Marine and Wildlife Camp are integral to achieving that goal.
Six years later, I saw that Danjuganhadn’t changed much. It was as quiet and pristine as I had remembered it. Aside from the addition of several low-impact huts and observation decks on Typhoon Beach and a larger activity center next to one of the lagoons, the island’s forest cover has remained largely untouched. The eagles’ nest is still up on the old tree near Typhoon Beach, and the mother—a white-breasted sea eagle that’s been laying eggs and rearing eaglets here for over three decades—can still be seen circling the skies for prey. AlvirEsguerra, Danjugan’seducation officer who accompanied me on the trip, informed me that sea turtles still regularly come to the island to nest, and the Tabonscrubfowl (a tropical bird that’s on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species) is still regularly spotted on one of the beaches.
With no other campers to explore the island with, and because my trip had been plagued with stormy weather, I spent most of my time with the island’s caretakers. They welcomed me as a family would welcome a guest into their home: they let me help set the table at mealtime (but refused to let me help with the dishes), they translated their conversations from Ilonggo to Filipino and patiently explained all their inside jokes so I wouldn’t feel excluded, and they cleaned and bandaged my wound after I stupidly tripped on a rock and skinned my knee.
And there aren’t many places like Danjugan Island.
For more information on Danjugan Islandand the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Inc., visit or email