Saturday, May 5, 2012

Travel Guide : How to Get to Carabao Island

There has been talk about Carabao Island being developed as a world class tourist destination. Rumor has it that the Air Transportation Office under DOTC has already greenlighted a multi-billion project which includes the construction of an international airport on the island. They say that such an airport will feature state-of-the-art facilities which promise to accommodate even big aircraft doing international flights. If all these were true, then thousands of tourists will flock this small island that's close to Boracay.
For the mean time, Carabao Island remains to be an off-the-beaten-path destination and an unexplored territory. It is bounded by the famous island of Boracay in the south, and Tablas in the north. The only way to get to San Jose (the town's official name), at least for now, is to take an outrigger boat that plies to the island on a daily basis. Gifted with a diverse landscape (rolling pastures, powdery white sand beaches), Carabao Island can be a perfect destination for backpackers and travelers seeking a quaint island experience. For those looking for some peace and quiet, it's a complete antidote to the wild atmosphere of its neighboring island, Boracay. This is a guide on how to get to Carabao Island.

I want to go to Carabao Island. How can I get there?

Depends on where you'll be coming from. If from Manila, you have three options:
1. Take a Roro (roll-on, roll off) ship in Batangas Pier to Odiongan, Tablas, Romblon. Or a regular ship that sails directly to Odiongan. Montenegro Lines has daily trips (except on Tuesday) to the island. Minimum fare is 700 (economy) and 1000 for Mabuhay class. They have no private cabins, only double decks and reclining seats. Ships leave at 5pm and docks at the pier in Odiongan 8-9 hours after, depending on the weather.
I'm not sure if they have ticket reservations, I guess you can call their ticketing office at (043) 723-8294.

From Odiongan, board a jeepney (150php) bound for Sta. Fe (1.5-2 hour travel time), where you ride a boat (100php) to Carabao Island. Boats leave at around 9 or 10 am and reach Carabao Island after 45 minutes.

2. Fly via Zestair and Seair to Tablas, Kalibo or Caticlan. These airline companies have weekly flights to Tablas Island. From Tugdan Airport, hop on a jeepney that plies to Sta Fe. You can also rent a motorcycle to Sta. Fe, though of course the rate is much higher compared to jeepney's. If you're taking the Kalibo route, you need to go to Caticlan and board a boat to the island.
3. Take the Mindoro route. It's a bit of a hassle, but a good alternative when ship schedules are delayed. Anyway, it can still get you to Tablas. From Batangas Pier, take a fast craft or a ferry bound for Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. There are vans in Calapan that will take you to Roxas City. In Dangay, Roxas City, you should find an outrigger boat bound for either Odiongan or Looc.

First option is the most budget-friendly.

If you're from Boracay or Caticlan, simply take a boat to the island.

Are there hotels in the island?
In 2 or 3 years time, most definitely. But now, there is none - only lodging house and inns. The most famous accommodation is the mayor's mansion turned into a hostel/guest house. An air-conditioned room costs Php1,200 and fan rooms for Php700. They have a restaurant which serves affordable food and they have guards to keep you safe.
For reservations, you can contact the manager, Edison at 09183303718.

How about homestays?

That I'm not very sure. I didn't have time to ask when I was on the island. I guess there is, just ask the people at the pier when you get there.

How's the night life on the island?

Romantic. You can sleep under the stars and you can see them, really see them. Power's turned off at 11pm and resumes at 4am until 6am. It's a laid-back town, with a shortage in electrical power. It's unintentional but it makes staying in the island more fun, because you get to experience life in the most basic of ways. Don't worry though, there are cellphone signals on the island.
Oh, you're asking about bars, beach parties and stuff? Dude, don't go to Carabao Island if you're just looking for some night gimmick. Stay in Boracay, please.

Do I need to worry about food?
You shouldn't because the island is gifted with rich marine life. In the morning, you can visit the market and buy fresh sea produce at a very affordable price.

Are there other things to do aside from beach bumming?
You can hike to the barrio, have picnic on the hills, visit mystical caves, tour around the island using a habal-habal (motorcycle), talk to people. The best thing about the island, apart from its crystal clear water and charming beaches, is the locals - they're genial, hospitable and extremely warm.

Is it safe there?

I just told you that the locals are friendly. :-) We're told that at present time, there's zero crime rate on the island, and I completely agree based on my stay there last month, although during election time, we hear there's tension and some gun fight, not sure if that's still the case. It's a remote town but not uncivilized.
What's the best time to go there?

Definitely not election season. Kidding. Summer, as with most islands, is the ideal time to go there. Travelling to the island during rainy or monsoon season can be quite scary because the water can get really nasty.

If you have more questions that you think I can answer, drop me a private message or leave your comments on the form below. Have a great time in Carabao Island!

This post is part of my Rediscovering My Hometown, Romblon 2012 Series

4 comments:

Pinoy Adventurista said...

very helpful guide... cheers!!!

Ryan Mach I Pinoy Wandering Boy said...

Thanks, Melvz. ;p

chyngreyes.com said...

Definitely not election season. ---> for the win! =))

I like how you narrate. hehe Our ship docked at Odiongan. Dito yun di ba? =)

Mach said...

Carabao Island is around 3-4 hours ride from Odiongan. It's in fact much closer to Boracay. :-) Nakarating ka na pala sa Odiongan, cool!