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Monday, November 17, 2014

Five Breathtaking Remote Unexploited Beaches In The Philippines

The breath taking splendid Balabac Island 

Dolphin watching in Balabac Strait 

The Philippines is blessed with countless of wonder and the beauty of a bio diverse nature is one of them. With thousands of uncharted islands waiting to be discovered and explored, the Philippines is one of the fortunate countries to have long coastlines, rugged and mystical interiors and jungles so bounty it produces a large portion of the Earth's endemic species of flora and fauna meaning there are lots of flowers, greenery and animals in the country that a nature lover could truly amaze in disbelief.

While Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world when it comes to tropical beaches, nature and rich, colorful history and culture, Philippines got small attention from the world and welcome a very small percentage of tourist arrivals compared to the rest of the world's destinations. Aside from the aggressive promotion and media campaigns, one reason Thailand is swarmed by tourists is the number of options available to visitors which also include coolest perks and benefits as well as awesome outdoor activities. Each of Thailand's famed beaches like Koh Samui, Krabi, Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi Islands has several thousands of accommodations to choose from the cheapest to the most expensive luxury resort hotel and lots of other stores and venues for their needs, services and recreation and most importantly, outdoor activities and leisure and other things to do so as not to get them bored doing nothing other than swimming, diving, snorkeling and sight seeing. This is similar to Boracay but the only difference between Boracay and Thailand's beaches is management and regulation. The now dirty, noisy and crowded Boracay is the effect of abuse, mismanagement and lack of strict regulation. I believe that if strict regulation and proper management governed an island paradise it will keep its pristine beauty for generations to see. I think this can be done with other Philippines' undiscovered gems of nature. If political will and right attitude plays the role, thousands of options that will cater to the needs and service of the visitors shall be put into place into each of these brilliantly precious destinations. What Thailand or Malaysia can offer the Philippines do not only double it but three times or four times their worth and charm.

Visitors and tourists may already have heard and visited places such as Boracay, Palawan, Manila, Intramuros, Vigan, Cebu etc. but they never knew that there tropical beaches in the country that is worth the hype and way much more beautiful than the famed Boracay Island. Here are some of the stunning beaches in the country which could rival that of Thailand's finest beaches:

Balabac shores 

Canabungan Island, Balabac, Palawan

Bugsuk Island, Balabac, Palawan

Sunset at Bugsuk Island

Bugsuk Island is located in Balabac town, Palawan. This little island jewel located at the southwest Philippines has an interesting history to tell.

On August 13, 1944 eight members on board USS Flier reached Bugsuk Island when the submarine struck a mine while on surface patrol during World War II. They swam 18 hours before reaching an atoll near Bugsuk and spent another three days swimming to two other island before landing on Bugsuk thanks to the help of Filipino guerilla. Seventy-eight men died including the seven who escaped the sub but didn't survive swimming.

Today, Bugsuk Island is a paradise to behold. Its long stretch of white sand beach defines the horizon that never ends or boundless. This flat island is home to the longest and one of the finest white sand beach in the country – finer that those in Boracay. According to a traveler, the beach in Barangay Sibaring in the southern part of the island is so fine and powdery it will make your feet sink. In this expanse lives the local worm called wakwak and for the ethnic group Palaw’an tribe who lives in the area dipping these crawlies in vinegar means “snack”. You can try it yourself!

Wakwak, the local worm thriving on the sands of Bugsuk Island

The catch is life is laidback! No modern accommodations in the island or in the town proper of Balabac or in Rio Tuba in the town of Bataraza and no electricity or restaurant and not even a reliable phone signals or modern villas. This is an ideal retreat for people who wants to separate themselves for a while from the rest of the world. So tips are bring flashlights and/or matchsticks to light fuel for light in the darkness, cook food or to keep you warm the rest of the night, bring materials; tools or ingredients for cooking otherwise bring ready to eat food and most of all, bring insect repellent to keep you from insect bites.

There are however, small and simple lodging houses in the Balabac town proper just across the shore of Bugsuk Island. These are:

JD Lodging House (Sing and Swing Karaoke Bar) in Poblacion, Balabac town proper
MLK Lodging House also in Balabac.

Here's what to expect and do in Bugsuk Island:

- Visit and view the Spanish era Melville lighthouse built in 1818.and finished in 1892.
- Enjoy the long stretch of powdery white sand in Barangay Sebaring or Sebaring Point.
- Appreciate the bountiful mangrove locations in Sebaring, Bugsuk and Melville.
- Sunrise and sunset in the island is one of the best
- Go snorkeling, diving and scuba diving are free (Bring your own equipment)
- Trek and scale Melville Peak
- Visit the ruins of a Spanish structure at the mouth of Larindon Bay (below the lighthouse of Melville)

Other things of interest in Balabac Town:

- Other mangrove areas
- Island and beach hopping in the following areas: Onuk (Roughton), Nasubata, Candaraman, Matangala, Canabungan, Ramos, Bowen, Siksikan, Secam, Patongong, Pandanan and several others of the 31 islands, islets and sandbar in the town.
- Visit the gorgeous pink sand beach of Comiran Island
- Dolphin watching
- See the endemic species of mouse deers, wild monkeys, crocodiles and other floras and faunas in the wild
- Balabac is also one of the most ideal spot for bird watching as it is home to various migratory and endemic birds like Grey Imperial Pigeon, Philippine Cockatoo, Blue-headed Racket-tai, Palawan Hornbill and possibly even the Philippine eagle you can see them all there.
- The cute fireflies at night
- Immerse with the colorful and distinct culture of the Molbog tribe
- Trek Italawon Peak and Malaking Ilog Peak
- Hidden waterfalls in the mountains of Balabac
- Historical markers in Ramos Island, old Spanish fort in Ulitan
- Shopping for Malaysian products

How to Reach Bugsuk Island

Bugsuk has an airstrip which can accommodate small aircraft but no commercial airline flies to these airstrips.

You can travel via Puerto Princesa City.  Puerto Princesa City is connected by air from Manila via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Zest Air; if you are coming from Cebu, Iloilo and Davao you can fly via Cebu Pacific, from Busuanga Airport in Coron, Palawan via Philippine Airlines and from Kota Kinabalu via MAS Wings airline.

By ferry, 2GO Travel serves Manila to Puerto Princesa via Coron once a week and Montenegro Shipping Lines and Milagrosa Shipping Lines have regular trips to Puerto Princesa from Iloilo via Cuyo, Palawan.

From San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa city, ride a bus or a van going to Rio Tuba. Buses and vans regularly depart from San Jose Terminal starting at 4 am to 9 pm daily. Fares is from as low as P275 pesos for non-air conditioned bus and as high as P450 for air conditioned shuttle van or bus. Travel time is approximately five (5) to six (6) hours on a non-aircon bus and approximately six (6) to seven (7) hours for aircon transportation.

From the port in Rio Tuba, boat ride for two (2) hours will take you to Bugsuk Island. For boat hires, contact Rene Principe because he own a parcel of land in Barangay Sibaring part of Bugsuk Island. Camping is allowed for a small fee and bring your own tent.

Saluag Island, Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi    

Saluag Island is located in the Sibutu island town or municipality in Tawi-tawi, the southernmost island of the Philippines. Saluag literally is the southernmost island of the country. It is just 43.3 kilometers east of Borneo. The Tausug and Sama Dilaut tribes who are the inhabitants of the scenic paradise makes a living through fishing, boat making and seaweed farming.

It is an isolated island community of nice and very kind people if you want to experience and understand their laidback lifestyle. The place is very exotic and if you enjoy cultures, this one is for you. You can see people’s native home above the water or living near the shore, how the Tausugs dive  looking for coins underwater tossed by people from the ferries.

How To Reach Saluag Island

Cebu Pacific Air flies daily from Zamboanga City to Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-Tawi.
From Bongao airport, hire a tricycle to Chinese pier and find a ferry going to Barangay Tandubanak in Sibutu. It's a 3-hour ride and costs P200 pesos one-way.

For its alternate, you can look for ferry going to Sibutu town proper for a 4-hour, one-way ride which cost P250 pesos and from here, hire a motorcycle for a 30-minutes ride and bring you to Barangay Tandubanak.

Ferries going to Tandubanak and Sibutu town proper doesn't have fixed schedule so it’s important to confirm trips at Chinese pier.

From Barangay Tandubanak, a 30-minute motorcycle ride brings you to Barangay Tandu-owak and from Tandu-owak, Saluag is just 40 minutes boat ride away.

Contact Details:

For more assistance, contact Ms. Salve Pescadera of Tawi-Tawi Tourism Office at +63 910 671 6367.

Olanivan Island, Saranggani, Davao Occidental

Aerial view of Olanivan Island

Another destination of interest is the Olanivan Island.Olanivan is located in the southernmost part of Davao Occidental, the newest province in the Philippines and close border with Indonesia. Olanivan Island is one of the three major islands in the town of Saranggani.It is an 18 hectares of powdery white sand paradise dotted with palms, coconuts and other plants. This palm-fringed island has a circular white sand beach formation and is near Balut Island and Saranggani Island. These three (Balut, Olanivan, Saranggani) make up the island group known as the Saranggani Islands. If you want to get away from the maddening crowd and from the noise and bustling party life in other beach, this serene beach is ideal for you.

You will also be delighted in sharing the island with its gentle locales belonging to the B'laan tribe who modestly dwells on the island's western coast. B'laans are famous for their bead works, brassworks and tabih weave which explains for their colorful embroidered native dress while on the other side is the island's white lighthouse built by the Americans during the early 20th century American colonial period to serve as a guide for American warships going to Australia.

One will never forget the calming ambiance of this pristine island.

Places Of Interests Near Olanivan

Balut Island - Maguindanaoan term for "island" this tropical beach also known as Sanguil is another place of interest and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Davao Occidental. Nestled in the center of the island is Balut volcano (stratovolcano) rising at about 2, 828 feet high.

Saranggani - Considered as an important island in the town, don't confuse this island with the Saranggani province. This place is also as beautiful as Olanivan because of the enticing scenery awaits the visitors.

Tuke Maklang Beach Resort - also in Balut Island, tourists can bring their tents for free. There are also open cottages available for only P100 pesos. Ideal for boat riding and kayaking.
Sabang Hot Spring - still in Balut Island. Just an hour and a half from Olanivan Island, it has two enclosed hot springs where tourists can boil themselves up to 80 degrees celsius or 176 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature.

How to Reach Olanivan Island

As the center of the town, Balut Island is the common gateway to Olanivan.
From Manila or other cities, take a flight to General Santos City. From General Santos City pier, there is a passenger ferry bound for Balut Island everyday except Sunday either from Lion's Beach Port (via M/V Frederick which costs a one-way ticket of P370 pesos) or Puting Bato Port (via M/L Nieky and M/L Sabhan, both costs P300 pesos for a one-way ticket) between 10:00 PM - 12:00 midnight. Travel duration is about 7 - 9 hours depending on the weather condition.
From the Mabila port in Balut Island, Olanivan is an hour away using an outrigger boat.        

Omapuy Island, Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi

Bod Bongao peak, Tawi-Tawi 

Facing the endless horizon in Bod Bongao peak, Tawi-Tawi 

Foot Bridge in Bod Bongao greet visitors on the boat traversing the canal that serves as main gateway of Bod Bongao 

An emerald island part of Sitangkai group of islands located in the province of Tawi-Tawi in the south westernmost part of the country is another piece of gem waiting to be discovered and tapped its potential.

Omapuy Island is an island surrounded by hectares of seaweed farms and stilt houses floating over shallow waters. Another chance of experiencing cultures by meeting the local Tausug and Sama Dilaut people harvesting tons of seaweed.

How to Reach Omapuy Island

Cebu Pacific has a regular daily flights Zamboanga City to Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-Tawi. From the Bongao airport, hire a tricycle to Chinese pier and find a ferry going  to the Sibutu town proper which has a travel time of approximately four (4) hours and cost a one-way trip of P250 pesos. There's no fixed schedule for ferries going to Sibutu town proper from Bongao but there are at least three trips per week so it is important to go to the Chinese pier and inquire about possible trips to Sibutu.

From Sibutu town proper, Omapuy Island is just an hour ride away by an outrigger boat.
For assistance, you can contact Salve Pescadera of the Tawi-Tawi Tourism Office at +63 910 671 6367 and +63 905 154 7865

Onuk Island, Balabac, Palawan

Foot Bridge in Onuk Island 

Small sandbar in Onuk Island During High Tide 

Finally, Onuk Island is another one of the most remote islands in the country located in the south westernmost tip of Palawan. It is apparently privately owned by Hon. Shuaib Astami, mayor of Balabac town to which Onuk Island is part of so you need to ask permission from the mayor so you can visit the beautiful island treasure.

This piece of jewel lying at the edge of the Sulu Sea is an endless horizon of powdery white sand and crystal clear azure water meets the vast expanse of the clear skies. The only obstruction are the greeneries on the island.

The shallow water is so clear you don't need any cameras to see the marine life underwater.
There are structures on one corner of the island inhabited by the caretakers of the island. The island is just small yet the picturesque scene is quite huge. This is also home to the sea turtle sanctuary to protect them from poachers who hunt them for money selling them to restaurants.

How to Reach Onuk Island

In order to gain access since Onuk Island is a private island, you need a permission from the Office of Balabac Mayor. The permission should be accompanied by your formal letter of request so it is a must to write your letter of request early on before asking for permission. Balabac local government office has a satellite office in Puerto Princesa located at Pajara, Barangay Sta. Monica in front of Bible Baptist Church.

Once you have a permit granted by the Balabac LGU, they will assist you or your group from Puerto Princesa all the way to Onuk. All applicable fees including boat transfers apply.  

Article and Photo Sources:

George Tapan
Harry Limlingan Marcuap, Akrosdayunibers.com
Angel Juarez, lakwatsero.com
Len Jingco, pinterest.com