Bantayan Island – Up early to catch the sunrise, we were lounging away the sunny but cool morning on Anika Beach Resort‘s comfy beach chaises and enjoying our instant coffee.
In our periphery, in front of small settlement adjacent to Abaniko Resort, a cluster of outrigger bancas were anchored ashore with local fishermen getting their nets straightened out into shape. One of them eventually sidled up to us, timidly asking if we would be interested in hopping over to the two islands decorating our horizon.
“That is Hilantagaan Island and to its left is Silion Island,” pointing to each, “which is better known as Virgin Island.”
“Okay, how much?”
“One thousand pesos po, for the whole day, and I have dive masks and snorkels if you want to go snorkeling. But Virgin Island is privately owned, if you want to set foot on the island, they charge 500 pesos for two persons.”
Looking at Tess, both knowing we had nothing concrete planned for the rest of the morning, I said “how about 500 pesos for half a day, let’s get back here for lunch?”
“Let us grab some stuff first. What’s your name?”
Introducing ourselves in return, “wait here Romeo, we’ll be right back.”
We put out for Hilantagaan Island first, chug-chugging for about 30 minutes in our small outrigger banca. The day was perfect, we were skimming over calm waters with the sun peeking through puffs of clouds. The waters surrounding Hilantagaan Island was very clear – crystal to the sandy bottom.
On the approach we saw that Hilantagaan Island was home to a small fishing village. We could see only a few villagers out and about. Turning around, to face Bantayan Island, we realized just how flat its terrain was. Not a nipple to be found. Which is probably why a lot of Bantayanons use bicycles. It’s so effortless to pedal around – not much ups and downs in their lives. Sadly, this is probably why everything blew over so easily when Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) swept over the island. But it’s heartening to see Bantayan getting back on its feet.
We got off the banca and stepped onto fine creamy white sand. Our banca was anchored on the southwestern corner of the island. Standing put, we had a fantastic beach on our left and a fabulous beach on our right.
As far as I could see, we were the only visitors, virtually having the whole beach to ourselves, so we spent several hours on Hilantagaan Island, swimming, taking pictures and just plain sitting on the beach to enjoy the brilliant seascape in quietude while losing track of time. Romeo had to remind us that the sands were running out on us.
As we cast off for Virgin Island, I told Romeo, “we won’t be getting off at Virgin Island anymore since we’ve got about 2 hours left until lunch. Let’s just slow down and stop in front of Virgin Island for some photos, then take the shortest distance to Bantayan Island,” gesturing to the spot I had in mind, “then hug the coast to check out the coastal scenery until we get back to Anika Beach Resort.”
Virgin Island is about a tenth of the size of Hilantagaan Island. The approach was equally fabulous. There were several groups of island-hoppers frolicking and sunbathing on beach. Unlike Hilantagaan Island, there were lounge chairs, colorful beach umbrellas, huts and picnic tables right on the beach.
“We’ll set foot on Virgin Island another time,” I added regretfully.
Bantayan Island Hopping – Virgin Island & Hilantagaan Island – Tips and Things to Note
- On the beach, walk up to any boatman and negotiate your island hopping itinerary. Or – just wait for a boatman to walk up to you. We, two of us, were quoted PHP 1000.00 (USD 22.00) for a whole day, using a small boat. Your hotel/resort could probably arrange this for you too. I would presume the larger the group, the larger the boat, the higher the quote.
- Virgin Island charges a PHP 500.00 for (USD 11.00) entrance fee for the first two persons and PHP 100.00 (USD 2.00) for each additional person, for up to 5 persons. If there are 10 of you, make a group of 4, and give your 6 remaining friends a headache.
- You may have food prepared for you by the staff/caretakers at Virgin Island.
- There are sari-sari stores on both islands where you can buy snacks and drinks.
- You may buy fresh seafood from fishermen near your resort (cheap!) or from the market in downtown Santa Fe and have them cooked on the island by your boatmen.
- For more tips on Bantayan Island, check out our Bantayan Island Travel Guide!