Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Rare Gem Hidden in the Crowd: Carabao Island, Romblon

          Set in the southernmost part of the Province of Romblon, Carabao Island (popularly known as Hambil to the locals and also known as Municipality of San Jose) is a virgin island paradise, typically rural and generally out of the usual tourist path.  It is considered as Boracay’s “twin sister” because of its proximity to the island, however they offer contrasting ambiance. Carabao Island got its name from its carabao-like topography when viewed from above but according to the legends there used to be plenty of carabaos roaming freely on the island.

The island is relatively undeveloped with limited power and water supply. Thus, it is best enjoyed by appreciating life and nature’s simple pleasures. Beautiful white sand beaches, deserted coves, thriving sea life, coastal and mountain tracks canopied by lush tropical vegetation are some of the simple pleasures that you may enjoy. With its pristine beauty, time passes by unnoticed. No doubt the island holds rewarding treasures for those who choose offbeat path.


            There are plenty of activities available in the island that one can enjoy. Here’s some of the list:

  • Bask on its beaches and deserted coves
  • Swim on its turquoise clear waters
  • Snorkel or dive and get a glimpse of thriving sea life

  • Visit Kuding-Kuding Cave – This is one of the newest attractions in the island. You can swim inside the cave which has a small underwater opening that leads directly to the sea and at the same time try some adrenaline rush activity like cliff diving/jumping. Take note: Entrance fee is 100php per person.

  • Spelunking inside the Ngiriton Bat Cave – It is a small fascinating cave filled with bats and just 15 minutes away from Kuding-Kuding Cave. Take note: Entrance fee is 100php per person and this includes one fresh coconut to quench your thirst.
  • See the Tagaytay Point – This was named after the city with a view of Taal Volcano. In their version, you get a view of Boracay Island.
  • Sunrise and sunset watching

How to Get There:

            Carabao Island is only accessible by boat as there is no airport available in the island. The nearest operating commercial airport to the island is the Godofredo Ramos Airport (Caticlan-Boracay Airport).

Via Caticlan, Aklan:

Caticlan, Aklan is can be reached by plane from Manila and other major cities in the Philippines thru Godofredo Ramos Airport (Caticlan-Boracay Airport). Ferry boats and RoRo type vessels are also available twenty-four (24) hours.  Upon arrival catch a tricycle going to Tabon Baybay and look for the public boat going to the island. Travel time is approximately 1 hour depending on the weather condition. Take note: It has only two (2) boat trips daily and leaves at 0600H and 0900H.

Via Boracay Island:

Daily trips are available in the island specifically in Brgy. Bulabog but boat schedules here are indefinite. Usually it only transports workers from Carabao Island to Boracay Island and back. If you’re lucky enough to catch public boat trips, you can save a big amount as fare starts only at 50php. However, if you miss the public boat you can charter one either in Brgy. Bulabog or Puka Beach and rate is as low as 2,500php round-trip.

            On this trip, my travel companion and I opted to charter a boat for 2,500php round-trip from Brgy. Bulabog, Boracay Island to Said Port, Carabao Island. The boatmen were Kuya Sherwin and Kuya Shiro, locals of Carabao Island and plies to Carabao Island to Boracay Island and vice versa daily. Contact number: +63912-9044342.

Via Tablas Island:

Tablas Island is can be reached by plane from Manila thru Tugdan Airport and ferry boats and RoRo type vessels. Upon arrival catch a jeep going to Sta. Fe and get off at Terminal and Tourism Building. Travel time is more or less than an hour depending on the weather condition. Take note: It has only one (1) boat trip daily and leaves at 0930H.

Where to Stay:

            There are several accommodations available in the island and most of them are located in the side of Lanas but for this particular trip, we opted to stay at the newly built Terraza de Isla Carabao Beach Resort located in Sitio Inobahan, Poblacion, San Jose near the Carabao Island welcome arc and tourism office. Overnight stay starts at 500php per person and the room is already equipped with AC unit and private comfort room; amenities were very basic though. (Contact number: +63917-5159939 or +63947-2230352)

            Other options: Republic of Inobahan Beach Resort (Contact number: +63918-3303718 or +63915-5627597), Friedls Cottage, White Beach Dive and Kite Resort (Contact number: +63939-7747410) and a couple of other inns and homestays.

Where to Eat:

            No established restaurants or fast food chains available in the island. Most of the resorts, inns and homestays offers home cooked meals or pre-ordered meals. For this particular trip, we ate at Republic of Inobahan Beach Resort – one of the most established resorts with eatery serving good food at a very affordable price. It is also the nearest eatery in our accommodation.

Getting Around:

Touring around the island is easy. For guide and transportation, I highly recommend my habal-habal driver Kuya Rowen Bantang. You may reach him thru his mobile number: +63907-7742315. He knows where to bring you, shares stories about the places you visit and guarantees guests are safe. (Take Note: The island tour costs 500php.)

If you happen to hire him, please send my warm regards.

Thank you for reading and sharing!

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