THE MYSTIQUE OF BABUYAN ISLANDS

The island town of Calayan in Cagayan which is in the middle of Aparri and the Batanes group of islands is a sure winner. If you look into the Philippine map, Calayan is one of the islands closer to the China Sea on the northern coast of Luzon. Calayan is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Cagayan, Philippines. According to the latest census, it has a population of 16,233 people in 2,654 households. Calayan boasts a white sand and sharp rocks that makes it a potential landmarks for tourists. The Calayan islands are one of the Babuyan Islands in the Luzon Strait northern region. It is composed of the four of the five major islands of the Babuyan Islands such as: Calayan, Camiguin, Dalupiri and Babuyan Island in Luzon Strait north of Luzon Island. Calayan Island is the largest of the Babuyan Islands.

THE BEST OF CALAYAN ISLANDS

Calayan Island is accessible from the town of Claveria, Cagayan and Aparri where an outrigger boats depart regularly depending on the number of packages being shipped to and from Calayan Island.

LAMPITAWSummer is just the perfect time for wanderers alike to fully appreciate the wonders of the islands. Seated closest to the bow I thought was the best angle to shoot for the destination. But looking up at the sky encourages us to stop for a moment and appreciate those fluffy clouds stretched from from skyline to skyline. It seemed as if my mind turned into a dream- a beautiful dream.

Our Lampitaw (outrigger boat) seemed to be revving up a little bit only to find out that we’re running at a normal speed. Our boat loaded with softdrinks and other dry goods slowed down as we were approaching the shores of Poblacion, Calayan where our host was waiting. We landed on a beach near the main town, Centro. There is no hotel and restaurant on the island, but homestays are easily available, and your host can arrange to have your food cooked. I immediately plunged into the waters of Poblacion when I figured I had lack of sleep. I can also imagine the 5 hour travel time from Claveria to Calayan and the burning heat of the sun was a torture. Mind you, getting to Calayan is not as easy as piece of cake.

Calayan is simply home to the most amazing cove in the Philippines. I still don’t know why Babuyan is named so. I think that’s part of the islands aura. But I learned a lot more things about the place and its people.

CALAYAN ISLAND ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO DO AND SUGGESTED PLACES TO VISIT

Avoid the crowds, bars and shops by escaping to this out-of-the-way, still-undiscovered gem of Calayan Islands.

SIBANG COVE PHOTO

Sibang/Cibang Cove is a 10-15 minute kuliglig (vehicle composed of a two-wheeled trailer pulled by a two wheeled tractor similar to a rotary tiller) ride and a 30-minute walk away from Centro. It boasts a gorgeous fine white sand beach surrounded by limestone cliffs and picturesque rock formations. Camiguin Norte can be seen from a distance but this beach alone is fairly enough for you to visit Calayan. Sibang offers a true escape for tourists. It is still undeveloped, white-sandy beach for everyone to enjoy nature, as well as haven for sunbathers and those seeking for a total romantic seclusion. Calayan is an island with no airports and no banks, offering visitors an intimate, castaway-like getaway. PHOTO BELOW: Snorkeling moments. Hello Mom, I’m under the sea. Photo courtesy of Blissfulguro.com at Centro beach.

CENTRO BEACH, CALAYAN, CAGAYAN

Centro Beach has been a perfect destination for everyone who likes to swim, sail, snorkel and dive or enjoy a romantic picnic. The Island of Calayan still has secluded hideaways perfect for diving and snorkeling – if you just know where to look. The island’s shallows are a shelter for various marine life. A couple of yards, huge table-coral formations stands out in improbable layers to catch essential sunlight. The island boasts calm waters year-round, but the best times are from the summer months of March through May, when underwater visibility exceeds 50 feet.

Panorama of Sibang Cove, with Cababaan Cove in the distancePHOTO ON THE LEFT: The scenic view of Sibang Cove, with Cababaan Cove in the distance. Fortunately, the world is a beautiful place if you know how to look at it. There are three coves located in Barangay Dadao which is approximately four kilometers east from Poblacion. These are Caniwara, Cababaan and Sibang that possess a scenic seascapes in the Philippines.

At the sea lies in the path of great migratory routes as well as being home to many indigenous species. The island is a paradise for wild-flower enthusiasts where the gentle maritime climate encourages prolific survival and reproduction.Wildflowers and wild flowering plants and vines, however, cover the island in great abundance. They provide a combination of colors in many areas.

I first heard of these Coves several months ago while reading EAZY TRAVELER’s blog. On his blog, he raved about everything from the food he tasted and experienced to the accommodations. Everything sounded a crack shot to me. He honestly made it sound like a little piece of paradise.

Sibang Cove has fine white sand, and Caniwara Cove has a slightly flat-rock floor, were pieces of heaven, untouched by modernization. Surrounded by rock formations, the coves can be reached by hiking or by riding a pump boat from the Centro.

SCENIC Caniwara Cove as seen from Nagudungan Hill. PHOTO ABOVE: Scenic Caniwara Cove as seen from Nagudungan Hill. Sibang and Cababaan Coves can be seen on top of Nagudungan Hill. Caniwara cove is just one of the three coves I mentioned earlier. Caniwara cove is relatively closer to the main town. It has a sandy beach, a flat shore with lots of boulders, rocks and stones. In addition to a jaw-dropping view, Caniwara cove boasts a huge diversity of life.

Rocky shores like the Caniwara and Cababaan coves are unique and special marine habitats. They support a massive diversity of life; examples of almost every animal group can be found here. I have seen sea slugs and hermit crabs.This cove is rich with various plants and animals (plankton) feeding the larger animals of the rocky shore. PHOTO BELOW: Rugged landscapes can be found alongside pristine white sandy beaches and coves on Calayan Island.
NAGUDUNGAN HILL, CALAYAN, CAGAYAN

NAGUDUNGAN HILL It looks like a Batanes famed landscape – Goats wandering and carabao grazed at the quiet area of Nagudungan hill. I have never seen such a jaw-dropping cliffs that are noticeably and distinctively marked by a number of superficial land formations and caves. Needless to say, Nagudungan Hill could be one of the most scenic seascapes in the Philippines.

It may be marked by strong wind, hail, thunder and/or lightning but the powerful winds and waves brought by frequent thunderstorms that hit the area made a thorough and dramatic scene of landscape into a countless of spectacular cliffs seemingly dropping towards the narrow crossing of Babuyan Channel. Birds and eagles can be seen and dominating the sky. Sea eagles catching a prey is a sight to behold but there’s something more to seeing large birds like eagles from the sky to catch their meals. The jaw-dropping black to gray-colored reef limestone rocks of this island will certainly complete your day. Its black & white landscape causes optical illusions and reflects colors when the sun goes down. Most of the rock formations, including its wave, are just spectacular.

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN CALAYAN ISLANDS

  • Didicas Island Camiguin
  • Camiguin Islands Whales, Dolphins
  • Malangsi
  • Piddan Point
  • Kumanabang (a small island)
  • Lighthouse Near Sibang
  • Magsidel Punta
  • Dipari Island-Dilam
  • Smith volcano, Babuyan Claro
  • Dalupiri
  • Katanapan, Dibay
  • Puraw
  • Balagubag
  • Macara
  • Banua
  • Rarasi
  • Kaniwalan

Pig: symbol of Wealth, Prosperity and Luck. The pig moves swiftly and with determination. It intuitively knows the best reaction to various situations.

They say that whenever people cross the Babuyan channel, they bring along a pig for a safe trip. On our way home I noticed a pig on board. Our journey to Aparri took about 7 hours on a Lampitaw loaded with a pig, 20 people, some fish, chicken, a big bonsai tree and all kinds of cargo, on a perfectly flat sea.

Almost half an hour into the trip, our roller-coaster boat ride started. Big splashes of waves lifted then slammed our tiny boat into the ocean. Although our bodies were covered and saturated with water, we found the experience memorable and exciting- not until the waves became more intense.

HOW TO GET TO CALAYAN ISLAND:

From Manila, hop on a bus for about 14 hours land travel to Claveria or Sta. Ana or Aparri, or fly to Tuguegarao in Cagayan, or to  Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. That three mentioned towns are the gateway to Calayan. The closest municipality to Calayan is Claveria.

From the fishing port in Claveria/Lakay lakay port or the Aparri port, take a lampitaw boat ride (motorized pump boat) to Calayan. Boats leave between 5 to 7am if there’s cargo that needs to be shipped or if the weather condition permits. Boat rides cost P500/person and can last 5-7 hours from and to Aparri or 5 hours from and to Claveria. For your convenience one must have a local contact in Calayan or Claveria to arrange ticket reservations. You may contact Tita Conie Agudera: 0921-534-9231. She’s our local contact in Calayan Island.

The Babuyan Islands are as remote as you think and simply getting there is an adventure in itself. One must be brave enough to conquer the trip to the northern-most point of Luzon and the daily 5 hour roller-coaster boat rides on very rough Pacific Ocean seas.

The trip takes you to majestic islands, each isolated from the others by miles of ocean and unique in its features. Camiguin Norte has mountains at its center and humpback whales off its coast. Dalupiri is a huge block of rock rising up from the sea with sheer walls. Fuga Island on the other hand is as flat as a pancake and has grasslands as far the eye can see. Due to unpredictable weather and ocean conditions, the itinerary may not be fixed and getting stranded on an island for several days is a possibility. The boat rides are rough, long and oftentimes scary. One can encounter big waves on relatively small boats.

For transportation details, where to stay in Calayan, where to eat in Calayan Island and Babuyan Island itinerary please check out MY Calayan Travel Guide.

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