I came back to a very cold So Cal a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d post all my backed up posts from my most recent trip but things happened so I’m still backed up. I apologize for that. I’m hoping to post all of my drafts from the trip before the end of the year which is just right around the corner, btw. 😉 I have to… school starts soon and I’m already starting to pack up for my next trip. Yay!!!
Here, I’ll be giving you a play by play of our first week which was packed. I hope you don’t think it drags… but if you do just skip to the parts that you like coz I would really love to share with you our Gigantes adventure and hopefull inspire you to visit the Philiippine islands.
Day 1: Our first stop in the Philippines was Manila before we went to Iloilo the following day. We didn’t get to go around Manila. Still jetlagged, we just decided to rest then go to church since we knew for sure that we were going to have a busy day on Sunday as soon as we got there. We spent the day relaxing in Manila… had a full body massage and mani-pedi getting ready for the” beach relaxation mode”. 😉
Day 2: True enough we started our tour right as soon as we got into the van that we rented. We went around Iloilo city then stopped for lunch at Tatoy’s restaurant. We visited old churches, like Miag-ao, then our final stop was Garin Farms where we watched the “Turkey Parade” then climbed 400+ steps up to the hill to find the “Heaven on Earth” and get a breathtaking view of the city, nearby islands and the ocean.
Anyway, we couldn’t wait to get home to rest for the following day. We were dying in anticipation. It was going to be a long day full of adventure at the Islas then off we go to Boracay. I was praying hard that the weather would be excellent for our activities.
Day 3: We left Iloilo city at 6am. We wanted to be at our resort in Estancia as early as possible since we still have a 2-hour boat ride from there going to Islas de Gigantes. It was a 130 km drive. The GPS says it’s about 3 hours but traffic and stop-overs made it almost twice as long. We got there around 10 in the morning which wasn’t all that bad except that as we were approaching the city it started to get dark and even before we got to our resort it already started raining.We didn’t have a plan B so I just prayed again for fair weather and decided that we’ll just ask the boatmen to decide. We were already scared of riding the boat to start with. Just imagine a 2-hr boatride in an overcast open sea then add rain and wind in the equation. I would not risk it. Anyway, they said it’s a “Go”, and nothing to worry about.
It was raining and the water was choppy because of the strong winds. We were getting hit by the waves and getting drenched as the water kept on getting inside the boat but my girls kept on laughing and it seemed like they enjoyed the ride. We couldn’t take a lot of photos because we had to hold on to the rails as the boat was so unstable coz of the waves pounding against it. It didn’t seem to bother my girls at all and the boatmen were very nice and pretty accommodating. It was a good thing we had our sunglasses on coz the seawater was burning my eyes. Then when I saw my daughter drinking water from her bottle I realized that I could just rinse my eyes. Duh! We finally got to the Tangke Lagoon in no time. Two hours didn’t seem that long coz our boatmen were also talking about the surrounding islands like Sicogon, etc… and sharing some old wives tales about the giants who were the first inhabitants of Islas de Gigantes.
The Gigantes Islands, also known as Islas de Gigantes or the islands of giants, is a remote group of islands located off the coast of Carles and Estancia towns in northeastern Iloilo, Philippines. It takes at least 4-5 hours to get there by land from Iloilo City. Its unexploited landscape, white sand beaches, pristine waters, rock formation, caves, and serene environment is a sight to behold. The main islands, Gigantes Norte, and Gigantes Sur, have their own sandy beaches, however, the best ones are found on the 3 of the 4 islands that we visited (see photos when you scroll down). Travelers from North America and Europe have been flocking to these group of islands that boasts cerulean waters, coconut lined beaches and chalky white sands every summer but Islas de Gigantes still exhibits a laid-back charm. This is also known as the scallops capital of the country so we didn’t miss an opportunity to have some.
Our island hopping tour included four islands: Tangke salt water lagoon, Cabugao Gamay, Bantigue Sandbar and Antonia island. Each island has an environmental (entrance) fee when taking a tour since they are owned by private individuals. It took us roughly 4 hours to finish our island hopping adventure. I thought that was pretty short because I felt they were subtly rushing us at the last island. I didn’t realize that the waves get bigger and the boatride more uncomfortable (scary) later in the day. We left the last island at almost 3pm.
Check out “Explore Iloilo” for more detailed info on budget, accommmodation, other things to do, typical expenses and other tips.
This is a small island 2 kilometers off the coast of Isla de Gigantes. Upon approach, it looks like a huge chunk of the island consists of a coconut lined beach with a rock hill covered with thick bushes or trees. It’s distinct feature is the beautiful white sandbar found at the northern tip of the island. Another interesting rock formation can also be seen at the end of the sandbar at Cabugao Gamay. It is surrounded in all sides by emerald green waters that is quite enticing and it’s laid back charm makes it more alluring to tourists who like to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. (Environmental fee to get in is PhP 40 + 20/ US$ 0.80)
Tangke Saltwater Lagoon:
Tangke is a natural saltwater pool/lagoon that is popular among tourists because of its emerald green crystal clear waters and the magnificent rock formation surrounding the pool. I found out from other people that the place is comparable to Coron island in Palawan but they say this is better. I was going to find out but we had to cancel due to the weather. By the way, this place is also popular for cliff diving. You just have to be very careful as the rocks are pretty sharp and it may be slippery in some parts.
To get into the tangke lagoon, visitors have to take a short climb up the rocks to get in and depending on whether it’s low or high tide, you’ll either have to jump into the water or climb down a flight of stairs that seems to have been carved out of the rock to make it easier for guests to get into the water when it’s shallow.
Getting into the tangke maybe somewhat challenging esp. if there’s a lot of people who came first. Coming out of your boat, you will jump onto a floating wooden platform and you have to keep your balance until you get to the bridge that leads to the tangke lagoon. The guides will be walking with you to help you walk without falling. I found out that if it’s really wavy they may refuse entry as it can be dangerous. (Environmental fee to get in is PhP 75 + 20/ US$ 2)
Bantigue Island sandbar:
Bantigue Island’s wide stretch of white sand in the middle of the ocean is what captivates you. This sandbar looks like a division of two waters during low tide as it seems to disappear in shallow water during high tide.
We stayed here for a little bit while one of our boatmen purchased the scallops we were going to eat for lunch. I walked half the length of the sandbar looking for unusual looking shells. (Environmental fee to get in is PhP ?? / US$ ?)
Antonia Island is one of the famous islets because of its pristine beauty: white powdery sand, crystal clear emerald green waters, perfect for swimming… and magnificent rock formations. It is also one of the best sites for snorkeling.
At the tip of the island is an interesting rock formation that I think looks like an alligator. This seems to serve as a natural wave breaker since I noticed that the other side of the island facing the open sea had really strong waves and the side behind this huge rock formation is fairly calm.
This was our last stop and also our stop for late lunch… so after we ate, we just checked out the waters a little bit then we had to leave (no more time for swimming or snorkeling as it was getting late… still had 2 hours boatride back to the resort. ). There are watercrafts for rent like a banana boat and jetski. (Jet Ski rental is PhP 3000/ US$ 60 per hour and banana boat is about PhP200/ US$ 4 per person) Some travellers stay here overnight but since it doesn’t have a resort they just set up camp. There are tents lined up along the beach and there’s a small store where you can buy beverages and some fresh and affordable seafood like scallops, crabs and wasay-wasay. (Environmental fee to get in is PhP 50/ US$ 1).
Here’s a video I found on youtube featuring some of the different islands we visited. This is short and sweet and if you don’t find it enticing enough, I don’t know what will. 😉
Here’s a couple more videos I found on youtube featuring the different islands we visited but they’re in Tagalog with no subtitles. (sorry). It’s a little long so you can just skip to the parts you want to see. Anyway, I basically provided the info you may need so I just posted this so you can see.
Boat rental is PhP6500/ US$ 130 for island hopping. The boat can carry up to 15 passengers, however, we rented it exclusively for us. We gave the 3 boatmen PhP 500 each as we were very pleased with their services and impressed at how they maneuvered that wave. We lived another day! Off to Boracay we go!!!
I can’t wait to go back and I just checked out this blog post “Carles, Iloilo: A Prelude To The Ultimate Gigantes Islands Experience” by Biyaherong Barat so I know what I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the Gigantes islands but I still want to go back to Tangke and Cabugao gamay.
BTW, a lot of people were saying that Gigantes is a lot better and more beautiful than Boracay or Palawan. I can tell you that beauty really lies in the eyes of the beholder. It is about what you’re looking for. I enjoyed both immensely… the best of worlds… An unexploited group of islands that’s not crowded but with limited resources for intrepid travelers versus a more tourist-friendly island which provides the comforts of home (McDonald’s for burgers, Shakey’s for pizza, and a wide range of accomodation from hostels to 5-star hotels for your comfort, etc.). So please check them all out, you won’t regret it. BTW, the Philippines has more than 7,000 islands to choose from! Start planning your epic trip!
LIVE LAUGH … BELLE PAPILLON
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