Just an hour after departing from the pick-up point in Tapilon Wharf, Daanbantayan, the group watched the deep blue waters of the Visayan Sea begin to transform into a crystal-clear shade of turquoise, revealing a rich marine life beneath. Slowly too we watched as the previously distant island on the horizon began to get loftier in our sights. And there it was – a long, extended isle of green coconut palms and amazing white sand glistening in the turquoise waters.
A part of the municipality of Palompon, Kalanggaman Island and with its crystal clear waters, white powdery sand and long, snaking sandbars, this beauty was largely nameless to the outside world until in 2013 a passing cruise ship – the MV Europa Cruise Line – dropped off some 400 passengers to tour the island. It has since then been gaining a lot of profile-raising among local and foreign tourists. Lately, leading sky travel advisory website Skyscanner voted it as one of the “amazing sandbars” in the Philippines.
When Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) passed through the island in November 2013 it wiped out one of the sandbars, although fortunately sparing the other. But the habagat or southwest monsoon has helped depositing the sand back onto the sandbar’s former location. The exquisiteness the group saw the moment we came ashore from our boat, however, was adequate enough. There are no extravagant accommodations, restaurants or shops on the island. There are, however, some native-style open huts for rent and we proximately headed off to one very near the base of the sandbar.
The side where our boat docked comprises a long, sandy beach lined by coconut palms – apparently the best area for swimming. The opposite side of the narrow island, not so visited by people, is rocky rather than sandy. In a few more minutes we were walking around the sandbar itself – a long, snaking white sand wunderkind. The waters around Kalanggaman are crystal-clear making it ideal for swimming. There is a certain point at the sandbar, though, swimmers are cautioned by Coast Guard personnel to be careful in the area. After sampling the main white sand beach, the group explored this side and snorkeled in its clear waters. There were some fishes (big and small) among the rocks and corals, signaling a rich marine life.
Kalanggaman is not a large island and it did not take long for the group to reach the opposite end. There are too many activities to pass up. Swimming and snorkeling are of course right up there on the list. There are also equipment available on the island for kayaking, aqua biking and scuba diving. Watching the sun set was a beauty as well. Because there is no electricity in the island, (except a few street lights powered by solar cells) it is a haven for star gazers.
How to Get There and other Travel Tips
Visitors coming directly from places such as Metro Manila the best option is to take the plane to Tacloban which has the nearest domestic airport to Palompon. It is best to coordinate with the Palompon Ecotours Office. Visitors need to register at this office prior to your tour of Kalanggaman.. Pump boats going to Kalanggaman are docked at the wharf just behind the Palompon Ecotours Office.
It is important that visitors contact the Palompon Ecotours Office to book their trip. The municipality of Palompon is now managing tourism in Kalanggaman and limiting the number of people visiting the island. It is therefore important to make a reservation with them especially during the peak months of April and May. It’s best to leave forKalanggaman aboard the pump boat as early as possible when the waters are tranquil. Six (6) AM is the earliest possible boat ride. The boat ride usually takes about an hour.
Tour operators based in Cebu (especially in Daanbantayan) are accredited by the Palompon Ecotours Office as well. At Kalanggaman itself there are open huts one can rent for the day. There are no overnight rooms unless people are willing to sleep at the open huts. Bring tents if you’re planning to stay overnight. Setting up campfires along the beach is a no-no since it will destroy the beauty of the white sand.
There are no resorts or restaurants on the island. It is better to bring food and drinks as very little is available for sale at Kalanggaman (The boat that took us in the island provided all the necessary provisions since it was part of the travel package). There are at grilling stations on the island (on both ends of Kalanggaman) but one has to bring in your own wood or charcoal.
There are a few restrooms scattered around Kalanggaman and some bath rooms as well but fresh water is scarce. It would seem that Kalanggaman is not that developed with no resorts and just the most basic of amenities. I would prefer it that way and it seems that for the time being the Eco Tourism Office shares the same sentiment and is doing its best to preserve the pristine state of the island.