Isla Gigantes- Discovering a Hidden Jewel
Updated: Jan 15
There are many beautiful beaches in the Philippines. Palawan, El nido, Boracay, and others are popular vacation spots for tourists. One of the areas that seems to go unnoticed, however, is a gorgeous area called Isla De Gigantes, which is Hiligaynon for the “island of the giants.” Surrounded by 10 islands (Gigantes Sur and Gigantes Norte regarded the largest of the islands), this magical place of paradise is filled with serenity, astonishing beauty and stunning scenery that offers such a relaxing and atmosphere of tranquility. Unlike Palawan, for example, Isla De Gigantes is not very populated, due in part to its remoteness. This remote area also explains the difficulty of purchasing foods and drink on the islands. That being said, when you plan your next vacation to Isla De Gigantes, I would recommend you sign up for island hopping tours that provide lunch and dinner. The Island is underdeveloped. There are no restaurants and lavish resorts on the Island.
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The variety of island hopping tours of Isla Gigantes is constantly growing. Thus, in the coming years, this place will perhaps be recognized as a common vacation spot just like Boracay and Palawan. It is already being observed that thousands of people visit this beautiful place on a yearly basis. The numbers keep growing.
When I was vacationing in Isla De Gigantes, I signed up for an island hopping tour. We toured 4 out of the 10 islands, including—(1) Tangke, (2) Cabugao Gamay Island, (3) Bantique island sandbar, and (4) Antonia Island.
Where is Isla De Gigantes? It is located in the north-eastern province of Iloilo, (the “city of love,”) and it occupies the Panay area of the Visayan Sea. Isla De Gigantes is connected to Carles, a municipality in Iloilo. We took a 3 hour bus ride from Iloilo bus terminal to Estancia Port. The price was about 206 pesos, which is $3.87 per person. Then there was an approximately 35 minute boat ride to the Islands of Isla De Gigantes.
When we arrived upon the islands, I was struck in awe by the sparkling blue sapphire and pristine waters, lush green towering mountains, and fine white powdery sandy beaches, hidden lagoons, an abundance of coconut trees, and hospitable and cordial locals. The place is a hidden and an untouched crown jewel. Historically, the word “Gigantes” was previously named “Salauag” in the pre-historic times. The name pertains to a native tree that was bountiful on the island. However, during the Spanish period, Salauag was changed to “Gigantes,” namely—“the island of the giants.” During this time period, people believed the island was inhabited by giants that measured an astounding 9 feet tall. In the early 90’s, archaeologists embarked on a meticulous search of the caves of Isla De Gigantes. Upon discovery, the archaeologists successfully unearthed wooden coffins that contained artifacts and gigantic bones dating back to the period of the Indo-Malay tribe. Interestingly, the island “Gigantes Norte” is considered a female and “Gigantes Sur” a male. This folk of giants occupying the Isla De Gigantes is embedded in the island so much so that the belief still resonates with the residents today.
The residents on the island are accustomed to living a hunter and gathering lifestyle. Their source of food is mostly fresh seafood including crab, scallops, and fish. In fact, there is a seemingly endless supply of scallops on these islands on a yearly basis. At dinner time, we were provided with 2 full mouthwatering baskets of sumptuous scallops.
The first place that we visited on the Isle De Gigantes was the Tangke. The Hilygaynon (Filipino dialect in Iloilo and the Panay region) term Tangke translates as tank with a body of water. It is undoubtedly a mystical saltwater pool that is nestled in the hidden and jagged and immense limestone cliffs of Isla Gigantes. While in the area, we had the opportunity to espy several energetic monkeys that were aggressively playing and climbing on the rocks in the photo below.
To reach the lagoon, you will need to cross a floating bamboo bridge. The travel time from the Carles port to the Tangke is about a 1 hour ride by pump boat. We arrived at the Tangke at low tide. Therefore, we were unable to swim in the lagoon because the water depth was only about a foot deep.
It is best to go to the Tangke at high tide so that you can capture a better scenery of the Tangke. One area I swam in instead, was the area next to where our pump boat was docked.
Donned with a wetsuit, snorkel, and long black diving fins, I plunged to the bottom. At the moment, I was immediately awestruck by a large school of tropical fish circling around me. Within about several seconds, I was caught off guard when I sighted a large cave like rock formation.
I inched closer to it and found a big opening in the rock. “This would be a great scuba diving adventure,” I begin to ponder. It appeared the cave was deep. Due to being underwater for about two minutes, I began my ascent to the surface. When I reached the surface, I observed people cliff jumping. There was a pathway that led to the cliff. Cliff diving is another activity you can do at the Tangke.
Cabugao Gamay Island
The second place we visited was the Cabugao Gamay Island. “Gamay” in Ilongo means”small.” The view on this island was absolutely spectacular. In fact, the island has been a literal postcard that is widely marketed. When people conduct research on Isla Gigantes, a photo of this island usually pops up. The photo is commonly taken from the cliff that overlooks an alluring azure sea.
We were informed that the area on this island was not a great swimming area due to the jagged rock formations. From the view of the cliff, however, it seemingly looked like an excellent place to snorkel. Due to this warning, we decided not to swim in the area. Also from the cliff, you can observe lush and towering mountains. The cliff presented such an awesome panoramic scenery.
Bantigue Island Sandbar
The third place we visited was the Bantigue island sandbar, which is located south of Cabugao Gamay. This sandbar is situated in the middle of the ocean. You can take a 20 minute boat ride from Gigantes Norte. During the spring, the shape of the sandbar is the letter “C.” Contrastingly, during the monsoon season, the sandbar is shaped like a snake. We went to this small but mesmerizing long sandbar in October, which is part of the monsoon season. During the summer, the shape of the sandbar is a “banana.” The pattern change of the sandbar is contingent upon the depth of water and strong winds. The crystal clear waters at this sandbar quickly places you in a state of relaxation and tranquility. When you walk out into the refreshing warm water, the depth ranges from 1 to 5. However, the level of depth starts to suddenly increase. I was able to venture out to about 20 feet water and I was taken aback that there was very little fish activity even at this depth.
Despite the little fish activity, the Bantigue island sandbar is undoubtedly very breathtaking. It is a great place for picture taking and videoing, especially at low tide. It was such a splendid and captivating moment. I would recommend visiting this sandbar during low tide because at high tide, it is difficult to see the whole sandbar.
The fourth place that we visited was Antonia beach. Like Bantique island sandbar, Antonia encompasses emerald waters and white powdery sandy beaches. It was on this beautiful beach that we feasted on scrumptious scallops, fish, and grilled squid. This fresh seafood was delicious. These seafoods are abundant on the Antonia beach and they are the best that anyone can ever have for such a low price.
WHAT TO BRING TO ISLA GIGANTES
It is important to understand the Philippines is a third world country. Therefore, you will not find lavish resorts, clean toilets, and restaurants on this island. It is important to keep this fact in mind before you plan your adventure. That being said, what should you bring to this beautiful island? The following is a list of 11 things you must bring prior to coming to Isla De Gigantes.
1) Swim suit- This may be common sense because you going to an island.
2) Snorkel gear- The gear includes snorkel mask, and fins. Your island hopping trip is not complete without a snorkeling experience. I used this gear at Tangke, Antonia beach, and Bantigue sandbar.
3) Water shoes- the last thing you want to do is cut your feet on the sharp shells. The water shoes will protect you from foot injuries.
4) Sunscreen- The temperature steadily climbs during the peak of the spring and summer months ranging from 80 degrees to high 90 degrees. If you have fair skin, I would recommend purchasing 100 spf. It is indeed thick, but it will protect you from the powerful heat rays. I applied sunscreen to my arms and legs three times using 100 spf and the sunscreen protected my skin from the powerful heat rays.
5) Food and drinks— There are no grocery stores on the islands. Thus, I would recommend you purchase some foods prior to going to Isla De Gigantes.
6) Advil and Dirrahea medicines- Unfortunately, one day prior to traveling Isla De Gigantes, I suffered from diarrahe, which occurred as a result of something I ate or drink.
7) Bottled water- *WARNING* DON’T DRINK THE WATER IN THE PHILIPPINES. I cannot emphasize this enough. The water in the Philippines is not very sanitary and you can experience sickeness from drinking the water there.
8) Toilet paper- Most restrooms in the Philippines do not have toilet paper. It is a total shock to an American who has toilet paper available in Japan and in the U.S.
9) Sanitary soap- the 100 percent antibacterial solution is very important to bring with you to decrease your chances of getting sick. I carried a bottle of this everywhere I went to in the Philippines.
10) Sunglasses- The heat rays are very powerful. Having a pair of sunglasses makes your experience a lot more enjoyable and relaxing.
11) An extra set of clothes- You do not want to ride in a vehicle going back home with the same clothes that you wore in the ocean. Bringing an additional set of clothes provides you with comfortability.
Too many bloggers broadcast the positive things about the Philippines and do not address any of the negative things as if only positives exists. I am here to reveal both positive and negatives to going to the Philippines. I purposely reveal the negatives to help make your trip a much better experience so you can help prevent you from experiencing any illnesses in a third world country.