The 5 Islands of Balabac, Palawan


We tried to avoid the bad weather in Balabac as much as we could. Instead of going there straight from Puerto Princesa Airport, we went around Puerto and Nagtabon Beach first and then headed to Port Barton and San Vicente - until the forecast had cleared up in southern Palawan. Of course, causing us additional expense.

And the detour was worth it, wasn’t it?



onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan
Onuk Island

There are 31 islands in Balabac. It has two airstrips, one in Bugsuk Island and the other one is in Candaraman. There is no commercial flight to Balabac so we endured the long land and sea travel to get there.

Getting to Balabac from Puerto Princesa Airport

1. Take a tricycle or jeepney to San Jose Terminal ➜ 50-100 pesos per trike

2. Take the RORO bus or van bound for Rio Tuba 270 pesos and 400 pesos respectively - There's
a night bus but the schedule is not consistent.

3. If you arrive at night, you can sleep in cheap lodges near the bus station. The following morning, hire a tricycle going to the port 80-100 pesos per trike.

4. Register and give your name for the manifesto. Make sure that you arrive as early as possible to secure a seat. The boat usually leaves at 10am. 350 pesos for Balabac; 250 pesos for Bancalan
5. Prepare for a 4 hour bumpy boat ride.

Island-Hopping is Mandatory

Balabac is a town with very limited activities. Island hopping is the locals’ main tourism offering, along with a visit to Melville Lighthouse - the oldest in Asia (or world?). There are very few agencies/people who offer tours in Balabac. Rates are from 1500-2500 pesos per day per person depending on the number of people in your group. The usual itinerary for Balabac involves overnight camping in one of the islands. So expect to pay 4,000 pesos per person for the tour because that’s counted as 2 full days (even if you started the tour in the afternoon). I haven’t tried this but I would go to the tourism office to check for more information and to avoid getting ripped off. Also, the island hopping package includes a visit to approximately 8 islands, tent, 3 meals and drinking water.

❮❮ Read: 12-Day Beach Trip in Palawan (Itinerary + Budget) ❯❯

The 5 Islands We Visited in Balabac, Palawan

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

BANCALAN ISLAND

It’s the first stop of the public ferry to mainland. And it’s where we met our tour guide for 2 days. I just wanted to include this because its water has pretty shades of blue and green. For a port, it’s very clean and beautiful - a nice welcome for visitors of Balabac.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

PATAWAN ISLAND

The first stop of our tour. It’s a small deserted island, 20 minutes away from Bancalan. The sun was unforgiving when we started the island tour, so we only got to swim for a few minutes. The island looked good with its shallow water, but the shore needed a little clean up.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

BUGSUK, PUNTA SEBARING

Before arriving in Bugsuk Island (where Sebaring is), we had to pass through a very wide shallow part of the sea. Just a little more of low tide and likely the place will look like a very wide sandbar. Although our boat’s propeller was small, it couldn’t pass through a foot (or less than a foot) deep water. We had to push the boat for 30 minutes or so to get to Punta Sebaring. “Serge” was walking barefoot, pulling the boat as he tried to find the canal where the boat can pass through. I must say that it was a great experience (not to mention the number of times we freaked out after seeing suspected stingrays)! That part of Bugsuk Island was beautiful especially that it’s almost the golden hour when we were there. The water, although not blue, was sparkling with its dancing sea grasses underneath.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan


onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

Nik-nik invasion is real!

It’s true that Punta Sebaring is nik-nik infested. I learned that the nik-niks (or sand flies) are wild and attracted to human skin especially during sunrise and sunset! There should be some form of “pausok” to exterminate them. But you also need to apply a coconut oil or an insect repellant to avoid these insects. Better wear long sleeves! The bites will surely promise an itchy sleep. Who knows if they also carry viruses. Worse, malaria.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan
Minor detail na lang na pinapapak na ko ng nikniks dito :P

Camping, stargazing and late night stories with the boatmen under the full moon

I instantly fell in love with Punta Sebaring because of its lovely sunset and the widest, finest and softest sand I’ve seen. If Balabac is as near as Batangas, you’d never see me again in Manila! Few little things I learned about Balabac that night while camping in Punta Sebaring:

Renato Prinsipe sold his share of Sebaring for 70 million pesos (lucky buyer!)

It’s my first time to see the moon literally rising from the horizon. At first, we thought it’s a huge fire from a faraway island, especially that the color was fiery. But it’s moonrise (if there’s a word). It’s true that it feels like some mermaid will show up under the moonshine. Lol!

The waves in Balabac are wild and that their monsoon is during November to February. Best to go during summer of course, but til October is fine. The sea was rough on our way back to Balabac from Onuk and from Balabac to Rio Tuba despite having very good sunny weather.

Cyanide fishing is more dangerous than dynamite fishing because the chemical spreads so fast and it discolors the water and kills many corals. The effects are actually evident at the shallow waters of Balabac, many corals were already shattered.

Malaysian goods shipped from Sabah are cheaper than the ones from Puerto Princesa. Even the mineral water, spices, napkins, noodles in Balabac mainland were from Malaysia.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan


onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

MANSALANGAN SANDBAR

It’s the best sandbar I’ve seen in the Philippines so far! I was like in a very huge saltwater swimming pool. The sandbar is surrounded by vast expanse of turquoise water that's perfect for swimming. Can’t find the words to describe how beautiful Mansalangan is, but I must say that it looked like Maldives because of the quality of the sand and the hue of the sea.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

ONUK ISLAND

It’s a small private island owned by a political family of Balabac. It’s free to enter Onuk island until last March 2017. They charge 3,000-5,000 pesos per person, no fixed rate yet. The owner said that they’ll use the fund to renovate the island and turn it into a resort. More details about our Onuk island tour here:

❮❮ Read: The Long Way to Onuk Island ❯❯

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan


onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan

Bitin. Unfortunately, we were only able to cover 3 of 8 islands in the itinerary and not able to make the most of what we paid for because:



We had a conflict with the itinerary for island hopping and Onuk (a.k.a. miscommunication). Our boatman said via SMS that the island hopping tour was 2,000/person and he sent a 2-day itinerary. I thought it’s a good deal since it will only cost me 1,000 pesos per day with food and tent. When we already met him he said the rate was 2,000 per person, PER DAY. Our wallets died twice. We arrived at the meet up place at 1 pm (because the boat left at 10am), ended the tour around 11 am the following day, and he still charged us 4,000 per person. He could at least gave us a discount, but no.

The food included in the 4,000-peso tour was mediocre. Sarsiadong isda and adobong manok. Not usually picky with food, but I wished they could’ve prepared something better because the tour was so expensive.

The boat used for the tour was veeeery slow. One island to the other took us an hour or so! We hardly ever moved when tracked via GPS. We could visit 2 or 3 more islands if the boat was fast.

SECURITY

When we were touring around Palawan, some of the locals we met cringed when we said we’re going to “that side of Palawan.” Although they didn’t say it explicitly, I knew they wanted to say that it’s not a safe place for tourists, likely due to terrorist threats. I’ve become more concerned every time we’re hearing the same remarks from the locals, but I just prayed then that my parents will not learn about this. And that no one will try to abduct or hurt us. All parents will surely be worried.

Anyways, I don’t want to comment anymore about the security of the island so as not to mislead. Other than some occasional sharp stares I got from men and women alike, I was fine.

onuk sebaring mansalangan balabac palawan
lovebirds in Sebaring

5-Day Balabac Itinerary

Day
Activity
Day 1
Arrival in Puerto Princesa from San Vicente, Palawan

6 hours land travel to Rio Tuba

Lodging: White Haven Lodge
Day 2
6am: Registration at Rio Port

10am: Boat leaves mainland

1pm: Arrival in Bancalan Island

Start of island hopping:

- Patawan Island

- Punta Sebaring

Camping in Sebaring
Day 3
Continuation of island hopping:

- Punta Sebaring

- Mansalangan Sandbar

- Onuk Island

Overnight in Onuk
Day 4
9am: Leave Onuk

Overnight in Sing and Swing Lodge
Day 5
5am: Registration at Balabac Port

9am: Arrival in Rio

2pm: Arrival in Puerto Princesa


Summary of Expenses

Particulars
Cost
RORO bus from Puerto to Rio Tuba
₱270
Lodging: White Haven Lodge; 250 (divided by 2pax)
₱125
Trike to port; 100 (divided by 4 pax)
₱25
Boat to Bancalan Island
₱250
Balabac Island Hopping
₱4,000
Overnight Onuk Island
₱3,500
Lodging: Sing and Swing Lodge; 700 (divided by 4pax)
₱175
Boat to Rio Tuba
₱350
Van from port to Puerto
₱400
Total per person excluding food
₱9,095

That’s it! I hope you guys enjoyed the photos and short narratives of our Balabac experience. Let me know your thoughts or questions through the comments :)


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Suggested Reading:
The Long Way to Onuk Island
12-Day Palawan Beach Trip Itinerary + Budget
Why Google Flights is More Awesome Than Skyscanner
21 Cheap and Nearly Free Things To Do in Hong Kong and Macau

Comments


  1. do you have the contact number of white haven lodging? thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, I don't have it. We just crashed in the night coz it's just a stone's throw away from the bus station.
      Word of advice though... Avoid it at ALL costs :)

      Delete

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