As much as I wanted to DIY my Gigantes Island Hopping experience, I can’t find anything online that can assure me that we can successfully do it given our time and budget. Most of the travel blogs I had read regarding Gigantes Island are done with an accredited travel agency, even the known backpackers. So I let go of the possibility of chartering a pump boat and contacted Gigantes Island Tours and Services in Facebook to join a tour. (I’m not a girl for tours! 🙁 )
If you have a jam packed itinerary and can only allot one day in Gigantes Island, welcome aboard to our fast paced day tour!
Contacting Gigantes Island Tours and Services
A week before out trip, I contacted Gigantes Tours in Facebook (which I saw from fellow blogger friends) to reserve a slot for April 9, 2018 Gigantes Island Joiner Day Tour for 999 PHP. They sent me a draft itinerary and the inclusions of the day tour rate. Also, a 30% down payment to be deposited on a bank account is needed to ensure your reservation.
Inclusions: charter boat, overloaded servings of food for lunch, tour guide fee, environmental fee, islands entrance fees, waterproof cellphone pouch
Itinerary: Bancal Port -> Palupandan Island -> Cabugao Gamay -> Lunch at Gigantes Tours guesthouse -> Antonia Beach -> Bantigue Sandbar -> Tangke Lagoon -> Bancal Port
And in case of bad weather in the date of your reservation, they will refund 100% of your money. Thumbs up on this!
A night before the island hopping
We were ready on how to go to Carles. I researched about it a multiple times before – ride a jeepney or taxi to Tagbak Terminal as early as 4 AM and look for shuttle vans (200 PHP) there because they are an hour faster than the bus.
But while on the middle of munching our after-dinner snacks and adulting issues conversations, an unknown number called me. I won’t usually answer but I thought that it will be Gigantes Island Tours. It was not. A stranger man on the phone told me that they offer van shuttle services to Bancal Port and was referred by the Gigantes Island Tour. They’ll pick us up on our hotel at 4 AM and we only have to pay 250 PHP. It’s a good offer so we agreed.
The Island Hopping
Our shuttle was on time at 4 AM. We bought some breakfast first at the 7-11 outside of our inn in preparation for the 5 hours travel to Carles, IloIlo. A few minutes after breakfast, we dozed off. We arrived at Bancal port around 9:20 AM already and the driver ushered us to Gigantes Island Tours and Services waiting area. A guy from the tours asked for our names to double check our reservations and asked us to wait for the other joiners.
It was already 10:20 when the guy a while ago came back and ushered us to the boat. I was shook by the other 35+ people in the boat because I’m quite just expecting for 15-20 people. In the itinerary they’ve sent me a week before, we were supposed to be visiting Palupandan Island first but they told us that we’ll head to Cabugao Gamay already. I would usually feel bad about it but I’ve started to accept that this things happen when you chose to be in a tour and I can’t complain about it.
ISLAND 1: CABUGAO GAMAY
We reached Cabugao Gamay, the most famous island in the Gigantes Group, at exactly 12nn. The guide gave us 45 minutes to enjoy the island and told us to line up first to the rock formation on the other side of the line so they’ll be able to take the mandatory photo. The sun is scorching hot and the line is long and all these things we endured for that photo!
On top of the rock formation, overlooking the whole island, the respective guides of each tour groups are ensuring that everyone will have a photo and no one is entitled enough to spend more than 5 minutes on the viewing deck. (Mabilisang blogger poses lang tayo guys!) It is surprisingly organized. Our guides took our solo and group photos then asked us to descend right after.
The island is small and filled with stack of rocks. We spent the last 15 minutes taking more photos and trying to make our own balanced rocks.
ISLAND 2: BANTIGUE SANDBAR
We were starving when we’ve arrived on island number 2. We’ve only eaten breakfast at 4:30 AM and it’s already 1 PM! We’re jealous of the people having their lunch on the huts here. Good thing, there are kids selling ice candies that can slightly tame my growling tummy. We spent less than 30 minutes on this island maybe because everyone is hungry.
The sandbar is short and nothing compared to Kalanggaman Island and to the photos I saw in google. Maybe we went on a high tide. Or the sandbar view is always better and more appreciated above. But we all enjoyed the view of two islands backdrop on the end of the sandbar. It’s gorgeous!
ISLAND 3: ANTONIA ISLAND
The heat has already gotten into us that as we docked in Antonia Island, we jumped out off the boat. The water is the cold that I needed and somehow woke me up from my “hangry mood”. Also, I’m slowly overcoming my fear of the ocean. YAY SELF!!!
The island is relaxing and somewhere you’ll want to spend your afternoons at. There are glamping tents on one side so I guess you can stay overnight here unlike in the first two islands. And on the other side are coconut trees that are beautifully aligned and a rock formation which you can hike up with care to see the view of the whole island.
We spent the remaining time in the cold water not caring that it’s 1:45 PM. We lost track of time that our guide fetch us because we’re the last ones not yet on the boat.
ISLAND 4: SOUTH GIGANTES ISLAND
We were told that we are now heading to Gigantes Island Tours and Services Guesthouse which means LUNCH!!!!! Our late lunch at last! Almost everyone is starving that we all hurriedly went straight inside the kubo and find some seats. The foods (scallops, galunggong, nilagang manok and chicken balls) are already served on the table so we immediately attacked.
After lunch, we tried to explore the island. The beachfront is dirty and full of boats. There’s a community just beside Gigantes Island Tour guesthouse and we found some halohalo for dessert. There’s nothing much to do here but we spent almost an hour since the remaining 70% of the payment must be settled here after lunch.
There are rooms available here and I’m not sure if this is where the overnight guests of Gigantes Tours stay. But if it is, the place and beachfront are not great compared to the other beach resorts in North Gigantes Island.
ISLAND 5: TANKE LAGOON
Energized and excited, we head up to our last destination – Tanke Saltwater Lagoon which is actually not an island for it is a part of South Gigantes Island. It only took us 10 minutes from the Gigantes Tours guesthouse to reach the overcrowded lagoon. You can see it from afar how boats are so near each other on the lagoon’s entrance.
Our guide told us that we’re just given 5 minutes to get out of the boat for they can’t stay in the drop off point since it’s narrow. The waves are big that it was hard to walk to the man-made bridge to the actual rock formation. We carefully hiked the rocks to see the lagoon which is gorgeous if not for all the people.
Just after the photo above was taken, a small commotion happened because a water snake appeared near the climbing part. It was crazy and funny at the same time because the panic went domino effect up to the people on the top. I got scared too that I don’t know how I was able to run fast (on water) and climb a rock.
The lagoon is quite big but the other side is already deep because of the high tide so we stayed on the waist-deep part.
We spent just 30 minutes here since we need to be back on Bancal Port by 5PM. We were gathered by our guides at the drop off point to wait for our boat that is parked in the middle of the sea. As we were waiting, we saw some brave souls who tried the cliff diving. I wanted to try as well but time is not on our side now.
We reached Bancal Port before 5PM and took a shower right after in a pay bathroom for 25 PHP. The line is a little long but the place is clean. One thing I appreciate about Gigantes Island Tours is that they also reserved us a van back to IloIlo City because there’s already no vans in Bancal Port after 5pm.
I’m not a girl for tours because I don’t like not having control of my time when travelling. Tours are usually on fast paced and has the tourist-y destinations mostly. This Gigantes tour is one of them. Their itinerary and inclusions are honestly good especially for people who only have a day for Gigantes. I enjoyed all the islands’ beauty, the lunch, their organized process, and their friendly guides. BUT what I didn’t like is that we’ve started late, drop off one island on our itinerary and change it mostly by moving the lunch at 2 PM. We visited two islands with growling stomachs that we just wanted to get through it instead of enjoying it at all.
It is still better to avail your island hopping with authorized agencies like Gigantes Island Tours. But if you’re in a big group of 10 or have enough money to spare, it is better to get a private tour than a joiners tour to be able to maximize your time on each island especially if you only have a day.
Have you been to Gigantes Island or planning to go soon? We can talk in the comment section below or chat me up on my Facebook page! 🙂