Introducing Sibuyan, an island known as the Galapagos of Asia. An off-the-beaten-path to see the great outdoors in a diverse landscape of mountains, coasts, waterfalls, and rivers.
Ever since the Ice Age, which is around 2.4 million years ago, Sibuyan Island of Romblon province has never been attached to any other island mass in the Philippines and this made the plants and animals evolved differently.
Teeming with wildlife, Sibuyan showcases the Philippines’ megabiodiversity. With its isolation and unspoiled ecosystems, the island carries the world record in the number of endemic flora and fauna species. This puts Sibuyan as one of the global conservation hotspots. It is home to rare and critically endangered species such as the golden-mantled flying fox, tube-nosed fruit bats and pitcher plants (Nepenthes sibuyanensis) found nowhere else but here.
Mt. Guiting-Guiting dominates Sibuyan Island and hosts 100-year-old timber trees. Also found deep in the forest are ironwoods, locally known as tiga. As its name suggests, these are trees that are hard like steel. Some houses and other structures built more than a century ago, but are still standing today were made with ironwoods.
These fascinating facts crowned Sibuyan as the Galapagos of Asia.
Things To Do in Sibuyan
Apart from its rich wildlife, there are many fun things to do in Sibuyan. Located right in the heart of the Philippine archipelago, this island is a place that an adventurous nature-lover will delight in. You won’t see a single traffic light or a McDonald’s and Jollibee.
Drive around scenic coastlines of Sibuyan Island
The island is not that big so you can complete Sibuyan Circumferential Road within 3–4 hours of nonstop drive, covering its entire coastline. The coastal roads are narrow, winding and mostly non-paved.
In a tricycle or jeepney, you can do a road trip around the whole island and drop by one of its waterfalls such as Lambingan Falls or bask on a deserted beach.
Experience true wilderness with a climb to Mt. Guiting-Guiting
Mt. Guiting-Guiting, dubbed as “G2”, is the highest peak in Romblon province soaring at 2,058 meters above sea level. Aside from being the densest forest in the Philippines, Mt. Guiting-Guiting is the only mountain with a complete habitat type on its slope. This means that the mountain possess a full range of forest gradient consisting of mangrove, lowland forest, higher montane forest with resin-bearing trees, heathlands at the ridges, and grasslands. To protect its chain of unspoiled ecosystems, Mt. Guiting-Guiting was proclaimed a national park in 1996.
To see breathtaking landscapes and vibrant wildlife as far as your naked eyes can, go climb up Mt. Guiting-Guiting. But be prepared. This mountain is known as one of the most difficult hikes in the country with its steep and jagged trail.
If you’re not into mountain climbing, this island also offers a variety of engaging nature activities such as chasing waterfalls, river trekking, scuba diving, snorkeling, beach bumming, and birdwatching. You won’t run out of things to do in Sibuyan.
Plunge into the crystal-clear waters of Cantingas River
One fun thing you can do is visit Cantingas River in Olango, San Fernando. The river runs southwest on the national park, meeting the sea. Cantingas is considered as one of the cleanest rivers on earth with impossibly clear waters. Tourists and locals alike go here for a refreshing dip.
If this sounds fun to you, you can jump off the cliff and plunge into the river mouth’s cool waters. Or go for a zipline!
Discover Cresta De Gallo
Lying off the shore of the main island is Cresta de Gallo, a crescent-shaped islet. This charming beach is admired for its remoteness, soft white sands, turquoise waters and shifting sandbar.
Getting here is southbound via outrigger boat and takes about an hour from San Fernando, depending on how calm or rough the seas during the trip. From Lonos, Romblon – reaching the islet will take 4-5 hours. En route, dolphins and flying fishes can be spotted.
On top of all that, you can get a picturesque view of Sibuyan Island with the jagged peaks of Mt. Guiting-Guiting.
Laze away on a deserted beach
Besides Cresta de Gallo, you can bask in the sun at one of the empty beaches in the main island. In Sibuyan, you can easily find a peaceful spot and have the beach all to yourself. There are plenty of choices such as Magdiwang Beach and Alibagon Beach in Cajidiocan.
Explore deeper—dive or snorkel
Fall deeper in love with Sibuyan with its amazing underwater treasure. Unlike nearby Romblon which has sunken ships and compared to Tablas with a blue hole, Sibuyan is not yet a known diving destination. But few scuba enthusiasts have started to explore muck and macro dive spots with rich corals and fishes around Olango Bay. For snorkeling, an accessible spot is at Magdiwang Fish Sanctuary.
Chase waterfalls and trace rivers
Other than Cantingas River, Sibuyan has countless rivers and waterfalls that are scattered in different locations. Here are some options for you to sweat out and enjoy a refreshing dip.
• Lambingan Falls. Twelve kilometers away from Magdiwang, a tricycle can take you to Lambingas Falls for a Php300++ roundtrip fare. This is the easiest waterfalls you can enjoy in Sibuyan.
• Cataja Falls. East out of Magdiwang, in Jao-Asan, you can spend half of your day crossing rivers just to see this 60-feet high waterfalls.
• Dagubdub Falls and Busay Falls. Both are natural pools located between San Fernando and Espana.
• Bila-bila Waterfalls. Located in Brgy. Canjalon, this nine-tiered waterfalls is a more off-the-beaten-path to explore. Only up to the fourth level is easily accessible. Going further upstream will be more demanding. Bila-bila in local dialect means “butterfly” and this is how the falls got its name because the area is a natural butterfly sanctuary. If you’re game for a challenging river trek that includes climbing over huge rocks, then reaching this cascading waterfalls will be a fun thing to do.
• Pawala River. It is located in Bgry. Tampayan where tourists can picnic, swim around a natural pool, and go kayaking.
• Gaong River. Another river for a great excursion. Getting here will involve river crossing, forest canopy walk and swimming. Along the way, you might be able to spot pitcher plants.
• Tampayan River. Before you can access this river, you need to get a permit from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sibuyan Sub-station which is located in the same area where you’ll start trekking. This is already part of Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park protected area. Also, it is the entry point for Mt. Guiting-Guiting climb via traditional trail.
Meet and greet the Mangyans
To appreciate Sibuyan’s culture and arts, get a chance to interact with Mangyan tagabukid people. They are indigenous tribe living in the hinterlands.
Help the local community through mangrove planting
Take action and help make this world a better place by planting mangrove trees. There’s mangrove planting opportunity at Brgy. Silum, a fishing village in Magdiwang. The presence of mangrove trees will keep the coastal ecosystem healthy as it provides a home to many fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. Moreover, research findings shows that “mangrove forests store much more carbon than any other forest on earth”. It also protects coastal communities like Silum from the threat of floods during typhoons.
Sibuyan is home to 131 species of birds, including endemic Philippine hanging parrot, Philippine pygmy-woodpecker and orange-bellied flowerpecker. Birdwatching is still considered a novelty in Sibuyan so getting a guide for this can be hard. This also requires a hike into the forest.
Watch fireflies light up mangrove trees
At sundown, 6pm onwards, when the tide is high enough to cruise Magdiwang River, you can witness fireflies sparkle around mangrove trees like Christmas lights.
Catch splendid sunsets and sunrises
Before daylight or during dusk, catch the horizon over Sibuyan Sea burst into amber, gold or crimson colors.
Hunt for millions of stars by the beach or in the mountain
Either go to the beach at night and watch the sky full of distant stars twinkling while you listen to the sound of soothing waves. Or go camping in higher grounds, surround yourself with trees and hear the humming of birds, cicadas, tiny frogs and crickets while you gaze in awe at the millions of stars.
Accommodation: Where to Stay
Sibuyan is a remote island and is not vibrant in terms of accommodation and food. Not a single five-star hotel or 4-star and not even a 3-star accommodation is found as visitors here are usually campers or backpackers.
There are, of course, few accommodations offering basic amenities such as the following:
Bagumbayan Beach House – Beachfront stay in Magdiwang Beach. GoogleMaps »
Sanctuary Garden Resort – Has cottages with a mountain view in an extensive property at Brgy. Tampayan, Magdiwang. Facebook »
Marilag Beach House – Beachfront stay in Caijidiocan Bay. Airbnb »
Seabreeze Inn – Another beachfront accommodation in San Fernando offering bamboo cottages with a veranda. Mobile: +63 9212116814
Getting There: How to Travel to Sibuyan Island
Getting to Sibuyan Island is a long way to go. Taking a boat trip is time consuming yet a necessary one. There are no direct commercial flights yet to Sibuyan Island, so you have to either take an overnight ferry boat trip for 19 hours+ OR
fly to an airport in one of the neighboring islands and catch a boat to Sibuyan.
Direct or with stops in Tablas or Romblon.
- Batangas Port: Easiest way to get to Sibuyan Island. 2GO Shipping Lines, Montenegro Lines, MV Annabel, Viva Shipping, and Navios Shipping Lines (Direct to Caidjocan Port, Sibuyan). Fare is around Php1,000++
- Port of Manila: Mary the Queen (Romblon Shipping Lines)
VIA AIR + SEA
Will require ferry trip(s) to Sibuyan from neighboring islands with airports. Great if you’re not coming from Manila or starting somewhere in Visayas or Mindanao.
Here are the nearby airports:
- Roxas City. Best alternative to Batangas in order to reach Sibuyan.
- Direct: Roxas Airport → Culasi Port (Maqueline or Jia ferry boats) → San Fernando, Sibuyan. Fare is around Php350++. Note that the pumpboat schedules are unpredictable and Tuesday will be your safest bet.
- Non-Direct: Roxas Airport → Culasi Port → Romblon Port → Magdiwang Port, Sibuyan. Daily ferries are available around 1pm for Php592++ fare. Then you need to take another boat bound for Sibuyan (Php228++ fare) the next day around 7:30AM with 2-3 hours travel time.
- Caticlan or Kalibo. Reach Sibuyan from Caticlan or Kalibo Airport by travelling to Roxas City via van or bus for around 2 hours, and get a tricycle to take you to Culasi Port.
- Tablas. Tugdan Airport in Alcantara, Romblon → San Agustin by Van or Tricycle → Odiongan Port → Azagra Port San Fernando or Cajidiocan, Sibuyan. Ferry travel time is around 4-6 hours. Note: You will have to stay overnight in Tablas because the ferry to Sibuyan – Maria Quirubin, only have one trip every 7AM.
- Masbate. Moises R. Espinosa Airport → Masbate City → Mandaon Port → Sibuyan Island. Pumpboat trips are available every Sunday/Wednesday and leaves around 7AM.
Going to Sibuyan might be fairly difficult, but it’s a worthwhile destination to disconnect from the day-to-day. Remote as it is, this wonderful island allows you to fully reconnect with nature so you can find yourself in love with life again.
You might also like reading:
Mt. Guiting-Guiting Climb [Reverse Traverse]