Palawan – the jewel island of the Philippines and the dubbed as our last frontier – the largest province and truly pristine. Traversing its southern end proves the vastness of the forested area, life at its simplest, best and a haven of different cultures, native tongues and local tribes. This island house one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World – The Underground River.
Palawan is internationally known because of El Nido and Coron, its iconic tourist spots, and globally acknowledged as one of the best islands in the world. But another pristine and promising tourist destination is waiting to be discovered by the travelling community – they are the island group of Balabac municipality. Being the backdoor of the Philippines, the islands are nearer to Malaysia compared to Luzon mainland. It also became a melting pot of different tongues and tribes. Imagine hearing Bicolano dialect in the southwestern end of our country?
Our goal is to visit the off beaten path south end of Palawan – the Balabac group of islands – without missing Onuk Island and Sebaring in Bugsuk Island.
Balabac is not yet really fully open to tourism but social media is keeping the momentum of travellers who want to experience its virgin beauty.
BEFORE REACHING BALABAC
Upon arrival in Puerto Princesa Airport, we have a quick lunch in the town proper and headed to San Jose Terminal. A regular bus bound to Rio Tuba is expected to leave at 01:00 PM. During the waiting time, I searched for a grocery store to purchase our needed toiletries supply for the rest of our trip.
To keep ourselves occupied, my travel buddy advised me to observe around the bus terminal and take photos of anything that would help me to fortify this blog article – haven’t thought of that. I also opted to wait and stand outside to keep my back straight and do some stretching as preparation for the 5-6 hour bus ride to Rio Tuba. Momentarily, the driver started the bus, a signal that we are about to leave. Balabac, here we go!
ARRIVAL IN RIO TUBA
Minutes before we arrive in Rio Tuba, the cold wind started to sweep our face and the common scent of looming rain started to fill the bus – surely it would rain. As we set foot in Rio Tuba, rain is pouring heavily. We ran to a shelter on a nearby eatery and asked where the lodge would be – it is 3 houses away. We trod our way under the pouring rain and checked in. It was almost 9:00 pm and had realised that we spent 7 hours on the road – that was a butt-numbing back breaking bus travel as bus seats do not recline and adding up with our agony is the five 15-20 minute stop over.
Apart from the pain of long bus travel, south Palawan would reward your senses with its pristine beauty – verdant forests fully covering the mountains, the fresh scent of unpolluted air and picturesque mountain ranges.
Thank you to social media, I happen to learn about Ma’am Lorna Mortega. I personally adore her hospitality and attention to her guests. Luckily, she and her husband, Sir Alex, would be boarding the ferry the same day. We exchanged stories with her while waiting for the ferry to leave sitting a top a makeshift shade above the murky waters of the Rio Tuba port.
You can contact her at +63 946 557 6403 (Smart) and +63 906 690 9547 (Globe) to arrange your island hopping activity.
PORT IN RIO TUBA
There is nothing much to see around the port in Rio Tuba. You can walk around the community and observe kids catching fish with their makeshift fishing rods.
Upon alighting from the tricycle we chartered, you will be greeted with a dusty road leading right to the platform. A makeshift shed available beside the path where passengers can wait above the waters of Rio Tuba.
UNDERSTANDING THE ISLAND HOPPING PLAN
To maximise our two day island hopping, Mam Lorna has arranged our boat to meet us in Bancalan port – the stopover halfway to Balabac Island. From there, we would set to visit Patawan Island, the Sandbar near Pandanan Island and then be at Punta Sebaring before nightfall.
For the second day, we would visit Canabungan Island, Candaraman Island and finally, the privately owned Onuk Island. These islands are 40 minute to about an hour far apart.
A separate photo blog article for the pictures of the islands we visited will be posted.
|Jeep+Trike to San Jose Terminal||₱44.00|
|Non-Aircon Bus to Rio Tuba (Roro Bus)||₱540.00|
|Trike from Rio Tuba terminal to Port||₱80.00|
|Boat ride to Bangcalaan||₱400.00|
|Pump boat Rent 2 days||₱8,000.00|
|Ferry from Balabac back to Rio Tuba||₱700.00|
|Lodge in Punta Sebaring||₱600.00|
|Van from Rio Tuba to Puerto Princesa City||₱700.00|
|divided by 2 persons||₱5,532.00|