Islas de Higantes, literally island of giants is a group of islands in Northeastern Iloilo past the coast of Carles and Estancia. Gigantes has the laid back lifestyle and has retained its offbeat charm, mostly due to being overlooked and underdeveloped tourism compared to other mainstream tourist attractions.
One thing that contribute to this is the travel duration, it takes at least 5 hours to get there. Those who chose to go will get to enjoy untainted sea complete with the white sand beach, heaps of seafood and photo-ready jagged rocks with a background of the blue, blue sky.
To reach the island, you can either jump off Estancia or Carles. You can reach both towns via land travel from Iloilo (5-6 hours travel time), Roxas (3-4 hours) or Boracay/ Caticlan (6-7 hours). Bancal Port is the most convenient and fastest way to get to Gigantes. Bus fare from Iloilo is 170 PHP while van costs 150 PHP. There is one boat trip from either port daily which costs around 100 PHP, but groups can charter boats to carry them across the sea especially when getting around smaller islands. Chartered boats range from 5000 PHP and above, the fee is inclusive of an island hopping tour. The commute boat runs around noon.
For those who are on the fence with this travel, here are some thing Gigantes offers. You just might change your mind and pack your bags right off after reading.
The scattering of islets calls for island hopping tour, make sure to visit Cabugao Gamay Island, Tangke, Antonia Beach, Bantigue Island, and Pawikan Cave. All islands feature white sand beaches and sandbars, but the best shores are found in Antonia, Cabugaw Gamay Island, and Bantigue which are only accessible by boat.
Go spelunking and cave exploring. Gigantes has lots of hidden caves with spacious caverns along with rock formations and cliffs, the most famous is Pawikan Caves. Another cave, Bakwitan by name, contains gigantic sets of bones.
You can also rock scramble in the steep rocky trail of the limestone cliffs, locally known as boulevard. The hard climb offers a 360 unobstructed view of the Gigantes group of islands and the Visayan Sea.
Speaking of views, there is also the old lighthouse from the Spanish Era, it offers the best view of the sea from the top.
Gigantes, being near the sea also gives you a chance to taste seafood fresh from catch. Try the scallops, the place is known as scallops capital of the Philippines. The best thing about the food is that it’s cheap so gorge yourself on fish, shrimp, crabs and aquatic delights.
For those who want to stay longer and on a budget, you can book basic accommodations at established resorts in Gigantes North Island or just go camping outdoors at Antonia Beach and Cabugao Gamay Island. Homestays are also available.
Buy food to last for at least one day. Shops in the island are limited to sari-sari stores so you should also bring your own necessities. You can buy fresh produce early in the morning only because most of the catch is delivered to the mainland. There is potable spring water in Gigantes Sur but if you have sensitive stomachs, better bring your own or buy water tablets for the duration of your stay. There is an electricity schedule in Gigantes. Electricity is turned on late in the afternoon until 11pm only. Generators might be used by some resorts but if you’re planning for a camp better full charge your gadgets and/or bring extra batteries.