Finally, Iâ€™ve set foot in one of the countryâ€™s hidden gems. I was on assignment in Calayan Island in the Babuyanes and in between, I got to enjoy this piece of paradise in this part of the Philippines. Though it was just a few days, it was very memorable. I’m planning a longer trip later this year. The Calayan Islands are better known as the Babuyanes comprised by the major islands of Calayan (the municipality center), Babuyan Claro and Camiguin Norte. Fuga Island is part of the municipality of Aparri. Both are in the province of Cagayan.
The best time to go there is during April when the monsoons switch and a month long calm, with the easterlies, the only wind blowing in the area. It is possible to go there at other times of the year but the unpredictability of the weather makes it difficult and there is always the possibility that one can get stranded.
Its like this: one day, the weather is good, the sea is calm and you proceed to travel. Just when you want to go back home after frolicking in Cibang Cove and enjoying the view of Caniwara Cove from the heights of Nagudungan, the sea gets rough and no vessel dares travel. Then your stranded until it is possible to go. Or, you can hire a vessel, at your own risk.
Getting There from Manila
There is no direct transportation going to Calayan from Manila. Instead, there are three points where one can take a vessel to Calayan Island: San Vicente Port in Sta. Ana, Aparri Port, and the small fishing port of Claveria, all in Cagayan Province.
1) By plane: You can take the plane from Manila to Tuguegarao and/or Cauayan (Isabela, and this is several hours from Tuguegarao) and then hop on a bus/hire a van going to the three points mentioned above. Or you can get the Manila – Laoag flight and hop on a bus/hire a van to Claveria which is the nearest airport instead of Tuguegarao. These option requires you to stay overnight in one of the many resorts in Claveria or hotels and pension houses in the other two points, all catering to all types of budgets.
If you will be traveling at other times of the year, it would be better if you go by plane on the way there as you might be stranded and might miss your return flight, unless you don’t mind paying a huge sum in rebooking flights.
2) By bus: There are several bus companies in Manila that offer direct trips, overnight, at the three points mentioned above with you arriving at the ports just in time for the trip. All these bus trips should be via Tuguegarao.
San Vicente Port: Since last year, M/V Eagly Ferry (P500) used to ply from this port to Camiguin Norte and then Calayan Island, only taking two hours each, for a total of four hours travel time end-to-end. Its bigger and safer than the lampitaws and is able to travel even if the sea is a bit rough. However, it got damaged and, as of this writing, currently being repaired. It might be operational in a few months.
Aparri Port: There are vessels said to come from this port but I’m not so sure about the type of boats nor the travel time.
Claveria fish port: This is the closest to Calayan in terms of distance but travel time totally depends on the condition of the lampitaw that is sailing. In our case, the motor had problems and a five hour trip lasted for nine hours. Note that the lampitaw is more geared towards cargo and only offer a few space for people.
Tips: Riding a lampitaw can be a challenge.
- As a passenger, fare is P500 or you can hire the vessel from P8,000 – P15,000 depending on the size or your haggling skills.
- There’s a big chance to be exposed under the sun so prepare your sunblock, malong, cap, shades or light colored long sleeved shirts.
- There are times that there will be nothing to lean back on and five hours is five hours. It can be difficult for your back
- Always bring water for hydration and enough food for the journey. But, there are times where it gets unpredictable and the sea turns rough. There are cases, though rarely, that the lampitaw will have to take shelter in Fuga Island or Dalupiri and there might not be enough food.
- Always place your things and belongings inside plastic like trash bags as it will just be placed at the cargo area and, if the sea is rough, can get wet.
- Always be ready to get soaked. Salt water in the eyes can be painful in the long run and having fresh water to wash is always a relief. If the sea is rough and you’re soaked most of the time during travel, the wind can really make you cold and shivering. You might want to address this.
- Lampitaw availability is not assured. You need to have a contact either from Claveria or Aparri, but a contact from Calayan is better as the person can advise you if there are vessels that will travel to Calayan. Contact numbers are in this post.
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