Guimaras should be in the list of every traveling Filipino, and not just because its mangoes are to die for. This small island between Panay and Negros boasts of pristine white beaches and clear blue waters, making it a favorite destination for both local and foreign tourists in the archipelago.
The Alubihod Beach is a popular starting point for tourists who plan to go island hopping in Guimaras. My family headed straight to Raymen Beach Resort, which was recommended by the tourism office at the port. The resort charged us an entrance fee of P25 per person, and then waived it when we availed of its Guimaras island hopping package. One 10-seater boat is priced at P500 for the first hour and P150 for every succeeding hour, which is relatively cheap, compared to boat rentals in other, more commercialized, beaches.
Raymen’s Guimaras island hopping package has a set itinerary, which the boatmen would then adjust, depending on how much time you have left. To give you a bit of control over your trip, talk to the boatmen before you set off, and tell them which islands you want to prioritize. This way, you can budget your time properly and make the most out of your tour.
To help you decide, here are five things you should definitely do during your island hopping spree:
1. Take a dip in Ave Maria.
Guimaras is peppered with islets surrounding its main island, and the Ave Maria Islet is one of the most famous ones. A popular destination for island hoppers, Ave Maria boasts of a pristine white sand beach, clear blue-green waters, and a picturesque view perfect for picture taking. Don’t forget to buy buko juice (P25/buko) from the only buko vendor on the islet, to quench your thirst after a good swim.
2. Say hello to the pawikan in Turtle Island.
Unfortunately, our boatmen decided to skip this island because we spent too much time swimming in Ave Maria (which is why it’s important to discuss these things with them at the start of your trip). A shame, too, since Turtle Island is considered a sanctuary for the endangered pawikan, or sea turtles. If you include this island in your itinerary, make sure to put a safe distance between yourself and any sea turtles you may find. Remember that you’re a visitor to their home, so show them the respect that they deserve.
3. Chill at Natago Beach Resort.
True to its name, Natago Beach Resort is hidden from view, and our boat had to do a slight curve before we saw the shoreline. After paying an entrance fee of P50 per person, we were given a big cottage, where we spent an hour eating lunch and taking photos of the view.
4. Channel your inner diwata at the Baras Cave.
After lunch, we explored Baras Cave, a small cave near Turtle Island. The first thing I noticed was that the entrance was like a rainbow, with layers of different colors. Stalactites and stalagmites created an ideal location for dramatic poses and “in the moment” shots. We took turns having our picture taken against a big rock formation near the center of the cave, and bad lighting and a low-tech camera phone accidentally resulted in a lady-in-the-water apparition. Be mindful of bats, as there were several of them flying around during our visit.
5. Visit SEAFDEC’s Igang Marine Station.
The highlight of our trip was our visit to SEAFDEC’s Marine Station in Igang. Composed of four islets connected by sturdy floating foot bridges, SEAFDEC is home to hundreds of different fish varieties, like the bangus (milkfish), the labahita (surgeonfish, or more commonly known as dory), the pompano, the carnivorous apahap (sea bass), and the naki—nakikitira, nakikikain, nakikitulog (a.k.a. freeloaders).
Our guide showed us the station’s fish cages, and explained the research work they’re doing, including new hatchery technologies to help fish farmers. As part of the tour, kuya let us feed the sea bass (from a safe distance) and the bangus up close, as in, from our hands. Suffice to say that having a toothless fish try to put my finger in its mouth is something I will not likely forget anytime soon.
Was this post helpful? Got a favorite islet that’s not part of the list? Write it in the comments’ section below and keep the conversation going. I’d love to hear from you!