Imagine this: pristine, bluish water so clear you’d like to stare at it and swim in it for a very long time. Next, think about the finest and whitest sand that you could ever imagine. Touch it, play with it and roll on it. You have to travel for a very long time and maybe spend some fortune but you know it’s worth it, because you are into something very special. Yes, you’re into something very special because you are in Balabac, Palawan, home of the best beach destinations in the country of the Philippines.
This blog post is a rough travel guide on how to explore the God-given beauty of Balabac. Me, along with four very good friends (we call ourselves the Shembot Squad), spent five (5) days in the small but beautiful archipelago of Balabac.
Balabac is a second class municipality located in the southern end of the island province of
Palawan in the Philippines. It is composed of a group of islands, some of which contain the best beaches out there. Notable islands are mainland Balabac (the biggest), Bugsuk Island and South Mangsee Island (Palawan’s southernmost island, which is the nearest part of the province of Palawan to Malaysia). According to National Statistics Office, this municipality of 20 barangays has a population of 35, 758 as of 2010. The language most commonly used is Tagalog.
Balabac map: courtesy of Wikipedia.
How to go to Balabac:
- Fly to Puerto Princesa City (PPC), Palawan. Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have direct flights from Manila to PPC. This flight will take you for more than an hour.
- Ride a van from PPC to Rio Tuba. This van ride will take about 5 to 6 hours depending on the speed of the vehicle. Take note that they will be getting passengers along the way. The highway from PPC to Rio Tuba is paved, which would make it likely a smooth ride. One van stop for eating lunch/snacks is also expected.
- Your contact in Balabac can arrange your boat ride from Rio Tuba to Balabac. We planned to stay in Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island. Going there took us about 2 and a half hours.
- Just to give you an idea, the boat that we used were not passenger boats. They were boats used by fishermen (who also served as our guides), therefore, they were smaller than what we’re accustomed to when island hopping in more popular trave destinations here in the Philippines.
PLACES TO EXPLORE:
Punta Sebaring is in Bugsuk Island, the second largest island in the whole municipality of Balabac. Truth be told, it has the finest and whitest sand I’ve ever experienced! Walking along its beach is like walking in a whole field of creamer, yes, creamer that is used in coffee! Aside from that, it has a whole stretch of this sand that can cover about 3 football fields during low tide!
Punta Sebaring served as our home for 2 days and 3 nights in Balabac. I witnessed some of the best sunrise and sunset in my life in here! Imagine waking up (and bidding goodbye to the day) with a view that has an explosion of beautiful colors up there in the sky, transcending time for a moment, making me relinquish any worry to the world!
They have a small wooden structure where several people can sleep in, but in our case, we slept along the beach, regardless of the presence of the niknik (sand flea or gnat), an insect that thrives in the sand and bites, leaving itchy, reddish marks on the skin. Make sure to apply lots of insect repellant on your skin especially at night.
Sir Rene Principe, the owner of Punta Sebaring, did not say that he was going to the island while we were there. When we found out that he did, we were more than happy to listen to his stories about his life. He graciously joined us during our socials around the bonfire, as well as checked up on us every now and then. Meanwhile, his niece-in-law, Ate Maritess, was the one who accommodated us in the island. She prepared our meals and our island-hopping activities.
Patonggong Island has a whole stretch of white, fine sand and calm, clear waters that would certainly allure anyone visiting to stay in it for a while and swim. Various trees, with coconuts as the notable ones, give shade, providing a perfect place for eating lunch by the beach.
Patawan Island is distinct from all the other islands that we visited because of its pinkish white sand. It might take a while before you notice its pinkish color, but it really is. We saw red corals as we were walking by the beach, and this is what was said to give the sand its somehow pinkish color. Meanwhile, we also saw marks of sea snake movement along its sand. Our tour guides said that, indeed, sea snakes thrive around the island.
Marabon Island is home to some of our Muslim brethren in Balabac, Palawan. Even from afar, we could already see houses on stilts over the clear waters of that part of Sulu Sea. Our guides said that aside from catching fish, people of Marabon also trade goods that come from Malaysia as their source of income. It should be noted that the country of Malaysia is already near this side of the country, and it would probably only take about 4 to 5 hours by boat to reach it. We visited the island, in particular, to buy goods that we would be taking home as pasalubong such as coffee, chocolates, wafers and the like. We also bought some items identified with our Muslim brethren, such as patadyong and malong.
Our second day of island hopping started with a very beautiful and picturesque sandbar called Mansalangan Sandbar. It stretches for about a kilometer, surrounded by calm and clear waves during sunny weather.
This island has a small stretch of white sand with trees scattered around. Our guides said that a small community thrives in the island, which is why people started going near the beach when we entered its shores. Its shades can provide a good place for picnic by the beach.
Technically a part of the municipality of Bugsuk, Braggy Islets boast beautiful mangroves in perfectly clear waters that are said to be home to saltwater crocodiles. We didn’t see one even though we hoped we did. Haha, just kidding.
Onuk Island/ Onok Island
One of the highlights of our Balabac trip was our overnight stay in the outstandingly beautiful island of Onuk (Sir Ronald, our contact there actually says the correct spelling is Onok). Owned by former Balabac Mayor Shuanib J. Astami, Onuk Island serves as a good hideaway place that white, poweder sand and amazingly clear waters (that collide and merge during high tide) without worrying about the notorious niknik and other insects. What adds magic in this already stunningly beautiful island are its stilts that support the house, the kitchen and the activity area where visitors can stay and dine. These things and more make the island far different from any other islands we’ve been to.
Another reason why the island is very special is that it provides a good view of both the sunrise and the sunset! Can it get any better than that?
People might ask if it’s necessary to go to Onok Island once you’re already in Balabac. This is what I have to say to that: being in Balabac will already give you a really great time but if you want to have an even greater time, go on and experience Onok Island!
Who to contact in Balabac:
Sir Rene Principe – As said earlier, Sir Rene is the owner of Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island. You can contact him at 09291403125.
Ma’am Helen Kuan of Kina Kuan– We met Ma’am Helen in Punta Sebaring, and she also arranges travel tours in Balabac. Her contact number is 09286279421.
Sir Ronald Astami- Onok Island is privately owned. They are not connected to any agency that’s why you have to contact them if you plan to visit. Kindly contact the Astami family thru Sir Ronald Astami in this number: 09351556264.
Balabac Trip Expenses
Going and exploring Balabac is a bit costly, but the money, as well as the time and effort you spend going there are definitely worth it. You would be experiencing some of the best days that you could have there: a time away from everyone in the world and just enjoying the finest, whitest and best beaches and the calmest, clearest waters you might ever see.
Just to give you an idea of how much we have spent in our trip (excluding airfare), here’s a summary of our expenses:
|Van from PPC to Rio Tuba||P400 each||Vans are usually available in the airport. But you can arrange your van ride with your contact as well.|
|Meal going to Rio Tuba||Around P65||You would be stopping once during your long drive to eat lunch.|
|Package of our Balabac Tour with Sir Rene Principe||P7,000 each||This package covers our island hopping adventures (excluding Onok Island), meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as the boat ride from Rio Tuba to Punta Sebaring (and supposedly, going back to Rio Tuba as well).|
|Overnight Stay in Onok Island||*Please contact Sir Ronald Astami at 09351556264 to inquire for their fees.||This is complete with meals and accommodation (room with beds, small bathroom, dining area or activity area among others.|
|Boat from Punta Sebaring to Onok Island, then from Onok Island to Rio Tuba||P400 each
(P2000 as a group of five)
|Ate Maritess told us it is up to us on how much we’re going to pay. Just consider that our guides and boat drivers are actually fishermen who skip a day or two fishing just to serve as our guide.|
|Van from Rio Tuba to PPC||P450 each||It’s quite higher this time. Our van driver said we only had a discounted price earlier in the trip.|
|Meal going to PPC||Around P65 each||The van would be stopping by a carinderia along the way.|
|Pasalubong||P500 each||This will depend on you, of course. You can buy pasalubong in Marabon Island or in PPC.|
|Food||P500 each||Food not included in the package are snacks and drinks, especially if you plan to have a bonfire night in Punta Sebaring. You can bring alcoholic drinks from PPC to Balabac.|
Rough estimate of expenses in Balabac trip (excluding airfare): P12,880
Helpful tips when going to Balabac:
- It is best to plan ahead of time when going to Balabac. Make sure to contact people who offer travel package or can serve as your guide while you are there.
- Bring mats, malong and tent. There are times when you would be staying on the beach. There are no hotels or houses in the island that you’d be staying, except for Onok Island, which has rooms where you can stay.
- Bring lots of Off! lotion or other insect repellants especially when you already know that you’re going to stay and sleep along the beach. Previously mentioned are the insects called nik nik (sand flea or gnat) that would bite and leave you with itchy, reddish marks on your arms and legs. You would want to avoid their bite marks that are said to last for about a month. It might help if you bring jogging pants, arm and leg protectors (usually used by motorcycle drivers and mountaineers) to cover your limbs at night.
- Serving of meals on the places where you will stay will depend on your arrangement with your contact. That’s why make sure you have food when you go here. You don’t want to go hungry when you’re on a vacation, do you?
- Bring lots of sunblock or sunscreen. Maybe you’d like to get a tan when you go here but I’m telling you, you might get darker than what you’re expecting! Our boats needed to remove their tarpaulin roofs to prevent the wind resisting our boat as we sail.
- You will be spending days without electricity, meaning no light, no fan and no means of charging your cellphones and cameras. It is a must that you bring power banks and extra batteries when you go here.
- Going solo here is a possibility. But it’s definitely cheaper when you go in groups. Isn’t it more fun when you enjoy a very special place with great friends?
To end this blog post, I would like to thank the Shembot Squad for another awesomely amazing and truly remarkable adventure. We might not be complete this time, but we sure still had a grand time. Cheers to more wonderful travels and adventures, shembots!
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, just hit me up, guys. Thank you!