ABOUT ISLAS DE GIGANTES
The legend says….
Around the northeastern seas of Iloilo, a giant was preparing in excitement for his wedding. Guests had prepared a bounty of gifts and food offerings. Little did he know that his bride was taken by pirates and would not make it to the ceremony. Filled with grief and rage upon learning the news, he threw away all the offerings to the sea before he himself fell. These offerings would eventually become part of Islas de Gigantes (Islands of the Giants), or Gigantes Islands. The giant’s body would also become the islands of Gigantes Sur, while his bride’s would be Gigantes Norte.
Such was the legend behind Islas de Gigantes in Carles, Iloilo. These islands formed from grief eventually became places of natural beauty – white beaches, gray karsts, and clear lagoons.
The town of Carles in Iloilo can be found in the Northernmost of Panay Island. Definitely, the place is far from the chaotic and busy city life. While Islas de Gigantes ( Gigantes Islands) started to attract a good number of tourists both local and abroad, the place is still free from the usual beach party life like the most popular beach or summer destinations are offering.
Islas de Gigantes is blessed with spectacular sceneries, clear waters, and white sand beaches. The rich vast blue seascape brimming with rich marine life; interesting caverns and caves, long stretch of white sand beaches are just some of the reasons for people to visit the place.
Gigantes Islands is composed of 2 big islands (Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur) and ten Islets, namely: Cabugao Gamay, Cabugay Daku, Balbagon, Waydahun, Bulubadiang, Bantigue, Gigantillo, Gakitgakit, Gigantona and Ojatras.
HOW TO GET THERE
Carles can be reached by land from all major transport hubs in Panay Island including Iloilo City, Roxas City and Boracay (Caticlan)/Kalibo. Boat trips via Carles are preferred as travel time is 30 to 45 minutes faster compared to than those originating from Estancia.
Because of the various transfers needed, if you’re traveling in a group and want to save time, it may be more convenient to charter a private van and private boat for the whole trip. Some tour agencies and hotels can arrange shuttle services directly from airports.
Islas de gigantes was our last stop on our Panay tour from Iloilo city going westward on the coast of Panay island.
We were in Roxas the day before we went to Carles port. We rode a van from Roxas to Balasan, about an hour and a half ride. Arrived in Balasan, we took a tricycle, a half an hour ride, to Carles port.
If coming from Iloilo City, take a jeep to Jaro, Iloilo and get off at Tagbak Terminal. Take a bus or van going to Carles. Fare is around P200 or less. Travel time is around 3-4 hours.
While it is possible to also get here through Estancia (via Estancia Feeder Port), it is not recommended since travel time is longer and there is currently no tourism office established. It is mandatory to pay the environmental fee of P75 per person.
Via Roxas City
- Travel by air to Roxas City, Capiz. Travel time from Manila to Roxas City is about 1 hour.
- Ride a tricycle going to Roxas City Integrated Transport Terminal. Fare is about P100 – 150. Travel time is 10-15 minutes.
- BUS: Ride a Ceres bus going to Carles with a stop in Balasan. Ceres bus fare is P75. Travel time is about 2 hours.
- VAN: Ride a van bound for Carles and stop in Balasan. Travel time by land is about 1 hour 45 minutes. Fare in the van is P65. Trips in the van start from 6 am and ends 6 pm.
- From Balasan, board a tricycle (P50) or motorcyle taxi (habal-habal) (P100-150) directly to the Bancal port in Carles.
- Alternatively, you can wait for a bus from Iloilo bound to Carles. Buses usually pass every 30 minutes to 1 hour. Balasan to Bancal Port, Carles is 12 kilometers.
- Passenger boats run once daily from Bancal Port to Lango Beach, Gigantes Norte (where most of the homestays are located), departing at 10:00 am and arrriving at 11:30 am. The same boat departs at 2:00 pm and arrives at Bancal Port at 3:30 pm.
- There are no passenger commuter boats between the different islands in Gigantes Islands. You can charter island-hopping tours from Gigantes Norte with the help of home stays and resorts.
- For day tours, a convenient option is to charter a private boat that can take you to all the Gigantes Group of Islands from Bancal Port, which can leave depending on your preferred schedule.
- Travel time from Bancal to Gigantes Islands is about 1 to 1.5 hours.
- Travel by air to Iloilo City, Iloilo. Travel time from Manila to Iloilo is about 1 hour.
- Ride a taxi going to Tagbak Terminal in Jaro district. Travel time is 20 – 30 minutes.
- Catch either a bus or van bound for Carles and get down at Bancal Port.
- BUS: Ride a Ceres Bus bound for Carles. Fare is P170 – P180 per passenger. Travel time is 3- 4 hours.
- VAN: Ride a commuter shuttle van bound for Carles. Fare is P150 per passenger. Travel time is 2.5 hours.
Via Boracay (Caticlan) / Kalibo
- There are no direct passenger bus or van routes from Boracay (Caticlan) or Kalibo in Aklan to get to Carles or Gigantes Islands. You would need to transit through Roxas City.
- Take a bus or van from the Caticlan Port to Kalibo. Travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours.
- From Kalibo, board a Ceres liner bus or van to Roxas City. Travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Follow instructions above from Roxas City to get to Carles and Bancal Port.
BOAT & FERRY TICKETS INFO
When we arrived at Carles port, we asked some information from the tourism office, located just on the port, as to the hotel and resort availabilities on that day and as well as the ferry ride..
You can find a kiosk just besides the tourism office as to the boat and ferry rides tickets and cost. We rode a fast craft ferry to Islas de Gigantes Norte since the public boat has just left.
WHERE TO STAY
Rustic resorts can be found in Gigantes Norte Island, the main village where most residents live. Most offer basic accommodations catering to budget-conscious travelers. It’s also possible to camp out in tents at Antonia Beach and Bantigue Island, though it is not really encouraged during peak season because of concerns for the water supply for the locals.
If you haven’t booked your stay ahead, like us, don’t worry, some resorts personnels around the port can offer you some of their beach rooms availabilities. Just be careful when you make deals with them. It is always best to make some research ahead of time before going to a certain destination to avoid some misconceptions as to the price etc.
When we arrived at Islas de Gigantes Norte, we were approached by a lot of beach resorts staffs willing to accommodate us for our stay. We chose Arjan Beach resort. We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days and got a tour package from them for the island hopping tour the next day.
When we arrived at Arjan beach resort, they only had a fan room available (can accommodate 4 persons). So we stayed a day in a fan room and the next 2 days in an air-conditioned room. Either room were great! If you are in a budget, go for a fan room. The fan room is in a nipa hut, just like the picture below.
The resort is perfect for the sunset viewing.
SUNSET AT ISLAS DE GIGANTES
A bountiful of fresh seafood is served for lunch and dinner at a very low price.
As we explore the inland of Gigantes Norte, we saw this friendly carabao.
Electric power is also limited on Gigantes Norte Island and runs at scheduled hours and may be cut-off at night. Some resorts may have generators.
GO ISLAND HOPPING
The day after, we had our island hopping tour. Our day tour included the well-known and beautiful places in Islas de Gigantes, particularly in Antonia Island, Tinagong Dagat, Cabugao Gamay, and Bantigue Island sandbar and Tangke Lagoon.
Our first stop was Antonia Island, a long white beach framed by rock formations on either side. Antonia Island is a good spot for snorkeling.
Then we went on the neighboring beach of Tinagong dagat (Hidden beach). It is named as such, because the beach is not clearly visible from afar, with the shrubs and the surrounding rocks and greenery standing out more.The sand was just so powdery fine with crystal clear waters that you feel like walking on cloud 9.
A gorilla shaped stone in front of the beach is really amazing.
We then made our way to Cabugao Gamay Island, which is the most well-known island of Gigantes and the most photographed spot. Makeshift stairs on a karst would take visitors to a viewpoint of the island with the seas on either side. Years ago, visitors would have to scramble across the rocks to get to this viewpoint.
You can find piled zen stones along the shore of Cabugao.
We had our lunch at Bantigue sandbar. An island where the shape of the sandbar shifts depending on the current. This island offers a nice spot for swimming and snorkeling. We ate like crazy a bucket of one peso scallops and ordered as well some oysters, locally called wasay-wasay (the local dialect for axe because of its distinct shape). We also had an adobong Lagang shell.
Our next stop was Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, and is named as such because it fills like a water tank through a hole in the rocks during high tide. Tangke saltwater lagoon is also said to be a mystic lagoon where elementals live. Locals were mystified that leaves from the surrounding trees do not seem to fall on Tangke’s waters. We visited it in the afternoon when the water was shallow, but it’s best viewed in the morning during high tide.
OUR TRAVEL BUDGET
Here is a breakdown of our travel expenses for 3 persons:
Van fare Roxas to Balasan – P360
Tricycle fare Balasan to Carles port – P200
Fast craft ferry Carles port to Isla Gigantes Norte – P700
Arjan Beach resort :
- Island hopping – P1500
- Fan room – P600 (P200 x pax)
- Airconditioned room – P1120 ( max 5-10 person in a room)
Bantigue Island sandbar lunch (2 fish, 100 scallops,100 oysters,Lagang shellfish + drinks)- P935
Antonina beach entrance fee – P40 /pax
Cabugao gamay entrance fee -P50 php/pax
Tangke lagoon entrance fee – P20 /pax
Environmental fees – P75 /pax
Boat ride to Estancia port – P200
- Only Smart and Sun Cellular have signals at Gigantes Island. If you a postpaid subscriber to other telecom networks, you can simply buy prepaid Sim cards from Smart or Sun Cellular.
- No banks and ATM Machines at Gigantes Island. So bring enough cash.
- Sunscreen is a must when visiting the Island. Whenever possible use sunblock with high SPF, remember you will be in the water most of the time.
- You can bring some snack with you. However, sari-sari stores are also accessible on the Island.
- Bring your towel, shampoo, and soap. They are not provided at the resort.
- Electricity is already available on the island. However, bring some handy flashlights since electricity might be cut off at some hours in the island.
- Bring bottled water for the Island Hopping. You can also have it refilled at the resort for free.
PHILIPPINE TRAVEL GUIDE