Monday, September 29, 2014

The Paradise of Onuk Island in Balabac, Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

No cellphone signal, no internet connection and not even a TV set; for some it might be a disaster but for me, Onuk Island is a paradise!

After bagging the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest (Places Category), Mr.George Tapan placed Onuk Island on the map. Local and foreign tourists started to check out that perfect spot where he captured his winning piece. It may be just a little dot on the Philippine map but this island is truly heaven on earth (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Palawan).

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

How to get to Onuk Island?, me and my travel blogger friend, Julius, reached the town of Balabac in the south-westernmost tip of Palawan. We coordinated with the Local Government Unit beforehand and personally spoke with the mayor, Hon. Shuaib Astami, about our plans on exploring some of the islands of Balabac.

Our main target was to check out Onuk Island which apparently is privately owned by the mayor and his family. With the permission to stay on the island for a night or maybe two (no fees or whatsoever was collected from us, including the meals), we headed to Onuk Island the next day.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Kuya Benjie rocks!
Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

The gloomy weather (with some occasional showers) didn’t stop us to hop on our outrigger boat with our very friendly boatman, Kuya Benjie. After 40 minutes we reached the island. We were gasping for air as we were getting near the island. The clear turquoise, cobalt (and all the shades of blue) waters and sky were all in perfect harmony. Everything was flawless and no words can truly describe its beauty.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

We ran off the shore and jumped for joy as we docked on the island. The caretakers of the island just watched as we collapsed helplessly into the blindingly ivory-white sand. It took an hour before it all sank in. The sun was nowhere to be found but it was all perfect.

The brouhaha ended when Kuya Benjie invited us for lunch. All of our meals were served on the common area (on stilts) overlooking the sea. Fresh fish cooked in different ways was our standard meal. What stood out was the grilled fish. It was yummy!

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
This.is.yummy
We noticed how some of the structures were on stilts. Apparently, when the tide gets high the sandbar vanishes leaving the structures ‘floating’. We did nothing but chill and forget about everything on the outside world. We had the island at that moment and I couldn’t ask for more.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

That afternoon, we chitchatted with some of the caretakers over some bottles of beer (we brought it from the mainland). We learned some interesting facts about Balabac and the locals. They pointed out some mountain ranges on the south side and revealed that it’s part of Malaysia. Crossing the border did cross our minds but we forgot to bring our passports with us, just kidding. There’s also an anecdote about some foreign guests who stayed on the island for five days and didn’t wanna leave. It captivated their hearts despite of the simplicity of the place.

A few more hours and the sun started to set on the mountain ranges of Balabac. It was a serene moment.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Uy Julius may Egret!
Ha?
Egret ba 'yan?
Stars dotted the sky as it turned grey to dark. More stories were shared as we lay on ourbanig mat and gazed upon the stars. I wanted to just settle there and doze off but Kuya Benjie rejected the idea for I will be floating any moment when the tides get high.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Handheld, effortless Milky Way!
Waking up in the morning was just as amazing as the island itself. The cloudy skies brought a very intense sunrise. And then rainfall.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Show us the sun c'mon!
It was raining all throughout that morning. We didn’t see it as a bummer but a chance to just relax and enjoy the moment. If this isn’t Onuk Island, I would be grumpy all day and forever sing the Rain, rain, go away song but I didn’t. I didn’t fret because even at its gloomy state, Onuk Island still stands out. This is, by far, the best island for me in the country.

The rain exhausted all its energy and decided to take a breather around noontime. This allowed us to roam around the whole island and check out what’s beyond the sandbar we’re stationed at.

Baby pawikans are such a common sight here. Being the breeding ground for the old-timer pawikans, the caretakers look out for some newly-hatched pawikans for a few weeks and eventually release them when their shells are hard enough. This is to prevent some predators to feast on them when they’re really young.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Come here babies...
We circled around the island and checked out its raw and rugged state. Old structures, boats and dead trees covered the island. This certain roughness exudes the beauty of the island in its purest form. I never wished that any part of the island will be cleared out of the debris. It’s nice the way it is.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

We didn’t fail to check out the underwater scene. Armed with our gear, we didn’t go that far to snorkel. Corals in its healthiest state and some schools of fish swarming all over are such a sight to see. Nemo was also there.

Just before we head back to civilization mainland Balabac, Kuya Benjie asked us to hop on the boat for we’re going somewhere. I generally hate surprises but this time I was quite thrilled about this certain surprise. After a few minutes on the paddle boat, we docked at a sandbar quite near the island. It is the sandbar that we’ve been eyeing forever. Kuya Benjie was so sweet that he took note of our conversation the day before and thought of bringing us here. He’s the sweetest I’m telling you.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Jumping off the boat, we, again, ran off the shore and checked out the sandbar. It still is a part of Onuk Island and it’s much longer and wider than I thought it’d be. We stayed there for a while and just viewed Onuk Island from that standpoint. If I could just have one, just one, material possession in this world I really wanna have something like this. Ok, dream on. Haha.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Sandbar is love!
The surprise didn’t just end there. Kuya Benjie was yet prepping up for another surprise. He was slowly and quietly paddling into the waters when he suddenly whispered something and pointed somewhere. And then we saw a huge pawikan swimming around our boat. And then another one. And then a bunch of them. We didn’t quite know where to look at anymore for they were really surrounding us at that moment.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
Just swimming around
And then the giant clams and the corals. As we were cruising back to our basecamp, we saw numerous giant clams and corals. No need for some goggles and underwater cameras for the water was so clear that we just snapped some photos from the boat.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
No need for underwater cameras
Onuk Island is really a gorgeous place. Everything you wanted is here. Clear, blue waters, white sandy beach, a sandbar, the pawikans, the giant clams and the corals and the nicest caretakers. Ahh… The place where you just wanna surrender.  Then it was time to leave.

Seriously, we didn’t wanna leave the island. We were contemplating on whether to check out some islands nearby or just stay on the island for the next days. We were sad when we decided to leave the island to explore more of Balabac islands. We’re pretty sure that we’ll be coming back here soon. And yes, we are so coming back to my favorite island.

Onuk Island Balabac Palawan
And I will be back... Soon...
Thank you so much Hon. Mayor Shuaib Astami and Ma’am Lorna Gapilango for all the help. Special shout out to the Onuk Boys especially to Kuya Benjie. Ikaw na talaga!


*Contact updated February 2017*

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






35 comments:

  1. Will you take me there when I come home for good? To describe it is beyond words. Thank you!

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  2. surreal :) can't wait to see that paradise, summer of 2015 :)

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  3. What's the source of fresh water in the island?

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  4. Wow! Sobrang ganda diyan, Ma'am! Seriously? You did not use an underwater cam for those coral photos - ang linaw.

    And, the baby "pawikans" everywhere - Wow, just wow!

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    Replies
    1. No underwater cam talaga Ian, sobrang klaro ng tubig :)

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    2. How much the budget po? - Lala

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    3. Depende sa tagal ng stay Lala :)

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  5. Replies
    1. Uy andami nyo na pupunta sa Balabac Gladys! :)

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  6. Next year pupunta ako diyan :)

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  7. pwede sumama sa mga nagbabalak pumunta dito? hehehehe. sana by february next year.....

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  8. hey, question. did you arrange to visit onuk ahead of time by calling the mayor before you arrived in Balabac? or did you just ask to find him once you got to Onuk and he said you can visit?

    can you tell me how much your entire cost was?

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi there Tony. Yep, we contacted the LGU beforehand :)

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  9. Hello @blissfulguro! Kailan po yung naging tour nio sa mga isla ng Balabac? Nag-communicate po ako kay Ma'am Lorna and ni-refer niya po ako sa local tourism officer nila, nag-inquire po ako thru phone call, at nalaman ko po na hindi po pala sila nag-aarrange ng island-to-island tour, which is what we are planning to do. Ganito rin po ba naging experience ninyo or same team lang po ang nag-facilitate ng island-to-island tour niyo? Medyo iba na rin po yata ang conditions ngayon because as per inquiry that I had, may Php2000/pax. na daw po. Maraming salamat po!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anton. Yung sa Onuk Island eh kailangan talaga sa LGU mag coordinate, yung ibang islands eh kahit pagdating na lang dun tas kumausap ng mga boatman :)

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    2. really? 2k pesos per person lang? how much po transpo?

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  10. That place is dangerous. Abu Sayyaf are present there. The German couple who went sailing were abducted there and the German government paid $5 million.

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    Replies
    1. I can't answer that as I really don't know any recent incident. But as for us, we were treated very well by the people of Balabac :)

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  11. Sana sa amin nalng yang island na yan, how I wish..:( I wonder pano kya makakuha ng island?

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  12. hi! how much estimated price for 2days?

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    Replies
    1. The van and ferry fares are listed on the post. Pati po yung accommodation. With regard to the island hopping eh wala talaga silang fixed price. Try contacting Ate Lorna for that :)

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  13. hello! planning to go solo backpacking here on my birthday (june), 2 nights sana. Possible po ba sya pag solo backpacking? At how much po yung boat rental?
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Ok naman mag solo dun Jo, just coordinate with the local government regarding the tours and stuff before going to Balabac :)

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  14. Hi! I am spanish guy and I am planning to stay at Onuk Island with my girl (two nights; end of May). I saw you posted Majors telephone number but that is a constraint for me as I am living in Spain. Is there any email adress or any other way to reach him? Thank you in advance. Ruben

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    Replies
    1. Hi there Ruben,

      They have no email address and cellphone network is intermittent there. Onuk Island is privately owned so I cannot promise you that they would accept guests or not on your visit there.

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