The Hidden Paradise: Enroute Islas de Gigantes, Carles, Iloilo

  • Saturday, February 13, 2016

I myself was once guilty of having this impression. Having lived in Iloilo City for almost one third of my life, there have been several attempts for me to visit these islands but my chaotic work schedule and the duration of travel would always discourage me to accomplish this mission. Through the word of mouth and social media, the enchanting beauty of these islands has been known all throughout the country which inspired more tourists to pack and visit the place. As the island is slowly gaining popularity, efforts has been made by the municipality tourism to make the travel on the island much easier. A friend who happened to visit the island way before this developments happened can recall how exhausting and traumatic it was for them travelling by the sea. But nowadays, if you’re adventurous enough, you can even travel like the locals with no sweat and can save you a lot of money. However since commuting would be far more time consuming, we opted to hire our own private boat to cut down our travel time. Another advantage of having your own private boat is you get to enjoy the view on your way there- island communities surrounded by limestone cliffs, flying fishes and seasnakes riding the waves and  flocks of birds in the sky.

Carles is a fishing community, along the way you will encounter a lot of fish farms in the open sea lined by bamboo fence.

These islands are not just merely tourist attraction, it has small communities in it. We did a short stop-over in here to fetch our tour guide before the island hopping.

Children of the sea. I envy these kids who were taught  to swim early and now made the sea their playground. 
This is a usual sight in the island where fishermen travel but non-motorized boat.

How to get there?
The cheapest way is to travel like the locals using public transportation. If you’re coming from Manila or in other parts of the country, you can take the plane with direct flights to Iloilo. From the airport you can take the taxi going to the provincial bus terminal in Tagbak in Jaro area. At the terminal, you have the option to travel by van or by bus (Ceres Liner) going to either Carles or Estancia. We opted to travel by bus for safety reasons but it is said that travelling by van can save you a lot of time since it has less stops. Bus fare for airconditioned buses (with wifi! Hehe) is around 270-300 pesos (20 to 30 pesos cheaper for non-aircon) with average travel time of around 3-4 hours.

Most air-conditioned buses of Ceres liner are new units and the seats are comfortable with wider leg room. It has an on board TV with DVD player so you can have DVD marathon of FPJ movies on your way to Estancia. =)  But I opted to spend  my entire trip in a productive way- what else but sleeping! haha

One of the busiest fishing port in the island.

Although Isla Gigantes technically belongs to the Municipality of Carles, it’s more convenient to travel thru Estancia because the port in Estancia is much more organized and there are plenty of private boats you can rent going to the island.  Those coming from Roxas and Kalibo can take van going to Estancia.

These are the common scenery one would encounter on the way to Estancia. Lucky for us, the sun is up and the skies are blue which made me more excited to reach our destination!
From the Estancia Bus terminal one can either travel by foot going to the port (about 10-15 minute walk depending on how athletic you are! hehe) or by tricycle which cost about 10 pesos.  Were just too lazy to walk so we decided to take the tricycle and drive thru at Andoks to take out our meal for lunch. We opted to have a travelling lunch in order to save time.

Andoks is just a short walk from the port. There are plenty of choices of set meal costing around 60-100 pesos per meal inclusive with drinks.
Our set meal on board RMN ferry bound for Isla Gigantes.
The set meal I ordered at Andoks was a big disappointment! I ended up dieting. haha
Upon arrival at the port, we headed to the boat we rented which will bring us to the island. Each private boat cost about 4,500 to 5,000 pesos which can accommodate to around 5-10 persons. The rent includes roundtrip ride from mainland Estancia to Isla Gigantes and island hopping.

There are several private boats waiting at the port of Estancia, you just have to reserve ahead. If you intend to stay on the island overnight, your resort can make the necessary arrangements for you.
One can also commute using public boat which leaves the Estancia port every 2pm. Theres only one trip leaving the mainland so you should be there an hour prior the boat leaves. This boat is much bigger than the private boats for rent since it carries passengers and supplies for resorts. The fare is about 80-100 pesos and travel time is around 3-4 hours. 

This is the public ferry that carries supplies and passengers going to the island.
We arrived and left early from Estancia port so we decided to start our island hopping. When we arrived at Isla Gigantes Norte where our resort Higantes Hideaway Inn in Barangay Asluman is located, it was past sunset already.

The dusky background makes it more dramatic.
The breathtaking view of the island surrounded by fishing boats with the dusky skyline on the background was a great welcome treat. So I immediately grabbed my camera and took several shots before jumping out of our boat.

I just love the composition of this photo. A typical sunset in Gigantes Norte but one of the best I've seen.
The serene scenery around you somehow calms the soul. I took this photo while were on our way by foot to our resort.
It  was also low tide when we arrived in the island so we didn't much have choice but to stride along the seashore with water about knee high because our boat cannot come close to the island.

The ground can be slippery due to the moss and sea grass underwater so be careful with your steps.  Also make sure that your backpacks and luggages are high enough not to get wet.
Our resort was still a few meters away from where we docked and one has to take the motorbike to get to the resort. The motorbike or popularly known in the island as habal-habal is the local transportation. It can carry 1-2 persons and cost around 10 pesos for each ride. We asked our tour guide how long it was to travel by foot and he said 10 to 15 minutes so we opted to walk to get the feel of the island life and familiarize ourselves to the place.

This is the main mode of transportation in island.
This is just the first part of my Isla Gigantes experience and the best is yet to come.  I decided to make a series of posts to Islas Gigantes and below are some of it.  You'll love it. Promise! =)

Thanks for reading! ;-)

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