Travel Guide : Journey to Sambawan Island

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A patch of heavenly islands so close to each other that they formed an extremely photogenic cove. All three islands are open for exploration which can be accessed by a natural bridge of igneous rocks and shallow water. It is greatly blessed pristine shorelines shining like diamonds and waters glowing from emerald to sapphire hue. And the best part of it all are the mighty cliffs and beautiful rocky formations that the islands possess which makes sunset watch all the more endearing for your senses. Sambawan island is truly one of a kind masterpiece by nature that should be experienced.

I woke up five in the morning on a ferry approaching Biliran island province. We left the port of Cebu around nine in the evening the previous night and are expected to arrive around 7 am. The bed in the tourist is quite comfortable that is hard to get up around that time but I forced to because my phone is running out of juice and I must charge it to prepare for the big trip ahead. To add to that my tummy is begging for food as well so I opt to head out to the canteen where the charging station is conveniently situated. 

On the way out, I was greeted with a refreshing sea breeze and I can see the sun still preparing to ascend. To my surprise, the canteen is close and there isn't a single soul to interact with in the area. This is the perfect time that the book I brought came in handy. After I hooked in the phone and power bank, I started where I left off with the book that I haven't completed yet since last year. I picked it up at Booksale because it is a Pulitzer Prize Winner and there's a movie made about it. I always thought it would interesting to watch a movie when you have read the book first. "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy tells a story about a father and son surviving in a post-apocalyptic world where there is no hope and only the love for each other sustains them. The synopsis may sound interesting but the book bores me most of the time that is why I have trouble wrapping up this book. After a few pages I stopped when the captivating sunrise scene shines so brightly before my senses which literally took my attention away. I was enthralled of its beauty which lead to an endless photos and a short reflection I thought I missed this feeling of going backpacking to an unknown land it has been awhile. My short trance state was broken when other passengers started crowding out the area and the canteen finally opened.


We arrived in Naval Port around 7:57 am and we were supposed to meet the rest of our companions here. The port has a quaint provincial feel to it with a beautiful mountain backdrop on a distance and clear waters but no white patch of beach in sight. The port is akin to the port of my home province where pollution hasn't fully diluted the area.

When we finally meet up with Kim he introduced us with his three other companions where one is from Cebu and the two other are locals from Leyte. They're not really the friendly type at first and has the mountaineer vibe going on to them which worries me a bit if ever this group decided to tackle a major climb on this trip. And I feel overpacked on their presence.

After taking our breakfast ( which is pricey for a carenderia rate ) we asked around for the schedule of the earliest ferry en route to Maripipi Island from Naval Port. They advised around 10:30 am and two trips will follow with thirty minutes intervals on each. We still have one hour to layaway so we decided to really use the terminal to charge our gadgets which we paid Php 25. Mobile data can really dry up the juice in your mobile devices so I learn the value of going into flight mode during big trips.

TIP! Buy some supplies in Naval before going to Maripipi because that island are deprived of stores and restaurants for an unknown reason.
Nothing but visual feast awaits our eyes on the way to Maripipi island. Small islets with white shores are a common sight and beautiful rocky formations can be seen as well. Makes you want to visit each one of them if possible. Instead of staying indoor we found ourselves outside admiring and being in awe of the heavenly creations in front of us.

Maripipi island is a small community island mostly inhabited by fishermen. It is  peaceful provincial island somewhat frozen in the old times. Don't expect expensive resorts and restaurants because there isn't any and you can hardly find any stores or small carenderia to dine in Maripipi. That is why you must buy some supplies in Naval before heading here because inhabitants on this island rarely depends on commercial establishments for their needs. I love the laid back vibe going on here which makes it an ideal place for retirement. The main mode of transport in the island is through habal-habal ( motorcycle ) as evident by what looks like a one lane that this island mostly have. Overall Maripipi island pretty much serves as a gateway for tourists wanting to explore Sambawan Island.

You are given two options on your accommodation either you stay in Maripipi island or go straight to Sambawan island each have their own advantages and disadvantages which mostly varies on your level of comfort. Maripipi offers clean bed, stable power & water supply whereas Sambawan limits you to those primary necessities though you will be treated with a full nature retreat. I would have loved to stay in Sambawan island and witness the sitting & rising of the sun but our limited time prohibits such decision because you need to extend a day to have that overnight stay in Sambawan for reasons that the only boat leaving Maripipi is available only around five in the morning.

We stayed in Judith Gaviola Homestay in Baranggay Ermita which is only a ten minute walk from Maripipi Port. For only Php 300.00 per person you will have a comfortable bed with a fan and some needed toiletries. Gaviola's homestay rarely accept solo male travelers for security reasons because they are managed by elderly women they mostly couples or big groups. It can be reached by a few meters walk from the port and is located at the left side which is super close to the lotto after the church. You may contact May Gaviola for reservations and instructions 09297669790Notably, there are cheaper accommodation available in town but not nearly as comfortable as this one.

We left right away for Baranggay Ol-og to catch the small boat going to Sambawan island. It was a smooth ride because the road is well paved. Provincial sights and huge volcanic boulders awaits our eyes on the way which makes me conclude that there is probably an active volcano in the island. The regular rate for habal-habal going here is Php 30.00 but you may strike a deal with the driver to fetch you in an expected you will be back from Sambawan. 

The policy of the only boat going to Sambawan island is on a first come first serve basis. Since this is the only boat we've known to transfer visitors to the island you will have to wait for your turn. We wasted almost an hour of waiting because a foreigner beat us in getting there first. Naturally, for traveler like us with time restriction makes the scenario very frustrating to wait that long. You may contact Cynthia Requiero (
09185166075, 09289043673 ) to avoid the frustration we had because she will refer you to other boatman if ever the one they have is not available.

It took long enough for the boat to come back for us but we never bother complaining and be glad instead when our time is up to transfer to Sambawan island. For those not accustomed with sea faring in small boat you might find the experience a bit scary because the boat is really small which only harbors utmost three people but all six of us managed to fit in. The trip took twenty to thirty minutes with an intense heat of the sun and deep blue sea to keep you company.


As we are nearing the island, the heat of midday sun grow more intense but somehow didn't seem to bother us much anymore because we are captivated the immaculate beauty of the island which slowly comes out of the horizon. It was then that I realize I might need to come back here again to fully explore the Sambawan. The chances of exploration is so great that will take a full day to do it.

There are three equally stunning islands that are so close-knit to each other somehow forms a beautiful cove but they're not really physically connected. The huge main island and the second island are connected with a naturally occurring igneous rock which forms like a natural and looks amazing in a distance for nature to come up with such travesty. The second and the third one are so close to each other that only a shallow water separates them. All three islands I have observed have their own distinct beauty which are begging for exploration.

The temperature started to peak around thirty five degrees centigrade that by the time the small fishing boat docked in we hurriedly  jump out into the water looking for some shade. Memories of Balicasag island flashes as my feet touches the cool water in the pristine shore because they share a lot of distinct similarities on its shoreline.  Thanks to that unknown tree which offers shade to us that I finally able to see the naked beauty of Sambawan island fully. The shoreline is sparkling like diamonds and the water is glowing like emerald that I swear I thought I was dreaming in some paradise island. Unlike any other island the horizon is filled with a beautiful backdrop of a lonesome mountain and some nearby islands around it. Sambawan island has captivated my soul and it never let it go.

Meet Kim ( mountaineer / traveler )

The beautiful revelation filled my senses with wonder that for a few minutes I forgot my companions and my gnarling stomach. I strayed away snapping some pictures that by the time I got back to the shade they are all gone. We haven't had lunch yet and it is two in the afternoon.

Meet Miguel ( traveler / photo enthusiast )

My tummy did started to long for food when I remember we haven't our regular meal that afternoon. So I started searching for my other companions by scanning the island with my eyes and then finally started exploring it by foot to where the concentration of cottages are situated. Noticeably, there are a lot of people with us in the island but not nearly enough to crowd it out. I found just one companion who happens to be searching for the others as well. We concluded that they could probably be exploring the watchtower already.

TIP! You can stay at night for free in the watchtower by bribing the caretakers with liquor.

The watchtower in Sambawan Island sit atop the mountain where the view deck is. To get here you have to conquer the 200 steps and be exposed to the heat of the sun along the way. For those with low stamina you will surely make multiple stops luckily I only managed one stop while climbing the stairs. Up there you can see the entirety of the islands and the best spot to take photos & selfies.

When we reach the top, we couldn't find our companions but instead be treated with one of the amazing scenery that I laid eyes in my life. The left side of the island is mostly barren and rocky where the cliff, which looks a lot like the Pride Rock in Lion King, is situated. The signature look of the island is what the right side has to offer. The long stretch of pristine beach and the two islands which seem connected formed a nostalgic alluring image in my mind.

Yours truly ( traveler / blogger )
Conclusively, it is impossible to climb up there without taking any pictures because its sheer magnificence will leave you speechless and later turns you into a storyteller. After capturing our fill of pictures, which only God knows how many, we decided to climb down and continue to search for the others near the beach side.

Surprisingly, we found them rounding up in the shade when we got down. As it turns out they went way farther in the right side to cook the lunch for all of us. This is the best time to say thank you for my hardworking companions which I am starting grow fond of. We shared the simple meal using our bare hands and the leaves of the tree as our plate. It was one of the most satisfying meal I've had in a very long time.

Finally, I decided to take a dip on the crystal clear water that is calling out to me the moment I arrive in the island. The granule of the sands near the shore is quite fine but as you go further in the deep water the coral reefs are sharp enough to cut anyone not careful. It did cut my left foot but the wonderful experience helps numb the pain. As I was swimming around I realize it has been awhile that I've been on such a magnificent island and how much I miss the sea. And I was thankful for the Lord's blessings for giving me such good friends around me for inviting me on this adventure.

Meet Mikael ( the host )

The remaining hours, while waiting for the sunset, are spent exploring the majestic cliffs on the left side of the island. We run out of time to explore the other part of Sambawan. As the sun bathe the sky in scarlet red, we regroup in the view deck to witness the tranquil sunset and finally taken our group photo for the first time in the trip. We stood still for a few minutes watching the sun slowly descending in the horizon and be delighted of the bursts of color on what the photographer called "the magical hour'.

Inevitably, I felt a sudden surge of gratitude and peace of mind in that state. There is not a lot of people who are blessed enough to experience such spectacle. People who have never experienced such things would life that life cheated them. Life, as far as they were concerned, was the same every day, every night and every weekend. That is why I am super thankful for the grace of God in letting me experience the beauty of His masterpiece.

As we were leaving the island, I witnessed life's simple miracles. As the island turned to a silhouette of a scarlet red sky, the water sparks with light color as it goes darker. At first I thought it was the lone lamp in the boat reflected in the water but that was not the case. There are sea creatures switching on the light bulbs in their body to give a different life to the sea at night. As the day ends, I am reminded of how awesome the experience was and I don't know what surprise awaits on the remaining three days of adventure we have left.


From Manila : Book a flight going to Tacloban and board a bus for Naval ( 3 hrs trip ) and then ride the Loudes Ferry for Maripipi island.

From Cebu : Either book a flight to Tacloban or much cheaper ride a ferry bound for Naval ( 12 hours overnight sea trip ) and then ride the Lourdes Ferry for Maripipi island.

For the itinerary of the whole trip. Visit here!

Christian Vincent Literatus

Travel Blogger

Chris just loves to travel, and for a long time now has been drifting from place to place around the Philippines. With his combined passion for travel and photography, he’s managed to find himself in the middle of some magical moments and mind blowing scenery. The Bisdak Explorer is Chris’s way of sharing his experiences with you, and showcasing not just his travel photography, but the moments and stories behind those photos.


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