Balabac Trip Primer (Group tours/Private tours with at least 5 pax)

This is a special post for those who have reserved for our Balabac 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 via our Facebook Page. If you happen to find this page by accident, you may inquire about our Balabac trips on the same page.

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 is already in progress, 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 can be challenging, (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.

Your trip will be less hassle, though since:

1) A private van will transport the group (as long as at least 5 pax) from PPS to Rio Tuba or Buliluyan port,

2) and we are in contact with the campsite caretaker, who is providing our boat tours and camping food. No need to mind your meals while on the tour. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided during the entire island hopping/camping trip.

3) Tents are already provided, although you can still bring your own if you want to.

4) Permits (especially when visiting Onuk Island) is easy because our caretaker is allowed to bring guests there. (There are boatmen not allowed to enter Onuk).

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 🙂 My first visit in Balabac was last March 29-Apr1 (Holy Week) 2018 with a group of solo joiners.  There are very few tourists who go there compared to Coron and El Nido, and the boatmen and tour guides there don’t have an internet connection to invite tourists. I realized that promoting tourism in Balabac will help the locals’ economy. So I’m organizing these trips to for nature/beach/adventure-lovers to experience this paradise, as well as help the locals earn a living.

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 you will travel with a bigger 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 fee is a little bit heavy on our pockets, but think of it as spending only so little for something as beautiful as the expensive Maldives. 😉 Below are the inclusions in the rate:

  • Round trip van transfers from Puerto Princesa – Southern Port (for groups with at least 5 guests)
  • Island camping. Tents for sharing are available, but you’re free to bring your own tent and hammock.
  • All island entrance fees including Onuk Island entrance fee (this is the most expensive of all at 1500 per head!)
  • Campsite food and water (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Use of generator at night

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 target set of islands during your trip in Balabac, we cannot assure that you will follow a strict itinerary. Anything goes here since the boatmen will have to adjust to the tides and waves’ condition. In short, there is no fixed times and itineraries! Island time will be followed 😉  Below is the itinerary for groups of at least 5pax.

3D2N Itinerary

Day 0
Flight to Puerto Princesa for those coming from outside Palawan

Day 1
2am – Pick up from your hotel in Puerto Princesa
7am onwards – ETA at Buliluyan Port. Boat pick up, start of island hopping + breakfast + lunch on board
4pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring camp site. Pitch tents.
6pm – Dinner & Free Time
Day 2 
7am – Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.
8am onwards- Start of island/sandbar hopping with lunch on board/island
5pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring campsite
6pm – Dinner

Day 3 
7am – Early Breakfast.
8am – Explore/chill at Punta Sebaring 
9am – Pack up
11am – ETD from Punta Sebaring for Buliluyan port. Packed lunch
1 pm – ETA at Buliluyan Port
8pm – ETA to Puerto Princesa

4D3N Itinerary

Day 0
Flight to Puerto Princesa for those coming from outside Palawan

Day 1
2am – Pick up from your hotel in Puerto Princesa
7am onwards – ETA at Buliluyan Port. Boat pick up, start of island hopping + breakfast + lunch on board
4pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring camp site. Pitch tents.
6pm – Dinner & Free Time
Day 2 
7am – Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.
8am onwards- Start of island/sandbar hopping with lunch on board/island
5pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring campsite
6pm – Dinner
Day 3 
7am – Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.
8am onwards- Start of island/sandbar hopping with lunch on board/island
5pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring campsite
6pm – Dinner

Day 4
7am – Breakfast.
7am – Explore/chill at Punta Sebaring
9am – Pack up
11am – ETD from Punta Sebaring for Buliluyan port. Packed lunch
1 pm – ETA at Buliluyan. Ride van back to Puerto Princesa
8pm – ETA to Puerto Princesa

5D4N Itinerary

Day 0
Flight to Puerto Princesa for those coming from outside Palawan

Day 1
2am – Pick up from your hotel in Puerto Princesa
7am onwards – ETA at Buliluyan Port. Boat pick up, start of island hopping + breakfast + lunch on board
4pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring camp site. Pitch tents.
6pm – Dinner & Free Time
Day 2 
7am – Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.
8am onwards- Start of island/sandbar hopping with lunch on board/island
5pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring campsite
6pm – Dinner
Day 3 
7am – Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.
8am onwards- Start of island/sandbar hopping with lunch on board/island
5pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring campsite
6pm – Dinner
Day 4
7am – Breakfast.  Prepare for island hopping.
8am onwards- Start of island/sandbar hopping with lunch on board/island
5pm – ETA to Punta Sebaring campsite
6pm – Dinner

Day 5
7am – Breakfast.
8am – Explore/chill at Punta Sebaring
9am – Pack up
11am – ETD from Punta Sebaring for Buliluyan port. Packed lunch
1 pm – ETA at Buliluyan. Ride van back to Puerto Princesa
8pm – ETA to Puerto Princesa

 Campsite

The beautiful beach of Punta Sebaring will be your home during your Balabac trip. 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.

What to expect in Punta Sebaring:

  • Very basic accommodation. You 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 on exposed skin! When you go down from the boat, it is advised to apply insect repellant right away.
  • Limited electricity. The generator will be turned on for a couple of hours at night so you can charge your device.
  • 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.
  • Although there are reported cases of diarrhea in Balabac because there is no clean source of water, you don’t have to worry because bottled water imported from Malaysia will be provided.
  • 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. But there is fresh water you can use to shower 🙂
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.
  • 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)
  • Insect repellant.
  • 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 and May 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.”

 

Leave a Reply