Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Road to the Southern End of Palawan - Balabac

How To Get To Balabac Palawan

I’m not a fan of keeping such beautiful wonders to myself so lemme share to you a happy place where the time stops and everything is so pristine that all you could think about is how really nice our country is. So have you heard about Balabac?, the place where dolphins and pawikans are just so normal that people consider them as friends. And oh, those blindingly white sand beaches that is so deserted that you could run freely and no one would even bother.


How To Get To Balabac Palawan
source
I invited my travel blogger friend, Julius, to a 10-day Palawan trip. The original plan was to revisit El Nido but due to his assertive-but-not-that-pushy way of convincing me to visit the south-westernmost part of Palawan (showing me a photo of Onuk Island by his friend Emil), I agreed and let him do all the planning and stuff (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Palawan).

It took us two full days from Manila to reach this secluded island and it’s all worth it.

How To Get To Balabac Palawan
Onuk Island, Balabac, Palawan
Our contacts.

Julius directly coordinated with the Local Government Unit and they assisted us all throughout this trip. When we got to Puerto Princesa City, we met with Mayor Shuaib Astami and his daughter Fatima and discussed about our plans on exploring the town of Balabac. Reports on unauthorized tour operations on some islands, specifically Onuk Island, were also discussed. The local authorities have been stringent on accepting tourists on the said island after hearing reports of some unauthorized collections by different tour operators (there are no entrance fees, environmental fees or any other fees that are imposed by the local government).

Onuk Island, for instance, has been receiving guests for years now and the owner (Mayor Shuaib Astami) never collected anything for accommodation and food for long-staying guests. No fees are collected for daytrips as well as long as you coordinate with the ‘right’ people regarding your trip.

In our case, we discussed our itinerary and places of interest to the in-charge (Ma’am Lorna Gapilango, MSWDO, LGU, Balabac, Palawan) and Mayor Shuaib Astami (with the help of some locals), they helped us arrange everything.

How To Get To Balabac Palawan
Thank you so much Mayor Shuaib Astami and Ma'am Lorna Gapilango!
So the plan was to check out Onuk Island, Punta Sebaring Island and Balabac town itself. We allotted five days for the whole thing, the time was quite short but we were happy get on with the plan. The weather posed to be another problem. Given that August is wet season, we played hide n’ seek with the sun.

How did we get there?

Balabac is located at the southernmost tip of Palawan. This second class municipality is composed of more or less 30 islands and sandbars (some of which are uninhabited). It took us two full days on the road (sky and waters too) just to reach this paradise.

Rio Tuba Palawan
the only passenger ferry boat heading to Balabac
Our flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa was at noontime. Fatima told us that the only trip for the passenger ferry ride to the town of Balabac (From Rio Tuba) leaves at around 10:30-11:30 a.m. We stayed in Puerto Princesa for the night and left at around 4:00 a.m. to get to San Jose Terminal where shuttle vans and buses are stationed. We were specifically looking for a ride going to Rio Tuba in the town of Bataraza (our jump-off point to Balabac).

How To Get To Balabac Palawan
air-conditioned shuttle vans Puerto Princesa - Rio Tuba v.v.
We immediately saw an air-conditioned van heading to Rio Tuba, we hopped on and a few minutes before five in the morning, we’re off to Rio Tuba (400-450 pesos each person). The scenic ride lasted for 4 ½ hours. Upon reaching the terminal at Rio Tuba, we looked out for a tricycle that would bring us to the port (20 pesos each person).

Arriving at the port, we learned that the only passenger ferry going to Balabac will be leaving before noon which means we had two hours and so of lull time. We decided to have an early lunch somewhere and wait on the docking area so that we could immediately hop on the boat in case they decided to let us in.

Rio Tuba Palawan

Rio Tuba Palawan

We killed time on a shaded hut on stilts with some kids who seemed to be busy with their pastime – fishing. Armed with their baits, nylon strings and hooks, they waited patiently for their first catch of the day. And they didn’t have to wait that long, one by one, they showed off their catch to everyone. They’re just the cutest!

Rio Tuba Palawan

Rio Tuba Palawan

Rio Tuba Palawan
anyare mga kuya?
After some 2 ½ hours of waiting time (which we didn’t totally feel because of the cute kids), we finally boarded the ferry boat (350 pesos each person). At 11:30 a.m. we left Rio Tuba and headed to Balabac. I managed to sleep soundly in spite of the crowded ferry.

How To Get To Balabac Palawan
define clear waters
At around 4:00 p.m. we arrived at the first stop, the Bancalaan Island (a barangay in Balabac). Some passengers got off here while others who were heading to Balabac's main island loaded the ferry. Just one more hour and we’ll be getting to our destination.

How To Get To Balabac Palawan
Bancalaan Island
We reached Balabac at 5:30 p.m. We went to our point person right away and discussed with her our plans. With all systems in place, we started the journey by exploring Onuk Island (overnight), a daytrip to Punta Sebaring Island, and then the town of Balabac (two nights).

How To Get To Balabac Palawan
Balabac Port
Going back to Puerto Princesa was quite easy. The only ferry boat going to Rio Tuba (350 pesos each person) leaves at around 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. depending on the volume of the passengers and/or the situation of the waters. In our case, the ferry left at around 7:00 a.m., arrived at Bancalaan Island to pick up more passengers at around 8:00 a.m. and finally reached Rio Tuba Port at 10:30 a.m. A tricycle can be rented out for 80 pesos going out of the port to the town, but if you’re in a group of four, you could share the fare and pay only 20 pesos each person for the ride.

How To Get To Balabac Palawan

How To Get To Balabac Palawan

There are regular bus and shuttle van trips (400-450 pesos) from Rio Tuba to Puerto Princesa. Travel time is more or less 5 hours. At San Jose Terminal, you could rent a tricycle going to downtown at 100–150 pesos. You may also opt to ride a jeepney (just like what we did) for 13 pesos each person that brings you to downtown.

The next posts will feature the town of Balabac and some interesting islands; you have to see those, believe me!


*Contact updated February 2017*

Balabac, Palawan, Philippines
Point Person - Ronald Astami
Family Owner
Contact Number: (+63) 935.155.6264







22 comments:

  1. It's a long ride but I have a feeling its all worth it! Nkakasilaw ang ganda ng tubig.

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  2. I would like to see this place. Thanks for your beautiful pictures.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading more about southern Palawan.

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  4. Na-excite naman ako. Gusto ko pumunta ng holy week dito next year! I need travel buddies for this trip, contact me. hehehe. dito na nag-invite :)

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  5. Birthplace of my mom! I hope to be able to visit one day.

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  6. Birthplace of my mom! I hope to be able to visit one day.

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    Replies
    1. Such a lovely place. You should visit it Schatze :)

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  7. Hi! Going to Palawan in September...would love to visit the sandbars in balabac...any advise you could give me?

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    1. Hi there! If you want to visit Balabac, you should allot one week at least :)

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  8. hi! are the contacts for Balacbac the same? :) TYIA

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    1. The last time I heard they already changed the contact number.

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  9. I will travel alone this November through Palawan and want to see Balapac. Who and when should I contact for allowance to go on one of the remote islands? Thanks ahead for the help. Melanie

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    1. You may want to contact the Local Government Unit when you reach the town of Balabac :)

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  10. Hi are the rates still the same for the van and boat

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    1. I went to Balabac four years ago so I'm sure may fare difference na. Not sure if how much :)

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