Babuyan Islands: The northern adventure - philippines travel tales photos and travel stories
Babuyan Islands: The northern adventure - philippines travel tales photos and travel stories
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Babuyan Islands:
The northern adventure

Pamuktan island in babuyan group of islandsLike all adventure journeys, our Babuyan island quest has never been that easy. About fourteen hours land trip from Manila to Aparri and four hours boat ride to Camiguin Island. But admit it. There are adventures of the mind just as there are adventures of the body, and summer vacation offers the perfect opportunity to tune up your alternative travel skills and challenge yourself to an on-the-edge adventure experiencing the less traveled part of the archipelago – “The Babuyanes”.

Every seasoned extreme traveler has a hallucination story. It’s all about sacrifice but heaven is when you conquer any weird journey that you are aiming. The trip began to chance on the evening of April 6,2004, when nine different individuals meet in a bus station in manila for the start of their Babuyan Island Quest. It was like the “Survivor Series”, the team was composed of nine adventure seekers with various professional backgrounds, all in one goal. Upon reaching the port of Camiguin in Brgy. Balatubat, Jun – the team leader immediately went to the Barangay Office to ask for possible assistance, luckily in a short while the local officials offered us the beachfront “casitas” for our accommodation.

On our second day, we left Camiguin Island to do some island hopping and whale watching before heading to Babuyan Claro. Watching a whale dive is simply awesome. They simply grab your attention, and then the silent way its slides down into the water. There was a genuine sense of loss when the whales disappear. Babuyan’s biggest and most beloved visitor – the Humpback whales (megaptera novaeangliae) are arriving during summer for their annual winter holiday, marking the start of whale watching season in the islands. Humpback whales are migrating from Alaska each year to breed and calve in Babuyan’s warm coastal waters, one of the Philippines marine sanctuary dedicated to whales and their habitat.

Surveys by the WWF-Philippine’s Humpback Whale Research and Conservation Project over the last four years counted more than 36 individual Humpback whales in the waters of Fuga, Calayan and Batanes. The project group has been working in the area since 2000 when the local WWF confirmed the presence of the whales. The humpback whale is one of the more energetic species of its kind, known in particular for its fantastic displays of jumping out of the water (breaching), flipper slapping, and lob tailing (arching just beneath the surface so the fluke, or tail, rises out of the water as the body descends).

During mating season, they are also known for the complex and haunting “songs” that the males use to attract females. These songs can last for hours, and research has shown that although there are certain patterns that repeat in many of them, the males often improvise variations that make each song unique.

camiguin island of babuyan group of islandsHumpback feed on small crustaceans called krill, which they strain out of the water by forcing large amounts of seawater through their baleen, a series of fringed overlapping plates located in the jaw in the place where teeth would normally be found. Its almost four hours in the sea before we finally reached the Fuga Island, a long island with never ending stretch of white sand and coral beaches. It was already 2pm so we decided to have a stopover to have our lunch.

The head boatmen told us that its impossible for us to head to Babuyan Claro by that time so we just stayed in the island. The night was totally dark and cold so we roam around to find driftwoods for our campfire. It’s an exciting race; laughter’s and fun echo everywhere, from naughty to creepy stories, everybody is listening until wee hours of the morning.

camiguin island of babuyan group of islands Eyes were bit sored, temper where short, and fatigue was etched on everyone’s face – and I’m just talking about the journalists. Almost 4am when we left the island, still aiming to reach the Babuyan Claro. The breeze was exceptionally cold as we sail to the northern part of the islands. The waves are getting bigger as we reach the open sea, nobody knows that there was a cold front because of the islands lack of communication facilities. Some of us still managed to laugh, purposely to ease the stress and fear of the gigantic waves. It was like having the whitewater rafting in Kalinga and surfing in Siargao all at the same time. But who’s to blame? Its part of the adventure, even the strong fishermen’s are not sailing every Good Friday to follow the old beliefs that traveling is not safe during this special Lenten day. The adrenalin pumping waves was gone when we reached the Camiguin cove, we thought that it’s the end of our adventure, but the truth is it was just the beginning.

The third day was our turn to smile, we may have failed to conquer the three remaining islands but we still always have the “next time”. We may say that we are the real “survivors” because this time we are not guided by a script nor a series of reality-based obstacles but instead a true to life exhilarating adventure. It was a sunny morning; everybody was prepared for the beach hopping and dolphin watching.

Halfway to the fronting Pamuktan Island, we already saw a couple of jolly dolphins, performing handful of show offs. As we sail around the island, dolphins are just coming out from the waters. The playful dolphins delighted everybody. We had some snorkeling right in the beach shore and then we head back to Camiguin for some bird watching and nature tripping. Ah! This is life.

The Babuyan group of islands is composed of five islands north of Aparri. All of the islands have small Ilokano communities. Phone lines and mobile phones are unheard and only few settlers have electricity powered by gasoline-supplied generators. The province of Cagayan is bounded by the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre on the east extending up to the beaches of the coastal towns, on the south is Isabela province, on the west is the Cordillera Mountain and on the north by the Balintang, Babuyanes and the China Sea.

sunset in camiguin island of the northThe Babuyan group of islands which include Calayan, Dalupiri, Fuga, Camiguin and Babuyan Claro is about fifty nautical miles north of Aparri. There are no luxury resorts in these islands and no regular ferries but the trip here with all its inconvenience is well worth the effort. Whether whale watching or discovering a great beach destination is your goal, Babuyan Group of Island offers a lot for the active traveler.

Babuyan Island adventure is all about dreaming a vacation after it was over. Its gives you a never-ending discovery, almost impossible to forget. The experience maybe unforgiving but truly it was a walk to remember.

*Melo Villareal is a free lance journalist whose travel articles and photos have been published in various travel magazines. He is the publisher of

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