This may be your next summer destination.
My next adventure brought me to this unspoiled islets and sandbars sandwiched between the provinces Quezon and Masbate surrounding the island of Burias. Burias island is one of the three major islands of Masbate. It is separated from the Bicol Peninsula by the Burias Pass. The other two major islands are Ticao and the mainland Masbate.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word mangroves? Surely swimming will be the last thing you would associate with them as this type of tree grows predominantly in coastal areas which are salty and/or brackish and are often murky and muddy in consistency.
Well, not in Alibijaban (pronounced as A-li-bi-ha-ban) which I think is the highlight of my island hoping trip. Imagine long stretch of virgin sandbar with crystal clear waters gently crashing into the fine white sand stretching for few kilometers with mangroves jutting out punctuating the cerulean landscape. An emerging backpacker paradise, this alone is enough reason for you to pitch in a tent, visit the place and stay for a day or two.
To reach the place, one needs to go to the jump off point- San Andres Quezon, some 305km (6-7 hour travel by land) southeast of Manila. The port of San Andres would be the starting point of the island hopping adventure. The most convenient means to reach San Andres Quezon is by private transport so you have more flexibility when it comes to stopovers and travel time. On our trip, we are a group of 24 traveling in 2 private vans. We left BGC, Taguig at 10pm and we arrived at the port exactly 6am the next day. I had lost count of the number of times we had stopovers but overall it was a smooth ride.
If you are planning on traveling alone or with 2-3 companions, commuting is way more practical and economical option. Barney Auto Lines (contact numbers 09253227639/ 09207072414/ 09257474768) have scheduled trips from Cubao to San Andres at 3:00PM & 8:30PM daily. Ordinary buses with wifi will cost you Php417, airconditioned bus is at Php500. For students & senior citizens Php337. Superlines (02) 4143319 / (02)4143321 / 09225225192 (airconditioned buses at Php470 one way) have scheduled trips 4:30am, 2:30pm and 5:30pm daily.
Alternatively, bus companies like DLTB, Lucena Lines and Jac Liner have regular daily trips from Cubao to Lucena. Fare ranges from Php210 to Php250. There are vans (Php270) bound to San Andres at SM City Lucena but they follow no schedule and will only move until they are full.
For return trip starting in San Andres, theres a van that goes to Lucena at 3:00am, 4:00am and 6:00am schedule daily. You can reach them at +639105863023. On the other hand, Barney Auto Lines bound for Lucena leaves San Andres 9:00am for the first trip, then 10:00am and 1:00pm. The last trip leaves at 08:00PM but this is bound straight to Cubao. Superlines has departures at 3:00PM, 4:00PM, and 9:00PM (San Andres to Cubao).
From San Andres bus terminal, you can take those bicycles with side cars called “padyak” to reach pier at Php20 per ride, but in reality, it depends on how generous you are because you will surely get an answer, “Bahala na po kayo” (all up to you) when you ask how much is the fare.
Once you arrive at the port of San Andres, you need to register first, pay the environmental fee of Php4 per head and enlist your name and other pertinent details on the boat’s manifesto. If you have a car there is a spacious parking lot right in front of the port office (Thats Php30 per vehicle for the whole duration of the stay)
Boat transfers to and from Alibijaban Island including island hoping on the nearby islets can be arranged through Randy (+639107629271/ +639982758413). Please call him as he doesn’t reply via text. We rented his boat at Php1,500. We were 12 in the group plus huge bags and tents so the boat was quite overloaded. I suggest you limit the capacity to 10 people max in a boat so it is more comfortable. The boat ride takes around 30 – 45 minutes to reach Alibijaban.
On the other hand, if you just wanted to visit Alibijaban Island alone you can also have an option to take motorized bancas that locals use that ply to and fro the island on a regular basis for Php50/head one way. Upon entering the island you can contact Ate Baby (+69300123620) for assistance. Below are the updated rates on the island:
• Alibijaban Entrance/ Environmental Fee – Php100
• Tent rental – Php100
• Room rental overnight Php700 (up to 3pax)
• nipa hut rental Php150
• nipa huts with room- Php250
• water for utility Php10/pail Php150/drum
Island hoping activity can take the entire day so better start early so you can have ample time to visit the following islands:
Aside from Alibijaban, this is the most popular pitstop on the island hoping tour. This has a distinct seastack that looks like giant surfboards piled forming a gigantic platform jutting from the clear blue sea. Within the area you can also see an enclosure naturally made by the sedimentary rock formation called by the locals as “mermaid’s lair”. Best time to visit is during low tide so you can wade and swim in waist deep cerulean blue waters. The rock formations in Animasola due to sedimentation have stratified patterns giving an interesting appearance – perfect backdrop for photoshoots. Environmental/entrance fee to Animasola Island is Php20.
2. Tinalisayan Islet and Sandbar
Next island you should not miss is a snake-shaped island found east off coast of Burias. The island itself is a big boulder of rock that is teeming with coconuts that offer shade – perfect place to hang out after checking the sandbar on which the islet is famous for. The top of the hill is used to be covered in red talisay trees according to locals hence the name.
3. Sombrero Island
Named because of its hat-like appearance, If you love snorkeling and free diving, you will like the place as it boast of an impressive dive spot called “batok” that can be found near the island. This island have huts that you can rent for an overnight stay. Amenities like water and bathroom are existing, for a certain fee. Environmental/entrance fee for Sombrero island is Php5. The place is being maintained by local community and the facilities are relatively new. Another perfect place you can pitch tent if you decided explore the entire island.
4. Islang Dapa / Snake Island
Jagged. thats one word to describe this beauty. Sharp, steep limestone formation that covers the top of the island like a crown that can be seen from a distance. The island is littered with pockets of small coves with fine white sand that can fit few people. If you like cliff diving, this is the place that you need to go, but be careful of the things that make this islet famous, or infamous – snakes. Surrounded by cool and clear turquoise water, there is a spot on the islet wherein you can climb on one of those narrow coves to reach the top where you can cliff jump and dive all you want.
• try to start the island hoping early so you can maximize the time in visiting the islands.
• Start with Animasola island as it is the farthest to reach. It will take you 2-3 hrs to reach it from San Andres port. Then from there, make your way back to the islets until you reach the pitstop – Alibijaban.
• Ideally you can go for two days, do the island hoping the first day and spend the next day exploring the sandbars in Alibijaban.
• you can request for someone from the island to cook lunch/dinner for you for a fee.
• Try to join smaller groups so you can have the boat rental in San Andres cheaper.
• Most of the time, the island hopping tour packages they are offering doesn’t include meal so better get your supply in San Andres market before you head to Alibijaban.
• Theres electricity in the island but cellular reception is intermittent specially for Globe.
10:00PM ETD Manila from BGC,Taguig
5:30AM – 6:00AM ETA San Andres Quezon
6:00AM – 7:00AM Breakfast/ Registration/ Buy stuff at the market
8:00AM Drop bags and register at Alibijaban/ Start of Island Hoping
8:30AM – 11:00AM First Stop: Animasola Island
11:30AM – 12:30PM Lunch at Animasola Island
1:30PM Leave Animasola, head to the next island
2:00PM – 3:00PM Second Stop: Tinalisayan Island
3:00PM – 4:00PM Third Stop: Sombrero Island
4:00PM – 5:00PM Last Stop: Island Dapa/ Cliff Diving
6:00PM head back to Alibijaban
7:00PM – 8:00PM Dinner time
9:00PM – 11:00PM Socials/ Free time
11:00 onwards Wash up/ Lights out
6:00AM Wake up time
6:30AM – 7:30AM Breakfast
7:30AM – 9:30AM Free time
9:30AM – 10:30AM Wash up/ Pack stuff
10:30AM – 12:30PM Tour at Sandbar and Mangroves areas (low tide)
12:30PM – 1:00PM Back to San Andres Port
1:00PM – 2:00 PM Late Lunch
2:30PM ETD San Andres
9:00PM ETA BGC, Taguig
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