As I write this guide, I am a lot more and acutely aware of how generous God have been in creating Palawan. Refreshing my memory of my brief but enriching experience in Balabac Island—the province’s southernmost town—brings back in hyper-focus the grandeur of our province’s natural wonders. I dare declare, no wandering soul—restless, searching or contented—can resist Balabac’s charm and beauty.
Have I got your interest and curiosity piqued yet? Well I’ve also got some visual aid for that. Here’s a quick scroll-down over the main island attractions in this gem in southern Palawan.
Pulao Bato. Translated as “Rock Island”, these two adjacent islands are surrounded with clear inviting seas of Nasubata Reef perfect for snorkeling adventure. The first island is covered with bright green trees where birds nest or rest, while the latter is planted with lush more mature green ones.
Onuk Island. Probably the most famous destination of all the islands, Onuk is one for the postcard. The cottages connected with wooden planks are perfectly built on acres of blinding white sand bars. This isle needs no filter, even the surrounding shore dotted with numbers of marine turtles grazing on sea grasses is gorgeous beyond words. The color of the ocean as it turns into one shade darker of azure as you look further beyond is unbelievably stunning.
Candaraman Island. This island, where a lone dilapidated wooden boat is docked beside the old mining port, is perfect for overnight camping and outdoor activities. The long line of white powdery shore dotted with hundreds of coconut trees connects to a wide spectacular stretch of sandbar during low tide, where starfishes of various types and colors will greet you. The shallow water, on a calm sunny day, is likened to an infinity pool, still and serene – perfect.
Mansalangan Sandbar. This picturesque expanse of white sandbar is best for a quick walk, snapshots and lunch on the boat.
Canibungan Island. The white beach planted with pine trees, some uprooted and scattered on the shore, surrounded with sea grasses that create a delightful contrast of colors, is also a recommended stop. A nearby reef with colorful fishes of different sizes and corals of different sites is a nice snorkeling destination too.
Aside from these places, stay in awe of this small municipality hidden south of Palawan by visiting these other islands during your 2 to 3-day island hopping tour:
Sicsican Island. Experience another underwater adventure with Balabac’s rich marine life in this island.
Camiaran “Pink” Island. Of all the pink beaches in the Philippines, see the most vibrant of them all in this island.
This is perhaps the best time to experience Balabac as a private getaway (it might soon become another tourism magnet). You can go solo—I did! Or go with your partner, friends or family. Contact Kuya Aying Villajos at 0997820780 and firstname.lastname@example.org or Kuya Motet Sanson thru his Facebook page or at 09496000709/09064333116 for an escape that you will never forget.
Going to Balabac
Balabac is a second-class island municipality located in the southernmost tip of Palawan and sits a few miles from Sabah, Malaysia. A passenger ferry with a 35 to 50-person capacity serves as the only public sea transport to the main island. The boat runs daily and leaves Bataraza (the southernmost town in mainland Palawan) at 10AM. From Puerto Princesa, you can take a shuttle van for an almost five-hour trip to Rio Tuba, Bataraza terminal (you can reserve a seat at PalShuttex via Kuya Jeremy at 09126067994). This costs around P400 with the trip leaving as early as 3AM. At the Rio Tuba terminal, take a tricycle to the port (PHP 20.00-30.00), look for boat crew members there and have yourself registered in the travel manifesto. From there, the ferry ride to Balabac itself (costs around PHP 350) will take around four hours, with a stop-over at Bancalaan Port. This same boat will ferry you back to the mainland and departs daily at 6:00 AM from Balabac port—make sure to reserve your seat a day ahead.
Overall, travelling to and fro Balabac takes around two days. Island hopping in Balabac may last two to three days, depending on the number of islands you want to visit. Make the most out of your long trip and visit the recommended destinations above.
I travelled solo to Balabac and only meet my friends there, Kuya Motet and his wife, Ate Vivian. Possible causes of any security fears are minimal. I even get to take a slow stroll around the Poblacion area alone one night. So if you are going to ask my opinion, is it safe? Yes.
- There are no ATMs in Balabac (though there are outlets of Palawan Pawnshop and MLhuillier), so make sure to bring enough cash when leaving Puerto Princesa.
- The entrance fee to Onuk island is charged on top of the daily island-hopping package. You can look for their own Facebook page and inquire about their own package prices and reserve for a stay too.
- Avoid travelling to Balabac from November to February – the waves are quiet rough.
- If you don’t want to camp in the islands, accommodations are available in the Balabac Island at MLK and Sing and Swing for PHP 350.00 to PHP 400.00 per person per night in a single fan room. You can also ask Kuya Ariel and Kuya Motet about this.
- Make sure to buy stuff in Poblacion before 7:00 PM. The store and carenderias close early.
- Pack sunblock and insect repellant. Don’t forget the sunglasses!
- Tourism tour package can be around PHP 7k per person for two days and 3 nights, covering ten islands and includes accommodation, meals, and boat costs. Entrance fees to the islands are not included in the package.
- Please leave no trace – take nothing but picture, leave nothing but footprint and kill nothing but time.
I am grateful to Kuya Motet, Ate Vivian, Anya, Tita Chit and Kuya Aying’s invitation to visit this paradise, for the hearty meals and late-night friendly conversations over a bottle of beer. I will be back, that’s for sure. I can already imagine my toes digging in the same sand, my friends basking with the early summer’s sun.