The search for the next island hopping destination never grows old, thanks to our insatiable desire for the sea-sand-sun power trio and our country’s more than a thousand ways to find it. We took heed of the ocean’s call and were led to Gigantes Group of Islands in Carles, Iloilo. Carles is 4 hours by land from Iloilo City; vans and buses are available for PhP200 per person in Jaro.
Cabugao Gamay Island, one of the more scenic views in a Gigantes Island hopping tour
We kicked off our day with a big breakfast at Angga Restaurant in Solina Beach and Nature Resort. An island hopping activity meant we needed our energy at a maximum to be able to swim (and take pictures) our hearts out. After a short 15-minute ride from Solina, we got to Bancal port in Carles which is the jump-off point to Gigantes Islands. The port was busy with tourists and tour operators as one could expect during the weekends in the middle of summer. Luckily, we were booked with Las Islas Travel and Tours which took care of coordinating the fees, permits, tour guide and boat we will be needing for the day. This took out the all-familiar stressful moments when DIY-ing because all you need to do is wait for your guide to say that the boat is ready. Needless to say, the tour operators you book with play a crucial role in ensuring maximum enjoyment of the activity so do your research, read reviews, and book with DOT-accredited ones.
You won’t miss seeing this cafe at Bancal Port. Make sure to book with trusted and legitimate tour operators like Las Islas. You get your money’s worth and your safety is ensured during the trip.
Tourists waiting for their boats for a Gigantes island hopping tour at Bancal port, Carles, Iloilo.
Gigantes as a destination has acquired quite a following in the recent years thanks in part to it’s surprising accessibility from Roxas City, Capiz or Iloilo City where the main airports are. One island in particular, Cabugao Gamay, is regarded as the most photographed one and is an iconic staple for all Gigantes island hopping pictures.
Our first stop in the tour is Pulupandan islet. Well-known for the lone coconut tree that withstood typhoon Yolanda, this islet now serves as a resting place for fishermen. A mound of rocks overlooking the entire islet makes for a good spot for taking pictures. While you can definitely swim, the beach is a bit rocky and we were promised a good spot for that in the next island we will go to, so swimming will have to wait.
Pose at your own risk. These rocks were scorchingly hot!
Our next stop was Tanke Lagoon. Called as such by the locals due to the seawater seeping in through the boulders forming a lagoon, it looks like clear, green glass if left undisturbed. We were lucky to have arrived after a group just left so we had the lagoon all to ourselves for a few minutes.
The entrance to the lagoon feels like you’re entering something otherwordly, and boy, it did not disappoint.
The Tanke Lagoon will capture your heart.
The small pool is encased by towering rocks and greenery perfect for taking 360-degree panoramic views. Mixed feelings of awe, excitement, and wonder will send good chills up your spine. Take a moment, a few deep breaths, a few pictures, then go plunge in. The pool is literally like a resort swimming pool but filled with sea water and surrounded by nature instead of ceramic tiles. Surprisingly, the water is not that salty – you can open your eyes underneath and it won’t sting.
Our third and lunch stop was Antonia Beach. Coming in to the beach, the view was reminiscent of a Windows screensaver. The intimidating brashness of rocks was complemented by the soft and welcoming tone of coconut trees. We were looking forward to lunch, but we also can’t get enough of the visual feast around us.
Antonia Beach looks like your Windows screensaver
Where lunch will be served! Although we have been on a visual feast of Gigantes Island since morning!
Lunch was part of the package we had with Las Islas and we had fresh tanigue, scallops, barbecue and local oysters they call wasay-wasay. If you’re lucky, eating a wasay-wasay may just give you your first pearl, that is, if you haven’t unknowingly eaten it yet.
Lunch highlight: unlimited scallops by Las Islas Travel and Tours
You know it’s fresh when you see the natural goodness of fish oil in your soup.
An unknown number of eaten scallops after and a belly-full of happiness, taking pictures will certainly be in the agenda because you can’t swim anyway. Antonia Beach has a lot of charming areas for that post-lunch photo op.
Let out your inner island girl
The smile of happiness after eating. A lot.
The next island in the loop is the most photographed one, Cabugao Gamay Island. Lovingly called the Selfie Island by the locals, you actually have to fall in line to have your pictures taken without photobombers. It is admirable actually as everyone can have their turn and take selfies and groufies to their heart’s content.
Just a little patience in waiting and lining up gives you this iconic Gigantes shot.
Cairns made by tourists abound by the beach
Eat, drink, take staged pictures, but never forget to be silly and take yourself lightly.
Our next stop is Tinagong Dagat, or Little Boracay. True enough, the sand is similar to Boracay’s and the water is perfect for swimming. There is but a small patch of sand that serves as the beachfront and just recently, locals have put makeshift cottages for rent.
Aptly called Tinagong Dagat, this area is not easily spotted from afar and if not for the makeshift cottages.
The fifth and last stop in our Gigantes Island tour was Bantigue sandbar. It was supposedly the cherry on top of what was an already incredible day tour of Gigantes. The weather chose not to cooperate though and minutes after jumping in the water, we needed to leave as it looked like it would rain.
At around 5 PM we were already back at Bancal port. We stopped by Gigantes Travel Hub and Cafe for some refreshments and to catch up with some friends on our day. We were so enamored that some of us already decided that they would go back this year to experience Gigantes again.
Booking with trusted tour operators is a must in ensuring safety and enjoyment during the tour. Responsible and ethical practices are also guaranteed thereby contributing to sustainable tourism in the area. This helps the local community which ultimately circles back to benefiting tourists.
8:00 AM – 8:30 AM: ETD Solina Beach and Nature Resort
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM: Boat travel to Gigantes Islands
9:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Gigantes Island hopping tour
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Beachside seafood lunch
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Gigantes Island hopping tour
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Boat travel to Carles port
Why book with Las Islas?
Las Islas is a pioneer, licensed tour operator in Gigantes Islands since 2015 which is accredited by the Department of Tourism. They are an active member of the Philippine Tour Operators Association and are a strong advocate of responsible and ethical tourism. They have trained and professional tour guides; big, licensed, and MARINA-registered boats; have clean and hygienic food preparations; travel insurance in every tour, and complete first aid and emergency kits. They are also trusted by VIPs, big corporations, celebrities, bloggers, and media practitioners (as seen on TV Patrol and DOT iTravel Pinas show).
Thank you, Las Islas!
Our trip was made possible by a number of partners who ensured we had the best Western Visayas experience: Air Asia for our Clark-Iloilo and vice versa flights, Atty. Helen Catalbas of DOT Region 6 for our transportation during the Panay loop tour, and Aph Cruz and Alex Española of Las Islas Travel and Tours.
Bacolod, Negros Island: Unit 208, 2nd Floor, Vecino Bldg., Lacson St., Bacolod City, Negros Occidental Iloilo, Panay Island: 2nd Floor, Bancal Commercial Bldg., Bancal Port Carles, Northern Iloilo Bancal Port, Carles, Northern Iloilo, Iloilo (just right across the covered gym and close to the Carles Tourism Office)
Beng Fontiveros works as an analyst for a global bank. She bonds with Excel from day to night so she loves spending her free time traveling, practicing yoga, or just lounging at home to Netflix and chill.
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