This was a trip that brought us to islands and sandbars based on where the tides took us. I never realized that sea navigation was a complex structure of reading tides and that it will take years of experience to understand it. We sailed each day anticipating where we were headed and what visual wonder we would discover. This is Balabac – the untouched and pristine beauty at the edge of the Philippines.
Balabac is a municipality located south of Palawan that sits near the borders of Sabah, Malaysia. The municipality is composed of 44 islands scattered in the waters bordered by the West Philippine Sea and the Sulu Sea. The group of islands was once known as “Balagbag”, a Filipino term that means scattered, because the islands were scattered in the area.
Let me set on a disclaimer at this point. The two-part blog that I am writing is an injustice to Balabac. My words and captures are not enough to describe the beauty that these islands hold. This is my futile attempt to share with you the most memorable trip that Asher and I had so far to a destination that goes beyond the word “amazing”.
There is so much to cover in our 4-day trip so I opted to break it into two parts so that you can get to appreciate Balabac’s beauty. I am sharing with you the beach spots from 7 of the 44 islands that we covered during the trip on this blog. All of these beach spots, except for one, have remained untouched by commercialism which added to its charm. Having said that, welcome to the islands of Balabac, Palawan!
They say that the first impression lasts and Balabac did set a high standard as soon as we started our island tour. Patunggang Maliit is a small island about 45 minutes away from our jump-off point. It was exciting to watch the island come to life with its clear waters and white sand shores as we approached it. Stepping onto its powdery white sand got everyone excited to explore the island.
After enjoying breakfast by the beach, we roamed around the island a bit more. A caretaker is in charge of the beach and he has all this beauty to wake up to every single day. I would love to be in his position. On one side of the beach is an abandoned stilt structure which made the seascape more dramatic. Fallen trees left in its place can add up to the drama of our captures. While some of our companions started enjoying its waters, we opted to just enjoy the peaceful ambiance of the island.
Patunggang Malaki / Tangkahan
A short trip across the waters from Patunggang Maliit will bring you to Patunggang Malaki or Tangkahan. The island is a lot bigger than the first and it offers a longer shoreline. The island is inhabited and its main attraction is its powdery white sand shores. We were told that we can walk to the other side for dramatic shots with bent coconut trees.
Since we stayed on the other side of the cove, we opted to stay within the area and enjoy the cool waters of the beach. It was refreshing to take a dip when the sun was high up the skies. The beach remains untouched so fallen trees and shrubs are left at the spot where they fell. The contrasting deep blue and turquoise colors of the sea make a perfect backdrop for beach shots.
Silom-Silom Mangroves / Barungos
Rippled sand bars sculpted by the water’s movement was the attraction of Barungos. The fine sand felt soft as my feet sunk into its wet fine sand. The morning sun was enough to show us the beauty of the mangrove forest along the shoreline. Everyone was out of the boat in no time trying to capture the perfect spot for a picture while Asher was already swimming in its clear waters.
Among all the beach spots that we visited in our 4-day exploration, Silom-Silom was unique because of its mangrove forests and its fine white sand shores. The trip to the mangrove was a treat as this was the side of Balabac where mangrove forests thrive. It reminded me of Cagbalete but it was a lot more pristine and untouched.
I seriously think that when God created the world, He matched the millions of stars in heaven to that of the stars under the sea and Balabac probably has the biggest concentration of these sea creatures. We were sure to catch a glimpse of at least one or two starfish with every stop that we made.
Just 30 minutes away from our campsite is an island that is frequented by guests and locals – Canabungan Island. The first thing that you will notice as you approach the island is its clear waters. We got excited staring at the coral formations and patches of white sand under the clear turquoise waters on this side of Canabungan.
As we docked along its shores, our eyes were treated with white sand shorelines lined with coconut trees while our feet were treated with the soft powdery texture of the sand. In no time, everyone was out of the boat exploring and enjoying the cool waters of the island.
On one side of the beach, our group discovered a school of starfish near the shore. Asher had a grand time counting the underwater stars while I tried to capture the moment. Of course, we could not miss out on having our pictures taken with these amazing sea creatures. You can also get a treat with its underwater scene a few meters from the beach.
Candaraman Island was our home during our four-day #BalabacAsyon. Our campsite was located on the western side of the island that gave us our everyday dose of watching the sunset. It was nice that Kap Andong’s crew always brought us back to the campsite just in time for us to admire the amazing sunset. I have to say that the play of colors of Balabac’s sunset had a calming feeling that made everyone happy and was a due reward to end the day.
The sunset is not only attraction of Candaraman Island. The shorelines of the western side are dotted with fine white sand that is not only pleasing to the eyes but was also soft to the feet. We enjoyed walking along the beach and enjoying the sand on our feet as we tried to find a new spot where we could enjoy the sunset.
A few meters away from the shoreline are rich underwater corals where you can swim and snorkel however we were not able to try it out when we were there. But that is not the only “treasure” of Candaraman Island. On the northern and southern side of the island are attractions that I will be sharing with you on my next #BalabacAsyon blog.
Oh… did I mention that Candaraman is one of two islands that has its own airstrip?
Patawan Island is another favorite beach spot of mine and it stands out among all the white sand beaches. It may seem like the “usual” white sand beach from afar but once you step into it powdery sand shore, your eyes will be given that slight tint of pink sand. We docked on the island at around noon and the white-colored sand really stood out. But with the right viewing angle, you will get to see the light pink color.
Patawan is a small island and you can circumnavigate it in 10 minutes. I did and enjoyed strolling around the island barefoot as the powdery white sand cushioned my feet from the ground heat. As Asher enjoyed the clear and cool waters of the beach, I enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere that Patawan offered.
Just like other uninhabited islands, there were fallen trees that dot its shoreline that proved to be a good dramatic backdrop for our pictures.
Just a few minutes away from the mangrove forests of Silom-Silom is a beach that is also another favorite beach spot in Balabac. The beach boasts of clear turquoise waters and fine powdery white sand that rivals that of Boracay. The beach and the mangrove are part of a 14-hectare property privately owned by a local resident of Balabac that was handed down to them by their forefathers who were early residents of Balabac.
The beach and its surrounding areas have remained undeveloped as Kuya Helvin is still working with Kapitan Andong in developing his property as a future campsite for tourists. We enjoyed sharing stories and eating lunch while others enjoyed taking a quick nap under the shade of its trees. One side of the beach have rock formations that you can also explore while the other side boasts of a natural bridge that connects the main island to a smaller island on the horizon. I will be sharing more details on the smaller island on my next blog.
POST TRAVEL NOTES:
Honestly, I have made the conclusion that our 4-day #BalabacAsyon was a complete summer experience already. It was a trip that COMPLETELY satisfied my cravings for a great summer experience. In fact, our supposed plan to explore another part of Palawan was set aside because we simply enjoyed every single minute that we spent exploring Balabac. I guess, all of us would agree that we could not ask for anything more except that we want to head back there again next year. That is a hint!
Balabac Group of Island is a treasure trove for any traveller. It is a destination that you would not mind spending the whole day under the sun and heading home two tones darker. Its beauty, untouched by commercialism as of now, is an experience that you would hold close to your heart dearly. It is like an unpolished diamond where you have seen it in its raw form before it gets polished.
Balabac is more than just island that were scattered around the sea. It is a place that I would say “binalagbag ang natatanging kagandahan” (its beauty was scattered around).
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: You can also follow us on Instagram: @marc7del, @asher7del, and @thetravelingdada for more of our travel visual stories.
I would like to give a 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.
Here is another huge shout-out to Lifeproof Asia for keeping the Viajerong Pinoy’s phone units safe and dry while the Punong Viajeros were taking photos above and under Balabac’s waters.
You can also follow @viajerongpinoy on Instagram 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.