The Great and Little Santa Cruz Islands are, arguably, this city’s best beaches, and one of the country’s best island beaches destination. In its ideal natural state, there is no comparison to the uniquely beautiful “pinkish” sand (a coloration effect of pulverized rare red Organ-pipe Coral ( tubipora musica ) from eons of surf erosion mixed in with the white sand) and colorful coral reef just a few feet away from the shore of the Great Santa Cruz Island.
The Great Santa Cruz Island has a big mangrove laden lagoon with a small Badjao village and their increasingly larger burial ground nearby. The island interior is lushly covered with island vegetationand grass, with some flowering trees, providing a welcome shade from the near equatorial sunshine. The Great Santa Cruz Island can be reached with any motorized vinta (outrigger) or boat from downtown in about 15-20 minutes, for about 800 pesos, depending on type of boat. All trips must be coordinated with the Philippine Tourist Authority located in the Lantaka Hotel front side. The water current of the adjacent Basilan Straight is strong, and swimmers should proceed with caution – there are no lifeguards on duty. The Basilan Straight acts as a channel between two vast seas (the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea) and a natural conduit for migrating fishes. The underwater scenery here can be spectacular. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Zamboanga and Santa Cruz Island was frequented by German and Italian tourists who called it their hidden paradise in the little Spain of Asia – Zamboanga!