ZAMBOANG DEL SUR | Once Islas in Zamboanga City | Lakad Pilipinas

Once Islas Tour Zamboanga City

“I’m glad I brought my snorkel!” I whispered to myself as our wooden boat slowed near the white sandy shoreline of Once Isla’s Bisaya-Bisaya Island. The water, deep green with hints of cerulean, was clear as crystal. I can see all the way to its coral-ridden bottom, I wanted to jump right there and then. Clumsily, I tried to get my camera from my bag to take a photo, but was just too darn clumsy, our boat’s bow was already crunching down on the sand as I freed it from my bag.

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival
ZAMBOANGA HERMOSA FESTIVAL

Island hopping in Zamboanga City was the last thing on my mind when our plane landed on the city’s airport tarmac. We were really here to witness the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival and eat—spell curacha and lechon. Yum! But yes, the city, indeed, has its share of white sand paradise—well, pink to be more precise—with the nearby Sta. Cruz Island. But really, that’s about it.

Zamboanga Travel Guide

 

 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


Once Islas Tour Zamboanga City
ONCE ISLAS REOPENS TO TOURISTS

Last July, however, saw the opening of Once Islas. Literally, eleven islands, these group of islets along the Moro Gulf is just an hour’s drive northeast of Zamboanga City proper. It was off-limits for a year after intrepid backpackers looking for new places to see in Zamboanga started to pour in. Caught unprepared from the influx of visitors, the local government decided to close down the island until proper guidelines and preparation has been set for both the locals living there and visiting tourists.

As of this writing, four of the eleven islands are now open as island hopping destinations—Bisaya-Bisaya, Sirommon, Baung-Baung and Buh-Buh. The rest of the islands—Sallangan, Simaddang, Lambang-Lambang, Baguias, Kabugan, Panganak, and Lamunigan are still restricted.

 

 

NEW ISLANDS, NEW RULES


Once Islas Tour Zamboanga City
TOURIST BOATS TO ONCE ISLAS

Before actually riding a boat, we were briefed at the Panubigan Barangay Hall about the islands. What we can do—swim, kayak, snorkel, trek; and what we shouldn’t do—litter, smoke, and grill pork. Yes, pork. You can actually bring ready-to-eat pork meals, but you can’t and shouldn’t grill any pork, let alone roast an entire lechon, on the islands as respect to the Muslim Sama Banguingui community that lives there. Since Once Islas opening is still on its early stages, paddle boarding and scuba diving are still prohibited, but they are planning to include these in the future.

As of now, only day tours are allowed from 7:00AM to 3:00PM, every day except Fridays—which is a holy day for our Muslim brethren—with visitors limited up to two hundred persons per day.

 

 

BISAYA-BISAYA ISLAND


Once Islas Bisaya-Bisaya Island
BISAYA BISAYA ISLAND’S MAIN BEACH

From the Panubigan Barangay Hall, we walked for a few minutes to the Panubigan Ferry Terminal, the jump off for Once Islas island hopping adventure in Zamboanga City. And we didn’t have to wait long before the first and southernmost island on our itinerary appeared on the horizon.

Once Islas Bisaya-Bisaya Island
BISAYA-BISAYA IS ACTUALLY THE NAME OF A BEACH IN VISA ISLAND

Passing four other islets, Bisaya-Bisaya Island’s white beach shone bright against the emerald waters that surround it. A colorful vinta sail, thrust right on the beach, flapped against the sea breeze as we jumped from our boat. Coconut trees swayed, bordering the beach, with a couple of open huts sheltered right below. On foot, we circled parts of the island, jumping over sharp rocks to marvel at the wind-carved rock formations on the eastern part of Bisaya-Bisaya. Formally named Visa Island, it got its moniker after Visayan fishermen who used to frequent its waters.

Once Islas Bisaya-Bisaya Island
A QUICK HIKE AROUND BISAYA-BISAYA ISLAND TO SEE ITS ROCK FORMATIONS

Once Islas Bisaya-Bisaya Island SnorkelingOnce Islas Bisaya-Bisaya Island Kayaking
SNORKELING AND KAYAKING AT BISAYA-BISAYA ISLAND

Back on the beach, a serving of fresh coconuts and steamed corn cobs awaited us. I took one quick bite and a sip of fresh coconut juice before running towards the sea, my snorkel in tow. The warm waters soon enveloped me, the bed transforming from white sand to a profusion of corals. Colorful fishes gawked at me before swimming away until I reached a sea wall that dropped to nothingness.

Once Islas Bisaya-Bisaya Island Tidal Pool
A NATURAL TIDAL POOL ON ONE OF THE THREE ISLETS OF BISAYA-BISAYA

Before going, we crossed a tidal flats to access one of the two satellite islets of Bisaya-Bisaya. We’re checking out its natural tidal pool. A dip and a flatlay drone shot was in order.

 

 

SIRUMON ISLAND


Once Islas Sirumon Island Zamboanga City
SIRUMON ISLAND OR SIROMMON ISLAND, DEPENDS ON WHO YOU ASK

Moving northwards, our boats traversed the waters of Bobo Island (where we saw a mosque right on Buh-Buh Beach), Bugias Island, and Kablingan Island. We then landed on one of the northernmost island in the group, Panganaban Island, more popularly known as Sirumon.

Once Islas Sirumon Island Zamboanga City
WILL HIKE FOR FOOD

I was readying to don my snorkel when we were told we need to hike across the island for lunch. In my equation, lunch is greater than snorkeling, so hike it was. The trail was fairly easy and took about ten minutes. A spread of seafood boodle fest awaited us at the eastern beach of Sirumon Island, the Playa de Isabelle.

Zamboanga Food Trip

Once Islas Sirumon Island Zamboanga City
LUNCH PROVIDED BY KAMRIYA’S CUISINE AND PREPARED BY THE SAMA BANGUINGI COMMUNITY

I was told that the underwater life at this side of the island is even better than at Bisaya-Bisaya but the tide was too low for us to board a raft that can take us right on its sweet spot. Too bad, but not really, we have a seafood feast waiting for us!

Once Islas Sirumon Island Sandbar
THE SANDBAR AT SIROMMON ISLAND

Once Islas Sirumon Island Snorkeling
LOADS OF STARFISHES ALONG THE BEACH

With blackened hands from all the squid we ate, we trekked back to the Sirumon’s main beach to check out its starfish-littered sandbar, which sort of reminded me of Kalanggaman Island in Leyte. We were all quite surprised at how warm—like really, uncomfortably warm—the water was! The area is also good for snorkeling, but the tide was just too low that swimming would us have tangling with corals.

 

 

BAUANG-BAUANG ISLAND


Once Islas Bauang Bauang Island
BAUANG-BAUANG ISLAND OR BAONG ISLAND

Once Islas Bauang Bauang Island
BISAYA-BISAYA ISLANDS AS SEEN FROM THE SHORE OF BAUANG-BAUANG ISLAND

Time flies when you alternate between swimming and eating. We have less than an hour left when we reached Bauang-Bauang Island, our last stop for the day. Officially named Baong Island, its claim to fame is its viewing deck which can be reached by hiking 248 steps up. I did reach my quota for hiking that day, so while my compadres went up the hill, I went and dove down its water—which was a pleasure to swim on. Just the right temperature with nada a current.

 

 

GETTING THERE & BOOKING A TOUR


Once Islas Zamboanga City
HOW TO GET TO ONCE ISLAS FROM ZAMBOANGA CITY

It is possible to visit Zamboanga City’s Once Islands DIY. Pre-register at least a day in advance at the Zamboanga City Tourism Office along Paseo del Mar before heading to Barangay Panubigan. To commute to Panubigan, board a Panubigan Crossing bus (PHP50.00) at the city bus terminal, then ride a van or habal-habal to the barangay hall [GPS MAP 7.1326561,122.2472173] (PHP20.00).

Zamboanga Tourism Office: Paseo del Mar | +63 (62) 975-6341 | asiaslatincitytourism@yahoo.com

Once Islas Bobo Island
SHORT HIKE TO GOVERNOR’S RAPIDS

Us, we took the easier route and were booked via one of the accredited tour agencies for Once Islas. They took care of our permits, entrance and environmental fees, boat rentals, local guides, hiking fees, and kayak and cottage rentals. Easy.

I Travel Tourist Lane +63 (995) 699-3274 | +63 (917) 722-6410| +63 (917) 392-9474 | info@itraveltouristlane.com

 

 

ONCE ISLAS FEES


SHORT HIKE TO GOVERNOR’S RAPIDS

Entrance Fee: PHP100.00 per person
Environmental Fee: PHP100.00 per person
Boat Rental Fee: PHP1,200.00 to PHP2,000.00 maximum of nine person
Guide Fee: PHP300.00 per group
Cottage Fee: PHP150.00 per day
Hiking Fee in Sirumon: PHP50.00 per person
Kayak Rental in Bisaya-Bisaya: PHP300.00 per hour, good for two persons

 

Zamboanga City Location Map






Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, November 2, 2018

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