Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Unchartered Heavens of Carles

Cabugao Gamay Island, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo, photo by Ray Tabafunda
Carles, Iloilo has some of the most beautiful and unique islands in the Philippines. Scattered almost a dozen islands, they are unknown to many and secret to few. The most popular are the Gigantes Group (around 10 of them) situated for about 18 kilometers by motorized boat from Bangkal Fishing Port in the mainland. The most popular and sought-after of these islands are the bigger islands of Gigantes Sur comprised of the barangays Lantangan and Gabi; and Gigantes Norte with barangays Asluman and Granda. All have unique features along with their warm, clear water and unspoiled beaches.

The Barangay of Gabi in Gigantes Sur is the best place for beach holiday away from the crowds. It is well-known for its unspoiled scenery and pristine white beaches. There is a good chance visitors can find a secluded one to themselves. This is the place families and nature lovers go for a relatively isolated beach holiday. However, in the peak season during summer, its population balloons when a plethora of free-campers and day trippers both local and foreign arrive daily to indulge in the waters of these islands.

Antonia Island, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo, photo by Ray Tabafunda

ANTONIA ISLAND is a privately-owned small island of enormous beauty with the least signs of civilization. This is one of the very few islands in Carles that is nearly uninhabited. It is no wonder a lot of visitors, mostly beach lovers and backpackers find it hard to leave.  It has grown into an energetic destination for young travellers looking to sunbathe with a bit more privacy.

Tangke, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo, photo by Al Destacamento

TANGKE is a hidden saltwater lagoon formed by a surrounding wall of granite monolithic cliffs. During low tide, the level of water also recedes but also rises when it is high tide. Visitors to the area need to climb on its steep rocky wall that serves as the lagoon’s fortress. However, an easier and shorter climb from where the motorized-boat docks alongside its walls is done only during high tide. The lagoon’s rocky borders offer visitors one-of-a-kind formations. Its deep blue waters, dramatic vertical cliffs, and large caverns awaiting snorkelling exploration are enough to make this one of the best destinations in the area.

Cabugao Gamay, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo, photo by Ray Tabafunda

CABUGAO GAMAY is a privately-owned island surrounded by azure waters excellent for swimming and snorkelling activities. It is one of Iloilo’s most popular island-hop spots. After docking at the base of the island, a climb up the rocky hill steps to a breath-taking view of its outlying area and it is well worth the effort. Several other white sand island beaches are seen adjacent to the beach.

Sitio Pulupandan, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo, photo by Ray Tabafunda

SITIO PULUPANDAN is an idyllic deserted white-sand coral islet lapped by turquoise waters. The place is simply stunning, almost an hour away by motorized boat from the mainland. The islet serves as a resting area for fishermen in the area. The islet is a perfect place to go snorkelling and diving.

Bantigue Island, Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo, photo by Ramon Ramirez

BANTIGUE ISLAND is famous for its long stretch of fine sandbar. Its soft creamy sandy landscape is kissed by turquoise waters makes for a good swimming experience. The whole landscape is framed by very few thatched houses lined with coconut trees. It is not to be missed on your way to the other islets. 

Want to go off the beaten track for some rest and relaxation?  Carles is truly one of the best kept secrets of Iloilo. Beautiful scenery, crystal clear turquoise water, and soft white coarse sand make its island beaches one of the best to visit. Peaceful walks, refreshing solitude and the breath-taking daytime and night-time sky await you here.

Carles is 147.6 kilometers away or a 3-hour bus ride from Northern Iloilo Public Transport Terminal in Barangay Tagbak, Jaro, Iloilo City. It is politically subdivided into 33 barangays over a land area of 11,202 hectares and populated by 62,690 residents (2010 Census on Population). To get to island, one can take motorized boat ride from Bangkal Fishing Port in the mainland.

Know more about these islands on September 18-20 at the fountain area of Robinsons Place Iloilo for the 10th Tumandok, a tourism month celebration of Iloilo Province. For more information, please contact Mrs. Ananie Abad – Chairman, Municipal Tourism Council at 09989771419.

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