Exploring sustainable Siargao through Galatea Tours

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Galatea Tours
The Cruiser of Galatea Tours Siargao. Photo by Beatrice Hufana

The sustainable tours aboard the Galatea Cruiser make navigating Siargao’s waters both a pleasure and an adventure



Besides being known as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines,” Siargao is also surrounded by islands and islets that offer a range of natural and man-made experiences.

From serene beaches and marine sanctuaries to sunset cocktails and meals by the beach, the Mindanaoan paradise has something for every type of traveler, and Siargao-based Galatea Tours might be the lifestyle boat that appeals to all.

In Siargao for the long weekend, we were eager to explore the surrounding islands, but the weather seemed to have other plans. Luckily, the clouds suddenly cleared, the waves calmed, and the coastguard allowed us to sail.  

READ MORE: Grounding roots: This Siargao-based restaurant practices mindful dining 

After much coordination and deliberation by our tour operator and the coastguard, we were ready to sail into the open sea.

And on the Galatea Cruiser, no less. The boat is big, sturdy, and solid, instilling confidence in a smooth journey ahead—more so when we learn of the vessel’s accident-free record. 

Galatea Tours
The Galatea Cruiser is outfitted with beanbags, a daybed, and waterproof cushions.

The traditional Filipino bangka, with its outriggers and dugout canoe form, has been reimagined by the Galatea for the modern age. Stepping aboard the boat, its extended deck is decorated with beanbags and cushions. All plush, all waterproof.

There is an inviting daybed at the center to lounge on. The creature comforts are colored in light blue, which complements the ocean hues. There are even cupholders to keep beer, soda, or thermos bottles from spilling. Not to mention an open-air lavatory.

READ MORE: Can the Philippines become the Mediterranean of Asia?

At the helm of the tour is Bianca Espinos, a marine biologist by trade who charts the best course for the day’s journey. Espinos tells us the boat’s name is derived from Greek mythology, which translates to “sea nymph.” Although, its design inspirations take from even closer to home. 

Espinos also shares that it was connected to deep exploration, specifically the “Galathea Expeditions,” which conducted deep-sea oceanography in the Philippine trench. Not to mention, the boat was originally shaped like a research vessel.

Galatea Tours
The current crew of Galatea Tours: Tour guide April Mantilla, lifeguard Julius Culminas, boatman Ariel Villacora, Captain Cardo Navarro, and boatman Judy Rachoo

Espinos settled in Siargao in 2015 when big boats were numbered and it was much harder to sail. Originally from Bacolod City, she was the vice president for zoological operations at Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium. She also served as director of both the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network Inc. (PMMSN) and the Wilfelife In Need Foundation Inc. (WIN). 

At Galatea, she offers more nature-oriented tours, featuring the natural scenery in more organic ways. “No jet skis,” she says lightly. 

With her background in operations and marine biology, Espinos runs the tour company with a mindfulness that considers the whole pipeline—from guest safety and enjoyment to an intentional appreciation of the environment. I notice this consideration as we coordinate on WhatsApp, constantly sending updates on the weather and arranging a convenient pickup from our AirBnb. 

bianca espinos
Marine biologist and tour operator Bianca Espinos

“From beginning to end, it’s all organized by Galatea. It’s very hands-on. The reason why I came to Siargao is because of the lifestyle, the simple life… Last year was a good year. It was a good bounce-back from [Typhoon] Odette. Now we just try to manage the sustainability of the island.”

This attention to detail, mixed with the promotion of simplicity and sustainability, reflected in the relaxed way the itinerary unfolded.

We began with the small island of Guyam, weaving through palm trees and hanging out on the swing immersed in the water. Lunch was served at Daku. The typical tri-island hopping tour was arranged by Galatea in reverse order, which avoided the usual crowds and made the treeless Naked Island not too hot later in the day. 

At Daku, the group settled in for an exceptional “boodle fight.” The Filipino kamayan feast was complete with shellfish, from shrimps to crabs, and unique shells called saang or spider shells. Commonly eaten in the Visayas, the chewy delicacies were full of flavors of the sea. Also in the feast were homemade kinilaw (local ceviche) as well as two kinds of full-bodied fish. The Filipino favorite liempo was accompanied by its rightful dip of soy sauce, calamansi juice, tomatoes, and red onion.

READ MORE: Kinilaw: The best of both the land and the seaAside from fresh fruits, there were also sea grapes that added a delightful pop to the meal. As a charming touch, the words “Island Vibes” were spelled out in white rice, among tasty noodles and red rice grains. 

To end the day out at sea, we discovered that the Galatea offers more than just island hopping. Embracing the ethos of sustainability, Espinos and her team shared their hidden gem, the Mangrove Tours near Secret Beach, which offered a glimpse into Siargao’s delicate ecosystem.

“A lot of Siargao is overfished, especially 10, 15 years ago with dynamite fishing,” says Espinos “It needs a few more years to recover.” On paddleboards and glass boats, our group rowed through the brackish waters in a very peaceful experience. 

READ MORE: A beginner’s guide to stand-up paddleboarding

On the other curated tours the Galatea offers, Espinos shares her favorite secret spots. She tells us about Mamon’s beach, “It’s like an isolated paradise. You see the island from the front so it’s a nice view, and when you surf there’s no one, so it’s just us. People can request for surf stops.”

She also raves about Sohoton Cove, and as a marine biologist, declares that Corregidor has the best marine sanctuary for snorkeling, not so much for the fish but for the colorful corals.

“We have our standard tours, which are the popular ones, but we also customize if you want to mix and match the islands, especially for repeat customers,” she says of their packages. “Most of my guests are Filipino and they have been here more than once. The next time they go to the islands they want to do something else, so I customize based on what they want to do.”

Kanaloa Siargao
After a peaceful paddle through the mangroves, the tour ended with sunset cocktails at Kanaloa

Next to the mangroves and Secret Beach, we watched the sunset at Kanaloa, a restaurant owned by local businessman Joaquin Talan, with a bar where the flavors mingle with folklore. Bartender Jade served rum-based cocktails, while our mouths watered over previews of Hawaiian-inspired dishes.

And what of future plans for Galatea Tours? As the tourism industry in Siargao expands, so does Galatea. At present, a new boat is in the works. Instead of wood, the new hulls will be made of fiberglass, in the same style and design but lighter and faster, so more people can fit comfortably in the boat. Espinos says of the design, “I like the style. It’s very relaxing versus a yacht-looking boat. Different vibe pag bangka siya.” 

“You feel closer to the water,” somebody pipes in.

Galatea Tours Siargao
Photo by Beatrice Hufana

“I want to diversify the products like this, now that they have this option. I want to promote more of the mangrove tours. More organic tours. So that the tourists don’t just have your typical island hopping.”

Whereas a day of island hopping is typically tiring, our group found ourselves to be quite relaxed. Whether it’s the ample space aboard the boat, the comforting cuisine, or the thoughtful, nature-conscious tours, there’s just something about Galatea that hits just right for island living.

Discover more about the Galatea Island Tours here or inquire at +63 920 909 3725. 

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