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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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June 23, 2014

carles | islas de gigantes: travel guide to higantes islands



Islas de Gigantes in Carles in the province Iloilo has recently been getting more attention as photos of its beautiful islands flood the web. It's still a relatively off-the-beaten path destination and largely unexploited by mainstream tourism. This guide aims to provide the necessary information you need to plan a trip to the islands.

About Gigantes

Isla Gigantes

The Gigantes Islands are basically composed of two large islands: Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur, and several smaller islands and islets. Although these islands are part of the town of Carles, the jump off point to these islands is in the adjacent town of Estancia where the large wharf is located.  (See the islands in Google Map)

As of this writing, the resorts (at least those with contact details) are located on Gigantes Norte, both on the western side (Granada) and on the eastern side (Asluman). There is however a thriving fishing community located on the western side of Gigantes Sur.

Getting to Estancia

From Iloilo City

Iloilo's northern bound terminal in Tagbak has buses (Ceres and HPQ) and vans bound for Estancia. Travel time by bus is 3-4 hours (sometimes longer depending on how many times the buses stop to pickup and drop passengers). Travel time by van is 2 hours. Fare is 150 pesos. The vans have wings :)

Estancia Wharf - Heading to Gigantes
Note: It is important to be at Estancia port before noon as the passenger boats leave for the islands between 1PM-2PM. If you are flying in via Iloilo from Manila, there are early morning flights - as early as 4:30AM, and there are flights out of Iloilo as late as 10PM. 

From Roxas City

Travel time from Roxas to Estancia is 2.5 hours via Ceres bus. Fare is 80 pesos. Roxas is much closer to Estancia than Iloilo, but you have to consider the flights in and out of Roxas.

Boats to the island

Private Boat

This is the most convenient especially if you are with a large group. This may be arranged with the resorts in Gigantes Norte. Travel time is 2 hours. Rental for the whole boat is Php 5,000.00

Passenger Boats

Boat Ride to Gigantes

Currently there are three trips to the island (although this may change): One heading to Granada in Gigantes Norte, another one heading to Asluman in the eastern side of Norte, and another passenger boat heading to Gigantes Sur. There are however a couple of "supply" boats that head to the islands as well.

The boats leave between 1PM-2PM (schedule may vary), fare is 80 pesos.  You  may take any of the boats heading to Gigantes Norte and simply take a habal-habal (motorcycle) to your resort (whether on the east or western side).

Where to stay in Gigantes

Unless you know someone in Gigantes Sur, its best you stick to the resorts in Gigantes Norte.

Gigantes Hideaway (Asluman, Gigantes Norte)

Currently the most popular resort in Gigantes (and the first one there). Basic accommodation, al freso dining and great staff.  They have rooms starting at 800 pesos per night (4 pax, 200 per pax). Meals starts at 150 per meal. They also have packages that starts at Php 2,000++ per pax that includes 2 nights stay, all meals, and boat rental for island hopping. Get the tree-house if you can. A dedicated guide ("butler"/driver/all-around-errand-guy) is assigned to each group for the duration of your stay.

Al fresco dining in Gigantes Hideaway
al fresco dining in Gigantes Hideaway

Gigantes Hideaway has a huge compound and they have individual huts as well. Air-conditioned rooms are available in the main house.

Contact: Joel Decano (Joel happens to be the Tourism Officer of Carles as well)
+63-918-46-85-006
Email: isla.gigantes@yahoo.com

Jesa Beach Resort (Granada, Gigantes Norte)

One of the new resorts in Gigantes Norte. Offers aircon/non aircon rooms, plus beautiful beach side cabanas. Since its located on the western side, it offers great sunset views. Tour packages are also available.

Rooms:  Aircon: Ph 1,800/night for 3 pax (aircon is available from 6PM - 3AM only). Non-aircon/fan: Php 800 per night for 3 pax.

Contact: Sally/Hazel
+63-33-509-1923 (landline)
+63-917-62-49-345 (Globe)
+63-920-40-12-362 (Smart)
+63-922-83-84-771 (to 773) (Sun)
Email: jesabeachresort@yahoo.com

Camp out in one of the islands (Cabugao Daku, Cabugao Gamay, Antonia Beach)

This option is possible and can be arranged with the resort you are staying in. A night or two roughing it out on one of the beaches would be quite the experience. Check out Gigantes Experience Tour for camping options in Cabugao Daku.

Essentials

Water and food

Scallops

Fresh catch is available every morning. Gigantes is the "scallops capital of the Philippines", so you can have all-you-can-eat scallops to last you the whole year. After a few days in the island I have eaten scallops cooked in almost every possible way.

Crabs

Blue crabs called "kasag" are as abundant as the scallops (and are being exported as well).

Potable water is available, it is alkaline and has a sweet taste (much like coconut water). There are stores where you can buy mineral water or distilled water.  Ice is available although in very limited supplies. Cold drinks are available usually after 7PM. You may want to buy your supplies in Estancia before heading to the islands if there are items you simply cannot live without.

Electricity

Electricity is available from 6PM to 10PM. Resort generators take over from 10PM to early morning (usually 6AM but varies per resort)

Cellphone coverage

Asluman is "signal-free". There is however a hill between Granada and Asluman fondly nicknamed "Call Center". From there you can get 3G coverage for all networks. You can rent a habal-habal (10 pesos one way) and don't be surprised if you are not the only in the Call Center even late at night.

Attractions: islands and beaches

All the main island/beach attractions in Gigantes can be visited within a day.  You can "customize" your own tour or simply let your guide prepare the itinerary. Boat rental for island hopping is Php 2,000. Your resort can also prepare and bring your lunch where you'd like to have it (usually its Antonia Beach)

Bolobadiang Island

Bolobadiang Island

Small island just in front of Asluman and usually the first stop if you are based in Asluman. During lowtide you can walk this island. Entrance fee is 20 pesos per pax.

Antonia Beach (Gigante Sur)

Antonia Beach Rocks

More of Antonia Beach here.

Cabugao Gamay Island

Cabugao Gamay: Clear Water

The most popular destination in Gigantes. Google "Isla Gigantes" and you'll mostly get photos of its famous sandbar. Entrance fee is 50 pesos per pax. More of Cabugao Gamay here.

Tangke (Gigante Sur)

Tangke
Photo courtesy of Joel Decano/Carles Tourism Office

Tangke is a salt water lagoon in Gigantes Sur. Best time to go there is during high tide but can actually get tricky tricky when the waves are huge. If your boat cannot get near the rocky cliff, you'll have no option but to swim. In case you are not able to make it to Tangke, ask your guide to take you to the "mini Tangke". Its not huge and will only fit less than 10 people, but its enough to lessen your disappointment on not being able to reach Tangke :)


Bantigue Island's Sandbar

Bantigue Island's sandbar

Bantigue Island is just 10-15 minutes away from either Antonia Beach or Cabugao Gamay island. Best time to go there is during low tide so that you'll see the sandbar fully exposed. No entrance fee.

Isla Gigantes Norte

Bakwitan Cave

Bakwitan cave
Photo courtesy of Joel Decano/Carles Tourism Office

One of the caves in the island that can easily be explored. It got its name from the word "bakwit" which means to evacuate. The cave served as refuge for the locals during WWII and has continue to shelter them during typhoons (notably Typhoon Yolanda).

Lighthouse

lighthouse
Photo courtesy of Joel Decano/Carles Tourism Office

Located at the northern tip of Gigantes Norte, it offers a great view of both sunrise and sunset. Its a Spanish-era lightouse but light tower is fairly new (the original tower was destroyed in 2008 during Typhoon Frank). You can rent a habal-habal to take you to the lighthouse. Fare is 30 pesos.

Sunrise among the mangroves

Sheltered

One of the best places to catch the sunrise in Gigantes is in Asluman where beautiful mangroves line the shore. See entire set here.

Island Life

Island life: Afternoon chores
afternoon chores

Asluman is as quaint and rustic as a fishing village can get. The locals are warm and friendly and would usually invite you to take photos of what they are doing.

Island life: drying fish
making dried fish

Every afternoon you can witness why Gigantes can be considered the scallops capital of the Philippines.



More about the island life in Gigantes here.

Best time to visit Gigantes

Summer is generally the best time to visit Gigantes. Summer here is between the months of March - May. Unfortunately it is also the busiest time of the year. Accommodation can get scarce and the beaches can get crowded. You may take your chances up to early June but that is already Habagat season (southwest moonson) and the seas can get rough.

Amihan is a good time to visit as well. The seas are calmer and the early part of the Amihan season is not peak tourist season. Amihan starts sometime in October and ends right about in the middle of the summer months (April or May).
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Lantaw
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13 comments:

tere bernardino said...

I remember when we went there last year (first week of June). Luckily, the weather did cooperate. :D

Isla Gigantes is one of the best islands in the Philippines!!! My post here: http://www.bakingbyahera.com/2013/07/IslaGigantes.html

Lantaw said...

We got great weather too :). Well except for the large waves at Tangke :D.
I agree with Gigantes as one of the best islands, and I hope they'll stay as charming and rustic as they are now.

Neng Mendoza said...

how many days are ideal to stay in Gigantes. im com ing from iloilo

Lantaw said...

3-4 days in Gigantes should be OK.

purple addict said...

is it safe to bring a 4-year old?

Lantaw said...

Yup, there shouldn't be any problems. I've seen families with toddlers when I visited the islands

purple addict said...

thanks so much. i love your blog.

Lantaw said...

thank you! :)

Ysabela said...

We didn't get the chance to see Asluman! We also booked with Hideaway Resort. So far, there service is good. I hope they will open the other islands for tourists in the future :)

http://www.travellingthephilippines.info/isla-gigantes-island-hopping/

joanne said...

Can we tour the island just for a day & half? It's actually our first time & we're planning to stay there just for a night. What can you recommend?

miner 5 said...

EXCELLENT Blog! This very informative . . .

My Family from the US will visit the Island this week, 'Hope they will enjoy the Island has to offers

cheer !!!!

Lantaw said...

@joanne, overnight is doable, though very limited. You'll probably be able to visit the usual stops like Cabugao

Ian | Going Places said...

Question, does Mr. Decano provide packages that includes accomodation, island hopping with boat transfer to mainland Carles or Estancia vice-versa. Thank you.

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