Iloilo: The Beauty of Gigantes Islands
January 1, 1970
DISCOVER THE BEAUTY OF GIGANTES ISLAND
It was just an invitation from a friend when I decided to book a plane ticket to Iloilo, an island in the Visayas Region of the Philippines. I received the invite last March and flew to Iloilo last June. Coming from Manila, my first thoughts were of course, where to stay (I didn’t want to be a hassle to my friend, though she offered to adopt me), where to go in Iloilo, and what activities would be best for fueling my wanderlust. While I was waiting for my Iloilo flight the entire 3 months, I searched for places and found the beautiful Gigantes Islands. At that moment, I told myself… I WILL DEFINITELY VISIT THIS BEAUTY WHEN I GET TO ILOILO.
First things first. I have to find a contact person in Gigantes Islands. I searched for days, and thankfully a traveling online community led me to the right person. I booked a DAY TOUR package for 4 (for me, my hub, my friend, and her hub). Our package includes a boat for island hopping, free lunch (mostly seafoods), entrance fees to the islands, and a guide. Details at the end of this post.
TRAVELING FROM MANILA TO JARO, ILOILO
It takes an hour flight from Manila going to Iloilo. They say that the easiest set-off point to Gigantes is through Roxas, Capiz, but I booked a direct flight to Iloilo since I came to visit my friend. If you plan to book a flight, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific offers direct flights to Iloilo.
Our supposed to be afternoon flight ended up delayed due to rough weather conditions, but as my travel mantra goes, “ALWAYS BRING YOUR OWN SUNSHINE!” It did not fail me. From the airport, we traveled for about an hour and a half via an express van to Tagbac, where SM Iloilo and some other malls are located. From Tagbac, it’s about 20 minutes to the city of Jaro. That’s where my friend resides.
Best thing when travelling is that you get to meet new people. As we arrived at Jaro, we came to a conclusion that Ilonggos (people in Iloilo) are naturally welcoming and accommodating. A very kind stranger even brought us to my friend’s place from Tagbac for free. At that point, I knew that hubs and I would definitely enjoy our stay. Aside from the sweet-sounding dialect of the Ilonggos, locals were indeed very nice to travelers like us. I must say that the entire city is backpacker friendly. Accommodations were easy to find as well.
TRAVELING FROM JARO TO CARLES
Luckily, bus terminal to the town of Carles (where Gigantes Group of Islands are located) is just ten minutes away from my friend’s place. We took a Ceres Bus Liner from Jaro to Estancia. There are actually two bus routes going to the port. You may take a 4-hour bus ride going to Estancia and a 30 minute tricycle ride to Carles, or you may take a direct route from Jaro to Carles.
The sun peeped out during our bus ride, and my friend, together with our respective hubbies were so excited at that moment.
ARRIVAL AT CARLES TO GIGANTES
Upon arrival, we were welcomed by my travel contact, Mr. Patrick Macario Aguirre (you can search him easily on Facebook). We changed from travel clothes to swimming apparel since they told us to expect getting wet on the boat ride. A changing room is available at the port. It was a cloudy morning, but of course we were in the hopes that sunshine will show up anytime soon.
Gigantes is about an hour and a half via pump boat from the main port of the town of Carles. That time. waves were not exactly calm as we traveled during a storm’s tail-end. Locals say that it is best to visit the islands during summer.
THE BEAUTY OF GIGANTES AND THE NEIGHBORING ISLANDS
From the port, our first stop was Cabugao Gamay Island. Rock formations were such a sightly view and a little rocky hike allowed us to see a 360 panoramic view of the island.
It was a bit of a hike, as we had to climb ginormous rock formations to be able to see the wonderful view. A fee of P50 would be collected by the island caretakers if you want to hike up the giant rock, but thankfully it was included in our package. So, we wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. The four of us decided to hike and as we reached the top, the hike was worth it! It was breathtaking!
That was just our first stop. We went back to our pump boat and went sailing for about 15 minutes. Our next stop was Bantigue Island Sand Bar. Compared to Cabugao Gamay, waters in this island were a bit deeper and sands were not as fine. However, seashells and sea rocks complimented the beauty of the island as it has a totally different back drop.
We took a ten minute walk at the shores of Bantigue Island, and to our luck we were able to meet some of the beach life guards stationed in the island. Taking pictures with them were actually not allowed, so I took a photo of them instead. LOL
There were also rock formations in Bantigue Island, but it was not as white as the ones in Cabugao Gamay. The rocks were colorful and were naturally placed by nature in the waters. I even took a photo doing my signature travel pose with the rocks as my back drop.
SEAFOOD AND WHITE SANDS AT ANTONIA BEACH
Due to high-tide, we were not able to visit Tangke Salt Water Lagoon (which is another attraction there), so we had to proceed to Antonia Beach. Tides and sands are friendlier in this area, and tables and chairs for picnic lunch were set-up by the island caretakers. The highlight of our visit to Gigantes was not only the view, but also the food that it has to offer. Our lunch includes fresh scallops, wasay-wasay (a type of a seashell which is caught fresh right out from the sea), and giant squids which were grilled to perfection and cooked in Adobo Sauce (a Filipino dish which is flavored with Soy Sauce, Garlic, and Vinegar).
From that point on, I knew I can never eat scallops the same way as before anymore, as I would always think about its price at Gigantes. If you buy restaurant-grade scallops in Manila, it will cost you about P300++ pesos ($10 AUD), for a dozen of oven-baked scallops with a dollop of cheese. In Gigantes, scallops are fairly cheap, for the reason that the island is abundant with shellfish and seafood. Scallops are P1.00 minimum of 100 pcs. That’s P100 in total ($3.50 AUD). 200 pieces scallops were more than enough for our small group as snacks and lunch. Yes! It was that cheap that we had scallops as snacks.
Food in Gigantes was superb! But what made it more exciting and fun was the fact that we met fellow backpackers during our travel. We shared travel stories together and exchanged contact details. We capped off our short stay with a sunny view and a swim at the crystal clears waters of Antonia Beach.
BUDGET GUIDE FROM JARO TO CARLES AND BACK:
- Ceres Bus Liner to Estancia P165
- Tricycle Ride to Carles from Estancia P150
- Gigantes Island Package for 4 P1200/pax
- Ceres Bus Liner to Jaro from Carles P183
TOTAL BUDGET FROM JARO TO GIGANTES:
P1698.00 ($51.50AUD)/person excluding air-fare from Manila to Iloilo and fares from the Airport to Jaro.
Click here to watch our full-HD video of our travel to Gigantes Island.
CONTACT PERSON at Gigantes Island:
Patrick Macario Aguirre of Islas Gigantes – Carles, Iloilo
P999 ($31.00 AUD)/person (minimum of 10 pax)