When the Outdoor is Life team put their heads together to find a “paradise” to visit, one of the requirements is that the place should be almost untouched by modern civilization while being an awe-inspiring and off-grid natural paradise, sort of like a rim world far from the center of the universe.
So we decided to discover the rim world of Balabac in Palawan.
Balabac is a second-class municipality in the province of Palawan, with a population of a little over 40,000. The entire municipality is composed of 36 islands, with Balabac being the main island. Geographically, it is the westernmost point in the Philippines, almost touching Sabah, Malaysia, in the Balabac Strait. It is bordered on the southwest by the Philippine Sea and on the northeast by the Sulu Sea.
The beauty of Balabac is its shallow waters due to the presence of shoals and sandbars, Balabac having the third and fourth longest sandbars in the Philippines, with the former in the Queen Helen Sandbar at the southern tip of Bugsuk and the latter in the Angela Sandbar in Mansalangan. As the islands are virtually untouched by modern man, the waters are clear and perfectly turquoise and most of the sound you hear will only be from the rare birds, animals, the surf, and the wind.
Balabac is a true rim world, with unspoiled fine white sandy beaches, rare flora and fauna, and rich marine life. It can be considered as the last frontier on the western tip of the country, but in danger of molestation by Chinese naval ships often investigating the islands. One of the rare animals on the islands is the mouse deer, locally called Pilandok, but overall there are 27 true and 34 associated species of mangrove, giant Sulu Sea Pearls, sharks, dolphins, whales, rays, sea turtles, and other marine species.
The Outdoor is Life team joined an organized tour, for practical reasons.
How to Get to Balabac?
There are no direct local flights to Balabac. The two tiny airstrips on Bugsuk and Candaraman are good only for chartered light propeller planes.
From Puerto Princesa City, take a bus or van that regularly departs for Bataraza and Rio Tuba from the San Jose Terminal. Buses and vans are available from 4:00 a.m. up to 9:00 p.m. daily. Fares are between P275 and P450, depending on what you choose. Travel time is approximately 5 – 6 hours.
Rio Tuba in the town of Bataraza on mainland Palawan is the gateway to Balabac. A ferry boat departs daily at around noon from Rio Tuba Port to Balabac. Travel time is approximately 4 hours. Ferry boat fare is P450 one-way. Take note that there is no fixed schedule for boat departures as the ferry depends on sea conditions and passenger traffic. It is best to be at the port early as 10:00 a.m.
Islands and Sandbars for Tour Hopping:
- Canimeran Island
- Patongong Island
- Patawan Island
- Candaraman Island
- Braggi Island
- Punta Sebaring
- Bugsuk Island
- Angela Sandbar
- Helen Sandbar
See the gallery of photos you could feast your eyes and see how truly blessed this side of Palawan, Philippines is.
If you still have time, try a few or all of these possible activities when island hopping around Balabac:
Diving and Snorkeling – If you love to go underwater, you will be truly amazed by the awesome marine life that thrives virtually untouched underneath. The different colors that will overwhelm your senses underwater are more than enough of an experience (but bring your own equipment as there are no rentals available).
Sunrise and Sunset watching – The pictures you take of these will truly create a buzz among your friends.
Visit the century-old Spanish lighthouse of Melville, check out the historical marker on Ramos Island, the old Spanish Fort in Ulitan, and the ruins of the Spanish structure at the mouth of Larindon Bay.
See the beautiful mangrove areas on the coastal areas.
Go dolphin watching.
See the endemic mouse deer, wild monkeys, crocodiles and other animals in the wild.
Bird-watching – Balabac is one of the best spots in the Philippines for bird watching as the archipelago is home to a variety of migratory and even endemic birds such as the Grey Imperial Pigeon, Philippine Cockatoo, Blue-headed Racket-tai, Palawan Hornbill, and the famous Philippine Eagle.
Trek the mountains of Melville, Italawon, and Malaking Ilog, and see the hidden waterfalls in the mountains.
It is unfortunate that places like Boracay and other better-known tourist beach and island spots in the Philippines are more featured in media and tourism attraction advertisements, and yet as the news has shown us, because of over-development (or in some cases, underdevelopment), Boracay and other places have become overcrowded and no longer retain the natural beauty of its beaches, waters, and other landmarks. Worse, local and national governments have not done their work in controlling and supervising such important details such as human waste management and building location control.
The result is human waste is simply dumped into the sea and other waterways while cement and steel structures continue to be built unabated, destroying not only the natural view of the islands and beaches, but also the very ecosystem and environment that people go there to view, enjoy, and protect.
We greatly encourage other people to visit Balabac and other rim locations in the Philippines and experience what we have seen, heard, and touched: complete and serene natural beauty and wonders that only Mother Nature could create.
It won’t matter if you can’t find a phone signal or that there is no electricity; you’re not in Balabac for technology but to discover what nature has to show off so that one realizes that man needs to be in harmony with nature and that there are simply some places that need to be left almost untouched to preserve what is “natural” about it.
Certainly, the overall pristine beauty of nature, the plants, animals, and marine life will greatly appreciate if all mankind protected Mother Nature.
And so, wanderers, if you think you’ve seen enough of the Philippines, think again. Our team has always been in love with the outdoors – you name it, mountains, beaches, waterfalls – anything Mother Nature has to offer! Balabac has been on our bucket list for quite some time, and so this was one trip we looked forward to.
Come with us as and see what we have recorded for posterity as we take you to the island paradise of Balabac, Palawan!
Do you want to experience Balabac? Get your slot here!