4D3N Balabac Trip Primer

This is a speacial post for those who have reserved for our Balabac 4d3n trip 🙂 Although I may not be able to cover everything, I will give you an idea of what to expect in this trip.  Kindly read intensively, and if I have missed a concern, you may ask me via our group chat 🙂

Before reading the following though, please make sure you register here: http://bit.ly/balabacform

Where is Balabac?

Balabac is a group of islands in the southernmost tip of Palawan. Although a number of people have already visited there before, it’s still unknown to the majority of the public. The tourism code has also just been approved last March, which means that Balabac is slowly starting to get ready for tourism.

There are 32 islands, a combination of small and few big ones, that comprise Balabac. These islands are unspoiled and only the big islands are inhabited by a mix of Muslims and Palaw’an ethnic group. It is also home to long white sand bars, crystal clear waters and wide range of marine life.

There are very few travel agencies from Puerto Princesa who organizes tours to Balabac, and they don’t usually cover all the best places to visit. That’s why adventurous people are forced to DIY it, which requires a lot of planning because (1) there is no fix scheduled island hopping trips,  (2) transportation from PPS to Rio Tuba is difficult, (3) the ferry trip from Rio Tuba to mainland Balabac takes 4 hours and (4) the islands are privately owned (which means you need to get a permit before landing).

Our trip will be less hassle, though, since we will hire a van for transport from PPS to Rio Tuba port, and we are in contact with a campsite caretaker, who is providing our boat tours and camping food.

Clear waters... A natural infinity pool
Clear waters… A natural infinity pool
Corals down there.
Corals down there.

Who is The WanderWalkers?

Represented by yours truly, The Wanderwalkers is a travel group that loves off-the-beaten-track adventures. I usually travel alone and document my experiences through this website. However, there are places where it’s better to do with a group to minimize the expenses. Balabac is one of them 🙂 This is the second Balabac trip I am organizing. The first one was last March 29-Apr1 (Holy Week) 2018 with a group of solo joiners. However, we missed some islands like the popular Onuk island and Candamaran, and our visit to the sandbars was during the high tide. We were not able to visit Onuk because our boatman was not permitted to do trips there… this time I’m in contact with someone who has been sending guests there. So I’m organizing another trip to experience these must-see places in Palawan.

Balabac Trip wave 1
Balabac Trip wave 1
Balabac Trip wave 1

What’s Included

If you watched Jessica Soho’s feature of Balabac, it was assumed that you need 5k per day to do the boat tours. This is because the islands are far from each other. But since we are a big group, the cost is minimized. You might find blogs from years ago mentioning cheaper expenses, but they actually did not visit as many islands as we will be visiting. I know the 12K is a little bit heavy on our pockets, but think of it as spending only 12K for something as beautiful as the expensive Maldives. 😉 Below are the inclusions in the rate:

  • Round trip van transfers from Puerto Princesa – Rio Tuba Port
  • Ferry from Rio Tuba to Balabac Mainland
  • Island camping. Tents for sharing are available, but you’re free to bring your own tent and hammock.
  • Onuk Island entrance fee (this is the most expensive of all haha)
  • Campsite food and water (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • Travel Insurance

Exclusions:
-Airfare
-Accommodation in Puerto Princesa
-Snacks during the island hopping tours

Onuk Island <3
Onuk Island (c) jaypeeswing <3

 

Itinerary

Although there is a laid plan for our 4D3N in Balabac, we cannot assure that we will follow a strict itinerary. Anything goes here since we will have to adjust to the tides and waves’ condition. We will visit the sandbars when the tide is low, so there’s no fixed time.

Also, Balabac Coast Guard and LGU has implemented a strict rule beginning May 8, 2018 requiring all Balabac tourists to ride the passenger boat from Rio Tuba (instead of riding hired tourist boats) to Balabac Mainland (instead of going straight to campsites) to register. This makes our first day

Day 0 May 23:
Flight to Puerto Princesa for those coming from Manila.
Day 1 May 24: Travel to Mainland Balabac to register. 
4am – Pick up from your hotel in Puerto Princesa
9am – ETA at Rio Tuba port. Breakfast.
11am – ETD Rio Tuba to Balabac Mainland. Lunch on board
4pm – ETA Balabac Mainland
4:30pm – ETD to Punta Sebaring camp site
6pm – ETA Punta Sebaring.
 Pitch tent.
7pm – Dinner & Free Time
Day 2 May 25:
6am – Wake up call. Observe sunrise. Early Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.

7am – Depart PB
Onwards: Visit the islands of Patawan, Patunggong, Candaraman, Canibungan & Mansalangan sandbar.
Lunch on board.
Back to Punta Sebaring
Leisure/beach walk to the Brgy (where you can buy cold sodas and beers).

Dinner & Free Time.

Day 3 May 26:

6am – Wake up call. Observe sunrise. Early Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.

7am – Depart PB

Onwards: Visit Onuk island and Comiran island (pink beach).

Lunch on board.
Back to Punta Sebaring. Dinner.
Leisure/beach walk to the Brgy (where you can buy cold sodas and beers).
Day 4 May 27:

6am – Wake up call. Observe sunrise. Early Breakfast.  

Beach walk (35 mins) while the tide is low and witness the vast, powdery white sands of Punta Sebaring.

9am – ETD Punta Sebaring for RioTuba pier.
On the way, witness the merging of the Phil West Sea and Sulu Sea.

12 noon – ETA at RioTuba is 12noon. Lunch in one of the eateries (care of the guest).

6pm – ETA to Puerto Princesa

Campsite

The beautiful beach of Punta Sebaring will be our home for 3 nights. Expect incredible sunrises every morning (weather-permitting), finest white sand and wide beach front. This island is not developed at all. When you leave your home for Balabac, you will also have to leave behind the luxury of having walls, 24/7 electricity and mobile signal.

During our last trip, we camped at Canibugan island, which is infested with mosquitoes that are not scared of repellants, and that can penetrate through thin clothing. Although it is white sand, the shore is dirty with PET bottles and other kinds of trash. This is why we are camping at a different location this time. Nik-niks in Punta Sebaring are maybe less powerful than the mosquitoes in Canibugan.

What to expect in Punta Sebaring:

  • Very basic accommodation. We will just sleep in tents (or hammocks, if you have your own).
  • Presence of sandflies especially during dusk and dawn. When at the campsite, better to wear long sleeves and long pants/leggings. Put insect repellant in exposed skin!
  • Limited electricity. The generator will be turned on for a couple of hours at night so you can charge your device. The generator use is not included in the package, but we can still use it. Let’s just chip in at the end of our stay to give a tip to the caretakers for allowing us to use the generator. Maybe 100/pax for the entire duration will do. We’ll see when we get there.
  • Disconnect to connect. There is an absence of mobile signal. Although there may be limited/spotty access, best to expect that you will be disconnected from the world, while you connect with nature.
  • There are reported cases of diarrhea in Balabac because there is no clean source of water. So always bring your water bottle. A container of clean water from Puerto Princesa will be provided each day so you can refill your bottle, but it’s also better if you bring your own extra water.
  • It’s usually breezy by the beach at night. If you are worried that it will be hot, you may bring a pamaypay.
  • No city-class toilets. Only the provincial type.
Punta Sebaring Campsite dining hall
Punta Sebaring Campsite dining hall
Punta Sebaring Campsite
Punta Sebaring Campsite
Punta Sebaring Campsite
Punta Sebaring Campsite

What should You bring?

Aside from your swimwear, sleepwear and photoshoot outfits, make sure that you bring the following.

  • Refillable water bottle and extra water (at least 2 liters).
    One container of purified water will be provided for the group per day, so you should have your own water bottle to refill.
  • Personal snacks during the island hopping.
  • Malong/blanket/tent/hammock.
    Bring whatever you need for a good night’s sleep. Tents for sharing will be provided, but if you want to stay in your own tent, you may bring it.
  • Sun protection. (Sunscreen, shades, hat)
  • Oil-based insect repellant. Better if you can make your own repellant- sunscreen in one solution so that you don’t have to apply 2 kinds of spray/lotion each time.
  • Rashguard
  • Leggings/pants to avoid niknik (sand fly) bites.
  • Waterproof camera (action camera or phone)
  • Extra memory card. Make sure you have big internal storage available in your devices.
  • High-capacity powerbanks, extra battery for your action cam/drones.
  • Drone (if any)
  • Snorkeling set
  • Drybag as a daypack to bring your basic necessities (sunblock, repellant, camera, powerbank, water, microfiber towel) during the boat trips.
  • Big plastic/trash bag to waterproof your baggage during the boat trips.
  • Bonamine and personal medicine/first aid kit.
  • Inflatable banana air sofa or mat to sit on while at the beach (Optional). You may also use this to float in the water during our stops.
  • Cash. No ATMs there. We will visit the barangay where we can buy some goods.
  • Wet wipes tissue.

Safety

Many people who have heard about Palawan thinks that it is unsafe to go here because of its proximity to the Muslim bandits in Sulu. However, during my last visit there last March 2018, we felt as if there were no threats at all. We even went to Marabon where a thriving community of Muslims is residing. The most dangerous part of traveling to Balabac is boat rides in the open sea. But since we will travel during May (summer) when the waves are at their calmest, we can rest assured that the trip will do just fine.

Also, prior to March 2018, it is said that Balabac is not open for foreign visitors because they might be an object of interest for the kidnappers. However, our boat captain during our last trip there had visitors from Romania and New Zealand. Being accompanied by knowledgeable locals is the key to a safe trip in Balabac.

Travel insurance is also provided for each guest.

Food

The food is provided by the caretakers and boatmen. It is usually seafood freshly caught from the sea, but some meat will also be provided. Make sure to fill up the registration form to let us know if you have food allergies:

Reminders

  • Leave No Trace. Do not leave any form of your trash in the islands and water. Conserve water.
  • Be responsible of your valuables.
  • Minimize noise in the islands. Respect the local communities. The caretakers are not our servants, but are actually family of the owners. The boatmen are our captains who make sure we have a safe experience. So please treat them respectfully. 🙂
  • Make friends with other joiners of the tour. 🙂

Disclaimer

This adventure is not for everyone. Expect the unexpected. There is no hour-per-hour itinerary since anything goes with Mother Nature – the winds, waves, rain, tough tides, sand flies, and unexpected events like delayed flights, departures, and arrivals. Step out of your comfort zones. Please let us know if you cannot handle these. But one thing is sure though… Balabac is worth all these 🙂 As one of my favorite quote says, “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”

 

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