You must have probably seen dozens of photos of Islas de Gigantes also known as Gigantes Islands as you sift through some destinations in the Philippines over the internet. Its postcard-like immaculate white sand beaches and astounding karst formations have caught the attention of many and had urged them to come and spend a day or two, or even more in this so-called Paradise.
We woke up to yet another gloomy day, it wasn’t raining but dark clouds were hovering above Gigantes Norte and the islands close by. The morning sunlight tried to pierce through the thick dark clouds but retreated into hiding after a brief while.
We were supposed to leave for island hopping in Islas de Gigantes after breakfast, same with the rest of the other groups, but our guide had other plans.
Kuya Eddie said that we had to wait until the tide was high enough or we might not enjoy where we were going to if the water level was low. Around 8:30 AM, the sea level was back to normal and our waiting finally came to an end. We were filled with excitement as we left Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn. Our undamped spirits were still optimistic that the sun would smile upon us as we set sail.
Island Hopping, Cliff Diving and More Seafood at Islas de Gigantes
Bantigue Island Sandbar
Since the islands are close to each other, hopping from one island to another takes only about 10-20 minutes according to our guide. We headed south to the island of Bantigue, a small fishing village that is a part of Gigantes Sur. But the village was not why people go to the island, it was popular because of its long stretch of sandbar and we were fortunate enough to see it in its fullness.
Bantigue Sandbar’s shape varies depending on the season. When we got there (it was March) the sandbar was shaped like the handle of an umbrella, like a letter J only curving on the opposite side but during the monsoon season, it becomes unpredictable and follows the course of the winds and the waves.
Cabugao Gamay Islas de Gigantes
Cabugao island is divided in two, Cabugao Dako (big) and Cabugao Gamay (small). Cabugao Gamay is the most popular island in this part of the region. There were only 3 other travelers on the island when we got there. Our guide said that it would be best to go the deck while there were no other people yet.
He said, that the best view can actually be seen on the deck on top of the rocks. With the help of Kuya Eddie, my parents and my aunt started to trek to the viewing deck and so I followed. Even with the man-made steps, it still wasn’t an easy way up but my folks, who were already in their 60’s, made it to the top in no time but they were very exhausted and had to take a quick rest before posing for a photo opportunity.
To be honest, upon reaching Cabugao Gamay it didn’t immediately strike me as WOW! So I moved around and tried to look for different angles to compose my photos. And when I went my way to the viewing deck, my impression of Cabugao Gamay began to change as I inched to the peak. Indeed, the best view of the island was from the deck but before getting our reward we had to work for it.
Tangke Salt Water Lagoon
Our boat began to slow down moving towards a huge limestone rock island 10 minutes after leaving Cabugao Island. Then we saw a floating dock where some other boats were docked. We had no clue that it was our next stop, Tangke Salt Water Lagoon.
Tangke is translated as Water Tank. The lagoon is like a water tank, being filled by water from the sea as the tide goes high.
We alight the boat into the dock and to the entrance of the lagoon. Then, before us was a clear shallow pool at the heart of towering walls of karst. The water in the lagoon was coming from the sea through the small spaces in between the rocks walls. That was why our guide waited until the sea level was high enough so we wouldn’t be disappointed reaching the lagoon and seeing that it was all dried up.
As I gazed my eyes upward, downward and around the walls in astonishment, I can’t help but be puzzled on how did they discover that there was a lagoon in the middle of these rocks? From afar, if you don’t know the place and just happen to pass by near it, you wouldn’t think that there was something in there. Plus, without the make-shift dock, it would be hard to go over those jagged limestone rocks. So, I asked our guide and he said that they have known about it for a long time, since they were small. Although he can’t say exactly when, he said that it must have been discovered during the Japanese occupation when fighter planes used to fly over the islands or it may be way even before that.
Kuya Eddie said that one other activity that people do in Tangke was cliff jumping, we can jump from the cliff if we want to. I wanted to do it but I am not a good swimmer so I sat it out but my father went for it after some very important safety briefing from our guide.
In the past, when they don’t have the floating dock yet, boats were just tied to the edges of the cliffs. When the unforgiving wind started to blow and their boats started crashing to the sharp rocks, then it was time to leave.
The island has a beach on both sides, the side where the water was more calm is a snorkeling site. Our guide said that it is also the spot in Islas de Gigantes where you can get an unobstructed view of both sunrise and sunset.
Islas de Gigantes is tagged as the Scallop Capital of the Philippines due to the abundance of the bi-valved mollusks under its waters. When we were in Antonia Beach, we were lucky enough to see some live scallops and wasay-wasay (a kind of local oyster-like shellfish), the caretakers were selling it for just Php 1.00 per piece which was incredibly cheap compared to what you will pay for when it reached the cities. Too bad that we only spent roughly 25 minutes there.
Lunch at Bulubadiang Island
After leaving the privately-owned Antonia Beach, we landed next on the island of Bulubadiang to have our lunch. Kuya Eddie and the rest of the staff have prepared for us another sumptuous seafood meal of Curried Scallops, Steamed Crabs, Wasay-Wasay, Grilled Fish and Grilled Chicken with unli rice of course. The fish, crabs and scallops were so sweet which only meant one thing, its FRESH. The Wasay-Wasay was intimidating because it was not the best looking shellfish I’ve seen but it tasted just fine, like regular oysters. It was a lot of food and a bit overwhelming but we were able to finish everything. 🙂
Bulubadiang is also a private island but this time, we were able to stay longer since it is an extension of Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn. Some of the overflow guests from the main island were staying here. It is more remote, no cell signal except for one spot, if you move an inch you’ll lose connection. All of their supplies, even the fresh water that they use to shower, were coming from the mainland. Sea water is what they mostly use for cleaning and other chores. The island can be reached from Barangay Asluman just by walking when the tide is low.
We only did not have a feast with all the fresh seafood that were prepared and served to us but our eyes were delighted as well with the truly enchanting landscapes of Islas de Gigantes on an island hopping tour in Cabugao Gamay, Bantigue Sandbar, Tangke Salt Water Lagoon, Antonia Beach and Bulubadiang Island.
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How about you? Have you been on an island hopping tour in Islas de Gigantes? Have you been to place similar to Islas de Gigantes? How was your experience? We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts.