I have debated posting this as it feels like a lifetime ago that we took this little excursion. Life has been so busy slash major lack of wifi and WordPress has been a bit of a pain in the butt for me…However it was so fun and I really think that if anyone is considering going to the Philippines, these islands should be on your list and some of the information I have gathered will be really handy.
But first, a bit of the back story as to why we left Boracay.
After experiencing my first tropical Christmas and New Year on Boracay, I can say that it didn’t really feel very christmassy although obviously we had lots of fun and celebrated with the people I regard as our island family.
Max qualified as a Dive Master just before Christmas and was really getting stuck into making some money with this new qualification when disaster struck. He couldn’t equalise on a dive and came back being able to whistle and blown bubbles through his ear. After seeing a few doctors it was confirmed that he had partially perforated his eardrum which put a stop to diving for at least 2 or 3 weeks. When we found this out we decided that we would go on a little adventure.
I packed my small rucksack with minimal clothing, sneaked a few overflow items into Maxs rucksack and off we went.
If you fancy doing something like this, don’t expect proper resorts, hot water, signal or wifi… just nature, some fascinating people, lots of boats, jeepneys, triks and bikes, beautiful beaches, swim holes, waterfalls and much more.
In the evening of the 1st, we left Boracay, bound for Tablas, a much larger island than Boracay but one that is still very primitive and virtually untouched by tourists. We caught an evening boat from Bulabog beach in the pitch black darkness, and made the 2 hour crossing in some fairly choppy water. Pleased to reach the other side in one piece, we jumped on a motorbike with our friend Mikey and whizzed down the unlit dust tracks lined with tall palm trees.
Mikey is building a house on Tables and it’s going to be incredible when it’s finished. It sits perched on top of a hill with only the green of the land and blue of the sea in sight.
There are no facilities at Mikeys yet, so we headed down to the family house of the landowner and used their kitchen to make breakfast.
Whilst the boys slaved away I put some photography tips from Mikey into practise.
We made the days plans over our cups of coffee and pancakes before heading to the beach, just a short walk from the house.
The beach is raw and rocky in parts, but gloriously natural.
After playing in the water, the boys did some litter picking. Unfortunately, this is a huge problem across the Philippines.
Then, propped on the back of Mikeys bike, we toured the local area.
Before sunset, we hiked up a beautiful big grassy hill to watch the evening close over this green land.
It is so fun when you meet someone who has one, so many stories and two, so many talents; especially someone who is so willing to share what he knows and spend his time giving you lessons and sharing his passion.
Thank you Mikey, it was truly fabulous to see your creation coming together and we cannot wait to visit it in the future!
The next morning we got 2 bikes and rode to Alcantara and stayed at Aglicay Beach Resort.
We seemed to be the only guests so we had the beach to ourselves!
We ate well and even found a pool table for a quick game before bedtime!
The next morning we got a motorbike to the ‘jeepney stop’. No one seemed to know what time the jeepney came by so we picked the most common answer and gave ourselves plenty of time.
The bus stop was by a school. I noticed a cool slogan painted on the playground wall, so I wandered through the gates to be greeted by some of the teachers who were very excited by the fact that I am also a teacher. They quickly summoned the principal and we had a little photo shoot and a quick tour of the classrooms.
The jeepney came along at around 9:30am and we hopped in the front for the 2 hour journey up to San Augustin.
I loved the journey, it was fascinating to see how the families here keep their houses. They have such pride over them. Lots of picket fencing and pretty flowers!
We arrived in San Augustine having been warned there wasn’t much to see or do and this was correct. We waited an hour or so and hoped on the bangca to Romblon at 1pm.
Boracay to Tablas – 150PHP per person
Fish & veg for supper – 220PHP for 3 people
Bike to Alcantara – 500PHP
1 night stay with food and drinks at Aglicay Resort – 1500PHP
Jeepney ride – 120PHP per person
Bangca to Romblon – 150PHP per person
The bangca journey was only an hour and a half and I snoozed for most of it whilst Max sat upfront as always.
Pulling into the harbour on Romblon, you are greeted by a wave of colourful houses and a buzzing little square.
This town had a real Mediterranean vibe and boasted some of the original Spanish colonial building and bridges although obviously its now mixed in with less attractive Filipino building work.
We were pleasantly surprised to find this Deli right on the harbour. Its owned by a couple of ex-pats and they have an awesome menu… You just have to hope what you choose is in stock!
After an outstanding strawberry cheesecake and good coffee I knew this wouldn’t be our only visit! There, we met Simon, an interesting Aussie guy who is sailing around the world on a boat he built from scratch.
After coming up with a vague plan and making a few calls, we rented a motorbike for 500 pesos a day and whizzed off to the resort we had booked. Romblon is a relatively wealthy island, probably because of the natural resource, marble that can be found here in copious amounts. The roads were amazing, perfectly smooth concrete for the entire island along the coast with one road cutting in through the mountains. It’s a bikers heaven! (Not that I am a biker, but I can imagine its heaven if you are!)
The first resort we stayed at was called San Pedro. With a stunning beach and hammocks-a-plenty, it was the perfect first stop.
The water was beautiful and ever so inviting but not much to sea amongst the mostly dead reef.
After a relaxing night, we left early the next morning to continue our journey around the island, stopping off at various points to swim and explore.
We decided to take the mountain route and stumbled upon this incredible find. The resort is called ‘Buena Suerte’ and they were very happy for us to have swim with at no cost.
We continued round the island until we reached the town again at lunch time.
Took this for you Will…
For lunch we ate at the impressive ‘Anchor Bay Resort’. This is probably the most civilised resort we experienced during our stay. The rooms were too expensive (2000 pesos) for us but we enjoyed a fabulous lunch with a stunning view across the ocean. They even had pretty table clothes! How fancy.
After lunch we checked out BonBon beach which is suggested as a highlight. The beach you walk along to get to BonBon is covered in litter but once you are on BonBon, it is very perfect!
We drove round at sunset, admiring this beautiful island before heading for dinner.
The next day we got lucky and the lovely guy that we met who had built his boat from scratch, invited us out for the day. We sailed to some nearby islands and dived off the boat into the beautiful waters. It’s really a magical thing that he is sailing around the world in something he built from scratch, with his own hands.
After a day at sea we hopped back in the dingy and were helped ashore by these guys,
before heading back to the Harbour for sunset drinks.
Motorbike rental for 2 days: 1000 pesos
San Pedro resort inc dinner and breakfast: 1250 pesos
Park View Hotel: 650 pesos
Big yellow hostel (can’t remember the name and wouldn’t recommend it): 1000 peso
Lunch at Anchor Bay: 800 pesos (bit of a treat, whoops)
Quite a few meals at Romblon Deli: 2000 pesos
This is the most remote and primitive island we visited so we booked ahead as there is only one resort. Sanctuary Gardens collected us from Magdiwang and we arrived in the bliss that is Sanctuary just 10 minutes later.
We dumped our stuff in our room and were directed to the river where we could refresh ourselves in the spring water that runs straight from the mountain.
This Island feels very different to the others. The focus isn’t the beach and the ocean, it’s the mountains, waterfalls and rivers.
This is Mount Guiting-Guiting which sits at 2000 metres!
After a bite of lunch we got a tricycle to ‘Lambingan Falls’ where we explored our first waterfall on the island. Fresh, cold, entirely ours and so welcome in the humid heat.
We got back just in time to catch golden hour, before burying ourselves in our books for the evening.
The next morning we went to Cataya Falls, a one hour trek into the jungle. We debated taking a guide from the local village but Max was sure we didn’t need one.
Apparently this looks makes him ‘an adventurer’ and 100% qualified in finding the waterfall in the middle of the jungle.
This isn’t like other places where the track has been trodden in by hundreds of other tourists, if there are more than 30 a month I would be surprised. I was sceptical and wasn’t convinced by the t-shirt-come-hat combo.
After some debate about the direction we were heading in and some time retracing our steps, we found the waterfall. But we must have missed the path that took us higher up so we had to settle for the lower part, still a beautiful area.
We walked back to the village, having a water fight on the way, and waited for our tricycle. Whilst we waited we met a pig who looked a bit thirsty so we filled up our bottle from the nearby river and made a mud pit for him. His owners thought we were hilarious.
On our return to the resort, I indulged in a massage for £5 and Max played with the local menagerie.
For our last day at Sanctuary Gardens we hired a guide and trekked up the river towards Mount Guiting-Guiting.
Before hitting the river we walked through pastureland and paid a fee for the trek.
Once we hit the river there was lots of climbing, stretching, balancing on rocks, swimming and a bit of teamwork.
We stopped for lunch before making our way back.
8 hours later we arrived back at the resort feeling very satisfied by the whole experience. This was definitely my highlight of our stay at Sanctuary Gardens.
We watched the sunset from our balcony and prepared to leave early the next morning.
The next morning we left at 4:30am to ride 40km in a tricycle along the most awful roads to San Fernando where we would catch a boat back to Roxas and make our way back to Boracay. However, after the early start and terrible journey we arrived and were greeted by a Filipino who pointed at the boat and said, “Caput,”. A few swear words were exchanged before I played with 7 puppies and Max sorted out what we were to do next. Puppies tend to have the ability to solve most problems.
This lovely little girl really caught my eye. I would have called her Bear.
In the Lonely Planet, there was one bed and breakfast run by a German ex-pat called Rayner around 20 minutes from San Fernando and luckily he had a room. Interestingly there is a considerable German ex-pat community on the island. Rayner married a Filipino and has lived on Sibuyan for over 18 years.
Wow, we had stumbled into heaven. Not only was this lovely house perched virtually on the beach but we arrived to the most incredible breakfast of real homemade bread, proper jam, salami, omelette and great coffee. Oh AND there was hot water. A rarity and something I really appreciate now.
We decided we liked it so much that we would stay a little longer on the island.
Max visited more waterfalls with Rayners children and some other kids who fancied it, whilst I took my book to the empty beach.
He came back thrilled with his #goatselfie. Who wouldn’t be?
Later that evening we met the occupants of the other room at Rayners. They were two young german girls travelling through Asia and almost as a family, we all sat down at 6pm to watch the German news and eat the home cooked supper. It was by far the best food we had eaten.
The next day we visited more waterfalls. These little bambinos showed us how it was done scaling the rocks in barefoot and laughing themselves from quite a height!!
After another wonderful day and candy pink sunset,
we packed our bags ready to leave the next morning.
We caught the sunrise,
and headed back to the ‘port’.
Again, the words, “Caput,” were thrown around and the boat was not going anywhere. We now needed to get back to Boracay so we caught a jeepney all the way back to Magdiwang and caught the 10:30am ferry back to Tablas via Romblon. We arrived at 2:30pm in the north of Tablas and needed to get south to catch the boat back to Boracay but we were not going to make it in time.
We jumped on a packed jeepney which was heavily overloaded with probably 50 people and headed south to Looc.
There is nothing to do in Looc and there is only one hostel and its very basic
The boat didn’t leave until 9am back to Caticlan but we finally arrived back on Boracay at around 2pm.
There was no way of predicting this would happen so always leave yourself a few days leeway if you’re catching a flight because there is literally no other way off the island unless these boats are working.
Sanctuary Gardens 3 x nights plus all our food and drinks: 5000 pesos
Guide on walk up the river: 500 peso
Triks to the various falls: 1000 peso
Journey from Magdiwang to San fernando: 1000 peso
Rayners house for the room, breakfast and supper: 2000 peso (AMAZING VALUE)
Jeepney back to Magdiwang: 120 pesos each
Sibuyan to Tablas Ferry: 327 pesos each
Jeepneys from San Fernando to Looc: 170 pesos each
Grim hostel: 400 pesos
9am boat back to Caticlan from Looc: 305 pesos each
These amazing 2 weeks were fate. We extended our stay on Boracay so Max could work and thankfully fate intervened. These were some of the best and most memorable days of our entire trip and I really couldn’t recommend it more. The whole thing cost around £300 total. I think you could make it a tiny bit cheaper by eating more local food and you could definitely upgrade for a slightly less backpacker style stay!
Thanks for following our Philippines trip and please stay tuned! We are now in South America and already having a whale-of-a-time.