Purple hues enveloped the sky as I watch over the ocean greeting the sun good morning at Sambawan Island. I am mindful of the tide’s ebb and flow at the beach below, the grass swaying from the breeze, the cool air touching my skin and gently the warm light creeping in the hut where I’m seated. Such a calm morning up the highest point of the island where I have a full panoramic view of the surrounding area. The volcanic Maripipi island looms over like a big brother.
Journey to Biliran
Ever since my first visit last November at Tinago Falls and Canaan Hill Farms, I knew I’m only skimming the surface of what Biliran has to offer. Sambawan Island is slowly making a buzz in the offbeat world. The instagram shots I have seen really make it look inviting, but pictures tells only less than half the story. I wanted to see with my own eyes if it’s really as beautiful as they say it is.
From Manila, it’s a short 1-hour flight to Tacloban. We hopped on a Van Vans van for a 3-hour ride to Naval, Biliran (Php 120). We planned on taking the ferry to Maripipi Island but missed it, so we opted to just hire a tricycle to Kawayan, the northern municipality of Biliran Island close to Maripipi Island. After having lunch on our now favorite chow place in Naval, “Cusina de Salas” we rode north and found the port where boats await for Sambawan Island or Maripipi Island. The Local Government Unit (LGU) of Kawayan did a good job of standardizing boat hires here for Samabawan Island or other island hopping trips. (See rates at the essential info below)
Overnight at Sambawan Island
The afternoon boat ride was moderately rough seeing us more than 45 minutes on water. We chose to hire our boat directly for Samabawan Island so we had the luxury of time on when we’ll go back the next day. It was a large boat that could fit up to 10pax. A cluster of rocky islets and beaming white shores seen on the horizon. This must be it. I looked at how clear the water was and could already see how well the condition of the corals in this area are. The island is a marine sanctuary, a popular snorkeling and diving site managed by Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort.
It was a weekday and the only group of visitors there was doing a day trip. When we stepped foot at the beach, we were greeted by Yoyoy and the island dog, Atlas. Yoyoy manages the resort at that time. Sambawan Island have cottages available for overnight stay. They are not just simple huts or cottages but had adjoining cemented and tiled restrooms with allotted supply of water depending on the size of the hut you’ll be taking. Some can accommodate up to 10pax. There are also cheaper options like open cottages or renting a tent. So its not as undeveloped as I thought it would be but a welcome convenience as it still feels rustic. And with the cool easterly breeze there was no need to open the fan inside the well-ventilated cottages. There’s also a mini-store and dining area by the beach if guests didn’t bring their own food. Electricity runs from 6pm to 6am.
Sambawan Hill Views
There’s 130 steps leading to the highest point of the island, a hill with a viewing hut on top. I recognized the most instagrammed spot immediately. Sambawan is a long cluster of rocky islands with some patches of grassy hills. During low tides, it is possible to traverse the rocks and walk to the nearby islets. Sambawan is serene in its isolation. The beach, a stretch of crushed corals and grainy sands invites you to play with the waves. I could easily get lost in time here and stay for a while.
Sambawan Island is part of the municipality of Maripipi in Biliran. There are several ways to reach Maripipi.
How to go to Sambawan Island, Maripipi Biliran
- From Tacloban City, hop a van to Naval, Biliran. Van Vans and Duptours have frequent vans going to Naval. No specific time but usually leaves hourly. Fare is Php 120 and travel time is 2-3 hours.
- Ferry to Maripipi from Naval: From Naval there are regular ferry to Maripipi from Mondays to Saturdays. The 10:30 am heads to the Poblacion directly while the 11:00 am boats head to Binalayan. Travel time is 3 hours fare is Php 70 . At Maripipi, hire a habal-habal to Olog (Php30) and ride the boat to Sambawan Island. Boat fare is Php 300 one way or Php 500 two way. Travel time is 20-30 minutes.
- Boat to Sambawan Island from Kawayan Port: The Local Government Unit has standardized boat hires in this port. From here you can visit other islands like Maripipi, Dalutan, Higatangan, Tingkasan, Tagnukan and Puro Islands. You may refer to the rates below:
|Motorboat/Motorbanca for Hire at Kawayan Port|
|Kawayan to Binalayan/Binongtoan (one way)||Php 600|
|Kawayan to other baranggay of Maripipi (wether dependent and internal arrangement between boatman and passenger)||Php 700|
|Kawayan to Sambawan (One way trip)||Php 1,500|
|Kawayan to Sambawan (waiting)||Php 2,000|
|Kawayan to Sambawan (overnight)||Php 3,000|
|Island Hopping (Kawayan to Higatangan, Dalutan, Higatangan, Tingkasan, Tagnukan, Sambawan and back )||Php 5,000|
|Kawayan to Dalutan (waiting)||Php 700|
|Kawayan to Dalutan (one way)||Php 300|
|Kawayan to Puro Island (waiting)||Php 300|
|Kawayan to Puro Island (one way)||Php 300|
|*Rates as of January 2017|
The island is managed by Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort (Check out their Facebook at /SambawanDiveCampBeachResort/). There’s an entrance fee of Php 100 (Php 80 entrance + Php 20 for environmental fee). The people managing the resort is very religious and they discourage smoking and drinking. No alcoholic beverage are available on the island. Though guest are free to bring their own. Diving and snorkeling equipment are available for rent.
There are choices of accommodation on the island:
- Enclosed huts good for 5-6 pax with private t&b (Php 1,500/ night with 100 liter of water)
- Enclosed huts good for 10-12 pax with private t&b (Php 2,500/ night with 200 liter of water)
- Open cottages for 3-4 pax (Php 500)
- Tents good for 2-4 pax (Php 300)
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.