With 44 islands to choose from, we never ran out of places to discover and explore. We had our complete fill of white sand beaches the whole time. Whilst some places were blessed with a couple of white sand shorelines, I think that probably Balabac got the most share of it. But the Balabac Group of Island is more than just a collection of islands. It is a vacation buffet of sorts where you can also enjoy rock formations, sandbars, natural infinity pools, and a very rich marine ecosystem underneath its waters.
Balabac is the westernmost point of the Philippines. It sits close to Sabah, Malaysia with the Balabac Strait as it natural boundary. Despite its natural beauty, Balabac has trailed behind its northern counterparts like Coron and El Nido in terms of its tourism economy probably because of some safety concerns and perception.
This is the second of my two-part #BalabacAsyon travel blog. Again, the words and captures that I used on this blog is an injustice to the real beauty of the place. I do encourage you that if you have the means and the time to visit Balabac, do it with a reputable travel agency, better yet… sign up with FB travel group Kilometer Zero Ph so you can definitely enjoy the real beauty of this paradise on this side of Palawan.
You probably noticed that my earlier blog featured the white sand beach destinations of Balabac but do not be deceived because these group of islands have a variety of interesting spots to offer. Balabac can also be a toughie with its amazing rock formations and these rock features will simply make your jaw drop.
Remember this beach spot from the first blog?
Kabkabun Island sits right across the sandy shores of Silom-Silom Beach. This rocky island is in fact connected by a natural bridge that one can cross during low tide and forms part of the property of Kuya Helvin. The island whose main feature is a solid rock formation at the center of the island. Its coastline is mostly rocks formations with a small patch of white sand where our boats docked.
The island is the smallest that we visited and you can easily explore the whole island by foot. Far from the usual beach stops that we had, Kabkabun Island had the most dramatic backdrop because of its rock formations. I guess its rocky landscape is a great playground to play around with our cameras and subject.
Kuya Helvin shared with us that pineapples used to grow on top of the island's main rock formation. Unfortunately, the plants were destroyed during the last typhoon that hit the area. I am hoping that on our next visit, we will be able to cross the natural bridge to Silom-Silom Beach.
Coming from the sea, I found Timbayan Island's rock formation odd. I could not figure out what it was whether it was an overhanging rock or a dried coconut tree. But the real beauty of Timbayan Island can be seen, not on the shore, but by viewing it from the top.
I dubbed Timbayan's rock formation as "God's Unfinished Natural Runway".
Viewing the formation atop an overhanging rock, the natural rock formation looked like an unfinished airport runway extending towards the sea. The view will simply keep you in awe. I realized that Balabac was indeed blessed with so much beauty, polished and rugged. I think that to better appreciate the beauty of Timbayan, one has gotta to see it first from the same vantage point where we started.
Coming face-to-face with Timbayan's rock formation, one could see the actual crevices of the "abandoned runway". You can actually find small saltwater pools long the crevices with schools of small fish. I did not want to miss out on walking the length of the "runway" until I reached its tip where I was given a different view of Timbayan's beauty.
Timbayan Island is not all rock formations. On one side of the island is a small white sand cove where our boats docked while the other side had a longer stretch of white sand shores to enjoy. But Timbayan Island stands out because of "God's runway" and it is the same feature that makes it stand out.
Ramos Island: The Beauty Underneath
Throughout our trip, our group was simply mesmerized by the beauty of Balabac with its beaches, sandbars, etc. Everytime we head back to our campsite, we would always talk about attempting to check out the beauty that lies beneath the waters of Balabac. The boat crew would share with us stories about sightings of dolphins and sea turtles. We were hoping to have the same encounter but I guess we were not that lucky. And besides, poaching was probably driving these marine animals away from the area.
We did get a chance to experience the underwater beauty of Balabac when we stopped over a snorkeling site off the coast of Ramos Island. The beauty of Balabac radiates even under its waters. The reef area where we anchored was teeming with marine life and we were all like kids enjoying a new toy.
Here is a funny anecdote... Nemo seems to be enjoying his spot here in Balabac. Nemo was never lost. Nemo was simply shunning away from his newfound popularity and opted to stay in the peaceful waters of Balabac.
Natural Infinity Pools
Pool palaces is probably one of the most talked about party venues in the metro. It is a cool idea partying with friends by the poolside. But long before humans ever thought about this amazing idea, God has already molded the very same concept with nature and Balabac was His party venue. These pool palaces beat the city one's out with a natural infinity pool and a wave pool rolled into one. And with Kap's boat crew, it was a party like no other.
Unnamed Infinity Pool, Matanguli Island
This still unnamed "infinity pool" off the coast of Matanguli Island was our very first taste of a narural infinity pool. Imagine a huge area of about a hectare or two with turquoise waters glistening under the summer sun. From our boat, you could see the white sand bottom of the pool that extends to where the water turns deep blue. You know that the color transition was because of the drop on the sea floor.
As our boat anchored on its white sand seafloor, I noticed that the waves were quite huge that our boat was bobbing up and down. This made me queasy so I simply jumped out of the boat into the cool waters. The water was just about 4 feet deep. In no time, everyone was already out and about enjoying its clear waters and enjoying the soft feel of the sand under our feet. It was like being in a wave pool with soft white sand under. The only difference was all of these were naturally made with a great view of the surrounding islands to boot.
KMZ Sandbar / Stingray Sandbar
Remember Candaraman Island from the previous post?
Candaraman Island is a gem from almost all sides. It is probably one of the islands blessed with so much beauty both under and above its waters. Our #BalabacAsyon ended with a blast when he headed to another natural infinity pool located north of Candaraman Island. The Stingray Sandbar, also known as KMZ sandbar, is another perfect place to throw a pool party.
Unlike the first natural infinity pool that we visited, the KMZ sandbar has tamer waves that allowed us to enjoy our send-off party. The clear waters was so inviting that after the crew drove out possible stingray occupants in the area, everyone simply jumped into the pool. Yes, stingrays frequent the area but we were not that lucky to catch a glimpse of the sea creature.
Interestingly, the deeper waters in the area yielded unique sea creatures. I was especially drawn to a different kind of starfish. While we are all familiar with the usual shape of a starfish, the one that we saw is a rounded green one. It was as if Balabac was saying that it is different and that it stands out from the rest. It was definitely a fitting send off for us.
If 2016 gave bar hopping a different definition, Balabac’s version of bar hopping elevates the activity to a different ball game. It was simply a fight of beauty and experience. If you are fascinated by sandbars, this part of Palawan will not only give you quantity but with a sure dose of quality sandbars to hop on.
Angela Sandbar / Mansalangan Sandbar
Let me share with you the story behind the name of Angela’s sandbar. Often referred to as Mansalangan by locals, it is funny that the sandbar does not pop out on google maps when you type in “Mansalangan”. This sandbar is a popular stop in Balabac and did not go by a popular name. But the frequent visits of Kilometer Zero PH had their team jokingly refer to it as Angela’s sandbar, in reference to one of Km0’s founders. In due time, the name did pick up until it was geo tagged as Angela’s sandbar.
The sandbar glistened in the noontime sun in all its splendour. I guess that the lunch hour is the best time to visit as the tides are lower revealing the whole length of the sandbar. Angela’s sandbar is a beauty that gets you excited as you approach it because you could watch the white sandbar grow in front of you like it was rising from the sea.
Not willing to endure the noontime sun, we opted to proceed with the tour and to just drop by the sandbar in the afternoon on our way back to camp. Our second visit had the tides flowing in so part of the sandbar was already submerged in saltwater. The waves and the sun was friendlier and the best part of it was that we had the whole sandbar to ourselves. It was quite an experience to watch the parts of the sandbar slowly going underwater while we strolled down its powdery white sand.
Talking about naming sandbars, Balabac is still an uncharted territory and there are still a lot of sandbars that remains unnamed. Take the case of an unnamed sandbar located on the southern tip of Candaraman Island that we visited before heading back to camp.
It was a thrill strolling along the short strip of sand in the middle of the waters that separate Candaraman and Balabac Island. The 300-meter sandbar was a great place to enjoy another round of swimming or simply to run the length of the sandbar.
Interestingly, we were all lobbying Kap to name the sandbar under our name. It would be cool to have a sandbar named after you. But if I were to name the sandbar, I would name it the “Great Divide Sandbar”.
Simply because an interesting feature of this unnamed sandbar was that it stands to divide the black sea urchins and the starfish. On one side of the sandbar is where you dare not swim because of the presence of a lot of sea urchins while the other side makes you feel like a star as you swim with a lot starfish.
A few meters from the unnamed sandbar is the sandbar of the stars. Starfish Sandbar and the Unnamed Sandbar are just two of the five sandbars located south of Candaraman Island. As the name implies, the sand bar is the home of hundreds of starfish and you would be amazed to see these creatures spread out underwater as you approach the sandbar.
We enjoyed counting them until we can no longer do so because there was just plain too many. The sandbar seemed to be a place where all these starfish could get together to discuss issues that affect them. If you are lucky enough, you can try to find the six-legged starfish in the area.
Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island
The sandbar of all the sandbars that I have been so far in the country. Punta Sebaring is already an eye candy even as you approach Bugsuk Island. The white sand that stretches far into the sea can be seen even if you are still quite a distance from the docking area. Punta Sebaring is one of the popular stops here in Balabac, not only for its beauty, but it is also where you can find one of the finest white sand in the country, if not the finest.
Stepping onto the wet white sand of Punta Sebaring was like stepping onto a big marshmallow where your feet actually sinks in a few inches. That is how fine the sand in Punta Sebaring. The stretch of white sand rippled by water was a great element for photos, and we all tried to artistically put traces of foot steps towards the forested area of Bugsuk. The rustic scene and the soft feel of its white powdery sand on our soles was enough to make Punta Sebaring my favorite Balabac spot. I would not mind visiting it over and over again.
I have to agree to those who also visited Punta Sebaring that it is where you will find the finest white sand in the Philippines. But to visit the place requires the right timing because the tides can make it difficult for boats to traverse the waters leading to it like how ours did when we left the place. But it is definitely a piece of paradise here on earth for every beach lover. Just make sure that you protect yourself from beach tick bites before hitting the sandbar or exploring further inland.
Post Travel Notes:
Balabac is just beyond comparisons. Its beauty further solidifies Palawan’s spot as a tourist destination that is like no other. It is a league of its own. Our #BalabacAsyon was like going to a buffet of sorts where you have a fill of everything on the menu and you simply come out full and more than satisfied. Balabac levels up expectations on white sand beaches, sandbars, underwater wonders, and rock formations. The variety that Balabac offers is simply jaw-dropping and that you simply look forward to what it can still offer.
Balabac is an off-beat destination that is ready to score big, now that it is starting to catch the interest of travelers. I am glad that I was able to enjoy it in its early stages of tourism development. The whole #BalabacAsyon was an encounter that simply caught us breathless that we came out of the experience wanting to discover more.
And yes, we will.
For those who are interested to discover more of what Balabac can offer, our IG travel group, @viajerongpinoy, teamed up with @kilometerzeroph for a 6 days 5 nights exploration of the Balabac Group of Islands on March 24 – 30, 2018. For more details about this instaviaje, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
Getting there: Going to Balabac is a total of 10 hours of travel by air, land, and sea from Manila. In our case, we opted to join one of the organized trips of Kilometer Zero PH. I highly recommend their group as the trip was very fun, organized, and extremely safe. And with Kap Andong at the helm of the trip, you are sure to get a lot of great sites and insights. You need not worry about anything once you step inside their van. The flights to Puerto Princesa and your pre and post-trip accommodations are the only things that you need to work on.
If you want a full and satisfying #BalabacAsyon experience, you can reach Kilometer Zero PH here.
Shout-outs: Huge shout-out to Hull and Stern for keeping the Viajerong Pinoy’s stuff dry during our island hopping activities with our personalized Hull and Stern dry bags.
Huge shoutout to IG: @igramer for some of the shots featured on this blog.
You can also follow us on Instagram: @marc7del, @payatnalaskwatero, and @thetravelingdada for more of our travel visual stories.
You can also follow @viajerongpinoy on Instagram and on Facebook to discover the beauty of the Philippines from the eyes of our fellow Pinoy travelers.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.