Planning to travel to Iloilo City and visit Gigantes Islands for the first time? Do not fret, as people are nice and there are a lot of blogs out there, just like mine, that can give you helpful information and serve as your guide.
From Iloilo airport, you can either ride a taxi or van to Tagbak terminal: Ceres Liner. It’s a 20-minute drive from the airport late at night, and I think it will take more than 20 minutes in the morning or afternoon. I suggest though that you take a taxi than hiring a van if you are alone since van costs 500 pesos, while taxi may either charge you 350 pesos or 400 pesos. If you want to go straight ahead to Carles (pronounced as “car-less”) port from the airport, van (Avanza) charges 3500 pesos for the trip.
At Tagbak Terminal, sit and wait for the bus in front of the Estanscia post. Sign board for buses going to Carles port is “Carles”. Ordinary bus to Carles starts as early as 2:30 a.m. while air conditioned bus to the same destination starts around 5:30 a.m. If you are planning to take the earliest trip, then I would say it is fine to go with the ordinary bus, since weather is still cool at that time. Fare for ordinary bus going to Carles port is 170 pesos and whole duration of travel ranges from 3 and a half to 4 hours, wherein Carles is the last stop of the bus. Vans weren’t available that time, so my guess is that they start around 6 a.m. Take note that there are no stores open at or near Tagbak terminal at 2:30 a.m. So if you are planning to buy bottled water, soft drinks, coffee, or if you are hungry, there’s a small sari-sari store nearby, and Gotohan which you will find at the right, outside Ceres Terminal.
Ceres Terminal also has buses going to Caticlan, Roxas, Kalibo, Passi, Calinog, Barotac Viejo, and Concepcion.
I arrived at Bancal port in Carles at 6 a.m. Tourist office opens at 6 a.m. as well and you should be ready to pay a fee of 155 pesos. If you have purchased a tour package, 155 pesos will be refunded to you.
Around the port you will find a lot of carenderias, and sari-sari stores. My suggestion is that you buy everything you will need such as bottled water, medicine, OFF lotion (as there could be a lot of mosquitoes at night in the island), and every thing you think you’ll need.
I boarded the boat at 7:30 a.m. and it departed around 8 a.m. There are other boats leaving from the port to the island at 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. We arrived at our destination at 9:20 a.m. So let’s just say it took 1 hour and 30 minutes for the boat travel.
Upon arrival at the island, you will be amazed by the huge rock formations and say for yourself that indeed, you are already in one of the islands of Gigantes islands. There will be a lot of people waiting on the shore and one of them is your tour guide for the rest of your stay. Unlike other beach destinations in the Philippines, most resorts and hotels can be reached via motorbike ride. Surely, you will notice that all tour guides have their own motorbike.
I stayed at Hideaway Inn, and my package was overnight only. Overnight package rate for 1 person costs 3,890 pesos which includes full board all in expenses: Passenger boat fare (two-way), private boat for island hopping tour (4 islands), Island entrance fees, Environmental fee, Local island guide, Accommodation, Cave guide, 3 meals (family service seafood buffet meals/unlimited rice), motorbike fare for your whole stay as this is the major mode of transportation in the island. Included also are the following: Swimming, snorkeling, Natural cliff jumping, visit to old Spanish lighthouse, spelunking-cave exploration, watch sunrise and sunset, and of course, who wouldn’t miss this: picture taking.
For 3 days and 2 nights package, it will cost you 4,360 pesos which has the package with the overnight, but instead of 3 meals, it will be 5 meals, additional 2 more islands to visit, and mountain trekking.
Important note here: There’s no electricity from 6 a.m. to 12 noon. Make sure that your gadgets are fully charged or have enough battery before then.
Lunch time’s ready before 12 noon. I would say this is one of the best during my stay. All were perfectly cooked and you could really taste the freshness of it.
After lunch, tour guide will ask you to prepare so you could start with the island hopping.
First stop: Bantigi Island. This island is known for its sand bar. You can stay and swim here, but I preferred to proceed with the next island.
Second stop: Kabugao island. Place where most tourists create piles of stones which became one of the attractions in this island. You can also climb up the mountain to take a clear picture of the whole island
Third stop: Tanke lagoon (not sure if my spelling is correct though). This island is so amazing. In the middle of those big rock formations is water from the sea. It wasn’t deep when I went there, water is up to my waist, but as per the tour guide, if it’s high tide, water can be deep. Few years ago, tourists and tour guides could still see monkeys playing around on top of those high rocks, but perhaps, due to a lot of tourists visiting this island lately, monkeys can no longer be seen.
Fourth stop: Antonia island. This is where you will find a lot of corals and fishes. It is also in this island where you can do the following activities:
- Snorkeling – Rent of goggles costs 50 pesos
- Banana boat – For 1 hour costs 1500 pesos
- Kayaking – For 1 hour costs 1000 pesos
- Jet skiing – For 1 hour costs 2500 pesos
Fifth stop: Bakwitan Cave. You got to get ready for this one, as surely it will test your strength in climbing up the mountain to get in the cave, and another batch of climbing inside the cave to get out of it. Bakwitan cave served as a hideout of Filipinos during Japanese era, and serves as an evacuation center when there’s typhoon.
This cave is rich with Stalagmite and Stalactite minerals which you cannot and should not touch. One touch kills the Stalagmite and Stalactite.
Sixth stop: Lighthouse. Lighthouse was built during 1980s. If you would like to perfectly view the whole island and get a nice picture during sunrise or sunset, you should climb up the lighthouse which actually has 80 steep steps in total. The lighthouse is a restricted area, but there’s only one tour guide (send me a message) that can convince the caretaker to open the gate and allow tourists to climb up the lighthouse. Wouldn’t it be nice if you can do it and take a good picture of the island? 🙂
The lighthouse is supposed to be the end of my itinerary, but the tour guide offered me a tour on the other side of the island using his motorbike wherein he showed me the place where they get their water (which tastes sweet by the way), where there is a cellphone signal (they call it the Call Center area), and where you can do night swimming.
After returning to the Inn, dinner is ready. Yey! As you may notice, island offers a lot of scallops. The island is rich with scallops, and exporting it to Carles and Estancia ports to be sold at the market is the locals’ major source of living.
The following day, I woke up as early as 7 a.m. to eat breakfast. I didn’t took a picture of it, but it was a small slice of meatloaf, scrambled egg, and danggit. First trip back to Bancal port is at 9 a.m., but the tour guide offered me another option which leaves the island at 8 a.m. and goes straight to the other port: Estancia. From Estancia port, you can ride along with other people in the tricycle going to the terminal for only 10 pesos per head. Travel time from Estancia port to the terminal took us around 10 minutes.
At the terminal, you can either ride a van or bus. I chose van this time, because it’s faster than the bus. Fare for the van which will drop you at Jaro in Iloilo City (near Tagbak terminal) is 150 pesos.
Overall, budget for this trip excluding airfare is 6000 pesos.
If you would like to stay at Hideaway Inn as well, you may contact Joel at 09184685006. Enjoy!