Experience Biliran

Travelling on a hectic schedule? Can’t decide of a quick escape whether to go on an island and enjoy the beach or have a quick hike and visit a majestic waterfall? What about having both in two days? Don’t believe me? Hang on folks. Have your backpack ready cause this place got you covered. And nope, I am not exaggerating it, this place is awesome. I mean AWESOME.

Located in Eastern Visayas region (Region VIII), Biliran and can be accessed via quick van ride from Tacloban City Airport. It offers a typical provincial atmosphere; laid back, quite, unspoiled, and almost everyone-knows-everyone type of place.

I know, one might say; “Hey The Earthwalker, we have not heard of this place before so it’s hard to believed its really worth a visit”. Well neither I am, and I am glad I did. So hold on folks, prepare to relieve my escapade.

Sambawan Island

Sambawan Island is Biliran’s version of island paradise. It’s a small island 5 km west coast of the Municipality of Maripipi and can only be accessible via charted boat from its main town of Naval or Kawayan. It is made of series of interconnected stony islets with two main islands and a grass covered rocky terrain.  It is also considered as a marine sanctuary and a popular dive site due to its abundant marine life. It has a stark, mountainous coastline and a sunrise so magnificent you would not want to miss waking up to every morning.

THE EARTHWALKER’S EXPERIENCE

If I’ll be trap in an island, please let it be Sambawan. For years it had remained known only for curious adventure seeking locals, but I doubt if they can keep it hidden under tourist radar any longer. The island was quite, welcoming and an absolute definition of getting lost in a place no less than a paradise. It has white sand beach, snorkeling area and diving spots, and a watch tower you can trek for about five minutes. And speaking of watch tower, the view deck was by far the most beautiful, spectacular, (think of any adjective and place it here) I’ve experienced. It offers an uninterrupted view of the island wherein you can experience sunset at its full glory.

And you know what’s the most amazing thing? I had the island almost exclusively to myself. (There was only one tourist, a solo backpacker during my stay)

Before I forgot, the island is not yet fully develop except for few cottages and huts. There are comfort rooms with sea water coming from faucets. A common area for dinning and grilling is also available. Electricity is only available by night.

Island Fees:

Fees and Accommodation
Price
Entrance FeePhp 80
Environmental FeePhp 20
Cottage 1 Beach hut, sitting for 8 paxPhp 500/day - can accommodate up to 8 pax
Cottage 2 Lodging cottage for 12 – 15 paxPhp 2500/day - can accommodate up to 12 - 15 pax (3 beds, With T&B, Electric, Beddings, 200 l. Fresh Water Etc.)
Cottage 3 Lodging cottage for 2 – 6 paxPhp 1500 /day - can accommodate up to 2 - 6 pax (3 beds, With T&B, Electric, Beddings, 200 l. Fresh Water Etc.)
Big CottagePhp 1000/day
Tent pitchingPhp 100/day
Scuba RentalPhp 2500
Bench & TablePhp 300/day
Kayak RentalPhp 300/hour

How to Get to Sambawan Island

From Manila:

Route
Expenses
Book a flight to TaclobanPrices may vary depending on your airline of choice
From Tacloban ride a van/bus going to NavalPhp 130 (2-3 hour travel time)
Transfer to a passenger boat to MaripipiPhp 60 (2 hours travel time, only one trip is available daily that leaves at 10am from Naval to Maripipi and 4am Maripipi to Naval)

Php 10 ( Naval port terminal fee)
Ride a habal-habal to Brgy Ol-ogPhp 100 / 2 pax
Rent a boat to Sambawan IslandPhp 500 /5 pax (15 minutes travel time)

* There is no boat schedule from Naval to Maripipi or vice versa during Sundays

Alternate route:

  • In case you miss the daily trip in the jetty of Naval, ride a jeep or habal-habal and head to Kawayan. Hire a boat that will take you directly to Sambawan (1-hour travel time) but this can be a bit pricey as a back and forth trip can range from Php 2000 – Php 3000.
  • Or if you cannot afford to rent a boat from Kawayan and prefer to wait for the next day trip, you may check-in in an inn at Naval. You can find a good deal of about Php 250 for an overnight stay.

THE EARTHWALKER RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Trek the hill, seriously, don’t miss it.
  • Go snorkeling, scuba or free diving (there is dive camp available in the island)
  • Pinch a tent, you’ll never regret it
  • Do kayaking for Php 300 an hour fee
  • #ChasingWaterfalls in Biliran
  • Explore Tacloban, or Samar
  • Head to Kalanggaman Island

Chasing Waterfalls

Remember when you were young and playing in the rain bring nothing but pure joy? Have you experience it? We’ll this place gives you exactly that same experience.

Ulan-ulan falls and Recoletos falls is just 15 minutes habal-habal ride from the town of Kawayan. You can commission a habal-habal driver that will serve also as your guide for 20-30 minutes trek towards the waterfalls for only Php 500 – Php 900.

I won’t say anything more, I’ll just let you these pictures justify why it’s worth the grind.

Sample Itinerary

For those are braving the road solo, I salute you. Here is an itinerary for you.

Day 1: The Journey begins at one day (just a nonsense title, lol)

Time
Activity
0530 - 0700Hello Tacloban (grab a quick breakfast)
0700 - 0930Goodbye Tacloban, Hello Naval
0930 - 1000Buy boat ticket, and supplies from the nearby market
1000 - 1100Passenger's embark in the boat
1100 - 1300It’s gonna be a long boat ride from Naval to Maripipi
1300 - 1400Hello and Goodbye Maripipi, head to Barangay Ol-og
1400 - 1500Rent a boat that will take you to the paradise
1500Do want you want, come on be independent, don't depend on me!

Day 2: You’re not ready for this, You’re not day dreaming

Time
Activity
0300I know it’s too early for this, but you have to
0300 - 0330Good bye paradise (internalize this, walk with tears for more dramatic experience)
0330 - 0400Take a habal-habal from Ol-og to Maripipi
0400 - 0500Passenger's embark in the boat
0500 - 0700Lonely boat ride from Maripipi to Naval
0700 - 0900You're in Naval, you're not daydreaming, grab some breakfast
0900 - 1400Commission a habal-habal for a Biliran Island Tour. (I suggest go chase the waterfalls)
1400 - 1600I told you about this, do want you want!

For those who are travelling with sistah/bradah from anadah mada or for those that are travelling with deep pocket:

Day 1: Start of your #FriendshipGoals

Time
Activity
0530 - 0700Hello Tacloban (grab a quick breakfast)
0700 - 0930Goodbye Tacloban, Hello Naval
0930 - 1000Buy supplies for the nearby market, roam around, explore, sing and live
1000 - 1030Take a habal-habal ride going to Barangay Kawayan
1030 - 1100Commission a boat that will bring you to happiness
1100 - 1200Hello there, you may take your seatbelt you just landed at Sambawan Island
1500Yeah I know you have a lot of time, see my recommended activities above or you can try some things like play chess with your mates, practice a new dance choreography, or study some history, etc.

Day 2: You still have a lot of time to do some stuff

Time
Activity
0700Yeah I know you don’t have to wake up early
0700 - 0900Prepare steak for your breakfast
0900 - 1000I suggest you ask your rented boat to pick you up by this hour so you can still have time to explore the main town
1000 - 1100You’re in Kawayan
1100 - 1200Commission a habal-habal for a Biliran Island Tour. (I suggest go chase the waterfalls)
1200 - 1700Nah! Just do want you want!

SOME EARTHLY FACTS

Dialect : Main dialects in the area are Cebuano, Waray

Language  : Filipino/Tagalog is widely spoken in the area, though some are unable to speak the national language but don’t worry you’ll encounter them very seldom. I also found few foreigners at Naval during my stay

Food : Since it’s a province near the sea, one of the main source of living is fishing. Dried fish are a staple though this might be an acquired taste for some especially foreigners

Transportation : The main mode of transport are jeepney, habal-habal (tuktuk) and a tricycle

Electricity : There is an electricity in Naval. However, in Sambawan Island power is only used from 0600 – 1800. Charging of gadget in the island is allowed with a fee.

Signal : There is LTE for Smart and Globe in Naval, in however in Sambawan Island Smart is sporadic with zero hope of data connection while Globe is blazing with LTE

Water : Bring bottled water, no potable water source is available in Sambawan Island. However, in Naval, they drink water from their faucet but you may buy distilled waters on some convenience store if you’re not confident of it.

Establishments : No fast food in Naval, but there are local carenderia you can enjoy

Banks : There are banks and ATM outlets in Naval, however some ATM’s are only dispensing cash from 0900 to 1700

Nightlife : Don’t expect too much, almost zero nightlife. It’s a typical province with mostly laid back vibes

THE EARTHWALKER’S RATING

  • Accessibility – 3
  • Pocket Friendly – 4
  • Nature – 4
  • Experience – 4.5
  • Overall Rating – 4

OTHER PICTURES OF MY TRIP

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