Balabac Palawan Travel Guide, Itinerary, DIY and Budget

Balabac Palawan is the 2nd class municipality in the province of Palawan, Philippines. It’s known for Malaysian brands industry and some people are speaking Malay language. This municipality consists of 36 islands including the eponymous Balabac Island. The islands are notable for its uncommon indigenousplant and animal species, such as the nocturnal Philippine mouse-deer (or Pilandok). The islands are also home to dugongs, saltwater crocodiles, sawfishes, and sea turtles. Due to its biodiversity, the terrestrial and marine ecosystems of the Balabac archipelago are currently being pushed by scholars to be included in the tentative list of the Philippines for a possible UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination in the future.

Photo Credit: Outdoor is Life

The island water offers clear visibility in seeing green sea turtles even if they are too deep. In fact, the coral reefs are easily seen even at 20 feet of water. There are also giant clams and colored fish that are clearly seen in the deep water, and sometimes, bottle-nose dolphins and whale sharks arrive at the scene to feed. The islands are also home to different exotic animals native to Palawan. These are the Pilandoks (mouse deer, the smallest deer in the world), Siete Colores (Nicobar Pigeon), and the Katala (Philippine Cockatoo), among other endemic animals.

Photo Credit: Outdoor is Life

To get you there, you can rent a van from Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba in the town of Bataraza. Buses and vans regularly depart from San Jose Terminal of Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba starting at 4AM up to 9PM daily. Fare is for as low as P275 for non-aircon bus and as high as P450 for aircon shuttle or bus, travel time is approximately five (5) to six (6) hours.

Then, have an enjoyable 3-hour boat ride to mainland Balabac.

How to get to Balabac:

Plane from Metro Manila to Puerto Princesa (i.e. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia)
Tricycle to San Jose terminal
Van to Rio Tuba (travel time: 5-6 hours)
Tricycle to port
Public boat to Balabac (alight at Bancalan Port; travel time is 2 hours)

🏄🏝🚴 Sites to explore/Activities:

Patunggong Island

Tangkahan Island

Patawan Island

Candaraman Island/Sandbar

Mansalangan Sandbar

Bobby’s Island

Punta Sebaring/Bugsuk Island

Canibungan Island

Timbayan Ramos Island

Cabcabun Island

Sicsican Island

 

Punta Sebaring/Bugsuk

Other places worth exploring:

Cape Melville Lighthouse
Camiaran Island
Onuk Island
Nasubata Island
Secam Island

 

SAMPLE ITINERARY:

DAY 1
12:00 PM ETA Puerto Princesa Airport
1:00 PM ETD for Rio Tuba
7:00 PM ETA Rio Tuba / check-in

DAY 2
6:00 AM Wake-up call / check-out / breakfast
8:00 AM Ride tricycle to port
11:00 AM ETD for Bancalan Port
1:00 PM ETA Bancalan Port / commence island hopping
3:00 PM ETA Patawan Island
5:00 PM ETA Candaraman Island/Sandbar
6:00 PM Pitch tent
7:00 PM Dinner

DAY 3
6:00 AM Wake-up call / breakfast
7:00 AM Start of island hopping
Camiaran Island
Onuk Island
Nasubata Island
5:00 PM ETA Candaraman Island
7:00 PM Dinner

DAY 4
6:00 AM Wake-up call / breakfast
7:00 AM Start of island hopping
Mansalangan Sandbar
Bobby’s Island

Canibungan Island

5:00 PM ETA Candaraman Island
7:00 PM Dinner

DAY 5
6:00 AM Wake-up call / breakfast / break camp
7:00 AM Start of island hopping
Timbayan Ramos Island
Cabcabun Island
Sicsican Island
5:00 PM ETA Balabac mainland
7:00 PM Check-in

DAY 6
4:00 AM Wake-up call
6:00 AM ETD for Rio Tuba
11:00 AM ETA Rio Tuba
12:00 PM ETD for Puerto Princesa

💰💶 ESTIMATED BUDGET (for a solo traveler): 10,000 – 12,000 php (exclusive of airfare)
***Expenses may vary depending on personal consumption of food and other necessities and length of stay/number of days you will allot to explore Balabac’s islands.

📜 Tips/Reminders:
📌Exploring Balabac is not for the faint-hearted since the waves here are huge especially during monsoon season. It really takes time to hop from one island to another if the sea condition is rough. Expect to get wet so waterproof your belongings.
📌You will be camping and there are no available hotels in the islands. Candaraman Island, which is the campsite, has one available toilet. A water well serves as the water source so you could wash-up.
📌You can bring your own tent. There are also available tents to rent if you don’t have one.
📌Cellular signal is poor across the islands. Smart is much more reliable than Globe.
📌There are no available ATMs so bring enough cash.
📌There is no electricity supply in the campsite. Bring powerbanks and extra batteries for your cameras that would last for at least 2-3 days.
📌Bring insect repellant for mosquitoes and sand fleas (niknik).
📌There are no available eateries/restaurants where you can buy food that’s why the island hopping package already includes full-board meals. However, the package is exclusive of entrance fees in the islands.
📌Do not forget to reserve for your seats in the public boat the day before you leave for Rio Tuba from Balabac mainland.
📌You can spend one more day so you can visit Cape Melville Lighthouse.
📌If you are traveling with a group, you can rent a van from Puerto Princesa to get to Buliluyan Port (travel time: 4 hours) which is much closer to some of the islands of Balabac. Coordinate with your boatmen so they will pick you up at the agreed time in this port which will serve as your jump-off for day one of island hopping. Islands close to Buliluyan Port are Patunggong and Tangkahan Islands.
📌Please take note that there is only one trip daily en route to Rio Tuba from Balabac mainland which leaves at 6:00 AM. Once it arrives in Rio Tuba, this will be the sole public boat that will head back to Balabac the same day. It usually leaves Rio Tuba between 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM. This boat will pass by Bancalan Port (just inform the boat crew that you will be alighting at Bancalan).
📌Your tour operator will pick you up at Bancalan Port on your first day of island hopping since some of the islands are close to Bancalan.
📌The boat ride from Balabac to Rio Tuba lasts for approximately 4 hours but may take longer if the sea condition is rough.
📌Always check the weather first before you visit Balabac. You might get stranded once the coast guard cancels boat trips due to gale warnings or public storm signals.
📌The last trip of vans plying from Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba usually leaves between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM.
📌Always observe the LNT principles.

Contact:
📌Tour Operator: Balabac Expedition by Fidel (09995614998) – if you are traveling alone, you can join the public tours organized by Kuya Fidel.

This is a DIY Travel by Riley Gutierrez of Backpacking Philippines. Follow his IG (instagram.com/backpackingphilippines ) for more travel primers.

“The experiences of a traveler can be described as a macrocosmic explosion of colors, lights and sounds in a kaleidoscopic array or spectrum within the traveller’s spatiotemporal continuum.” – The Spacewalk Junkie

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