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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

PALAUI ISLAND TOUR Part 1: The Homestay, Baratubot Falls, Mabulbul Beach and the 3-Hour Hike to Cape Engaño #PalauiNalangGanito

Up until now Batanes is still a frustration. One in my bucket I was yet to tick off. This trip is by far the closest I can get to Batanes not only because the only thing that separates Cagayan Province to the Northernmost Island Group in the Philippines is Babuyan Channel but also because the Island of Palaui holds a terrain of rolling hills and sudden deep cliff drops to the sea reminiscent of that of Batanes.


The fastest and most convenient way to Palaui is via plane from Manila to Tuguegarao. From there, one can take the van to Sta. Ana Cagayan and then a short boat ride.

Manila-Tuguegarao - 1 hour
Tuguegarao- Sta. Ana Cagayan - 3.5 hours
Sta Ana port to Palaui Island - 15 minutes

Palaui Island is part of the Municipality of Sta. Ana and therefore all economic and tourism activities are controlled by government in the mainland. I realized this when we got to port in Sta. Ana. Only boats registered and accredited by Sta. Ana are allowed to take passengers to and from the island. That means even island hopping tours are dependent on the mainland. In our case, we arrived late in the afternoon so we only chartered boats to take us to Palaui, those boats returned to Sta. Ana port and were the same boats that took us island hopping the next day. The few boats you see in Palaui island are only for fishing and chartering goods to and from the island.


Island Hopping rates are well regulated and published in the government offices at Sta. Ana port so no need to haggle. Rates are expensive compared to other destinations and are on per boat and not per person basis so Palaui is not solo backpacker friendly.

Island Hopping Rates in Palaui Island

About Palaui Island
Palaui Island is located at the Northern end of Sta. Ana in Cagayan Province. It was declared military reserve in 1967 and a marine reserve under he category "protected landscape and seascape in 1994. In 1995, it was declared by the National Museum as a National Cultural treasure. This explain why Palaui Island's nature is as virgin as it could get. Trees are lush and the sea very clean. Thanks to the reality tv show Survivor, Palaui was put back in the radar of both local and International tourists. And for travel bloggers too for picking on the hype caused by the program and tons of articles have been written about the place helping d.i.y travelers plan their trips here.

We arrived late afternoon in Sta. Ana port few minutes before sunset. They are very organized in logging visitors and arranging boats. The weather was good when we arrived. We were told that should we arrived the day before, the sea would have been rough. In fact, a few local tourists who went as far as Calayaan Island were via Sta. Ana were stranded there for a few days and were not able to return to the mainland until lunchtime on the day we arrived. With smooth seas, we were in Punta Verde in 15 minutes. That's where we stayed overnight on homestay.

I was actually expecting a more exotic accommodation. The idea of camping in Cape Engaño or one secluded beach in the island excited me but I heard this option is temporarily not offered so as to protect beaches from litter. So if you are staying in Palaui, a homestay is the best option. We stayed in Aling Elsa's place. I thought this is a better option especially if you are staying two (2) nights because even if accommodation is pretty basic --thin mattress beds and electric fan rooms-- at least you get to have a decent shower and toilet needs.

One thing I like about it is the cooking, with homestay, you et the option to have the house owner to cook for you. In our case, 150 pesos per meal per person. Pretty handy because you don't have to consume a lot of time on preparing your food and simply focus on enjoying yourselves.

Electricity Electricity in the island is scarce, they only have rechargeable batteries for charging and lights. Even electric fans are run by batteries so it's basic of basic comfort that you get. Be mindful of mosquitoes and bugs. I suggest you bring a good insect lotion.

Baratubot Falls

We woke up early the next day and immediately set out after breakfast. On the itinerary --Waterfalls, Cape Engano and Island Hopping.

The main attraction in Palaui Island of course is Cape Engaño which is famed for its terrain very similar to that of Batanes Island. There are two ways to get here, by boad to and from and the other by hiking from Punta Verde and then by boat back or to island hopping which is an additional attraction. We did the latter.

Two Trails
There are two (2) trails to Cape Engaño, Leonardo's Trail which is according to our guides for advanced hikers due to difficulty of the trail and the second being Lagunzad Trail which we took. Lagunzad Trail is easier but longer. It took us around three (3) hours to the lighthouse in Cape Engaño with many vista points and stops.

First, we took a little detour towards Leonardo's Trail to see Baratubot Falls.

Baratubot Falls
The trail is rather easy with a few paved steps along he way. Even if it was summer though, some portions of the trail are muddy. Many portions you have to go through a thick forest so it was shady and not exhausting. I was a little disappointed because it looked so beautiful in pictures but hardly noticeable when we got to the main falls. Understandable since it was summer. I imagined it to be more beautiful in rainy season. Still, we enjoyed a few minutes there before going back to the junction of the two trails.

Mabulbul Beach
Langunzad Trail's first half is mostly walking through the beach. After the walk through the forest, you go through this wide sandy beach and therefore very bright place and very good view of the sea. On the bend of the first beach is another beach they call Mabulbul Beach. Sounds like a funny name but it is not after anything kinky but for migratory bird specie.

Photo Courtesy of Justelle www.tripo.com.ph

Photo Courtesy of Justelle www.tripo.com.ph

Mabulbul Beach is more scenic. Wide, long, sand is pretty white although grainy. I suggest you start your hike early as on this part you are pretty exposed to the sun. The end of the beach is the halfway point and a shift to the trail that is more on ascends and descends through foresty area.

The 3-Hour Hike to Cape Engaño
This is when the trail gets a little challenging but fun. Good thing it is shady but I would still suggest to hydrate properly. There are a few marked rest stops along the way where you can sit and care for a short chat.

We were with two (2) senior citizens with us. I was a bit apprehensive at first because I seriously think Palaui is for young, strong people. This activity is very strenuous so I even asked our organizer if she warned them of the nature of this trip and he said yes. To my surprise, the two oldies were were with are so fit they were mostly in front of the group. I really admire them and I have nothing but respect for them after the hike.

The hike itself was indeed fun especially if you are with cool people.

Lagunzad Trail
At the end of Lagunzad Trail you can see a vast open space covered with thin grass. There, the hill with a lighthouse on top is prominent. We went straight to the base of the hill where trees abound. This small forest separates the grassland from the beach on the other end.

This is where makeshift stores are located as well as resting and dining areas. It's a welcome respite to the heat either you are from swimming in the beach or hiking the hill. We rested here for a while enjoying some refreshments including halo-halo before going to the lighthouse.

The Hike to the Lighthouse
The lighthouse was the culmination of our three-hour hike. Half of the trail up there is a cemented staircase and the rest is soil. I find it more difficult to hike the stairs as they were created with small gaps. Proves to be very helpful on the way down though when you are already too exhausted.

The view on the way to the lighthouse gets better and better as you go higher. Here you get a sense of where things are and the place is really a marvel. The grassland, the cliff that drops to the blue sea on your left, the small vegetation at the center then the long beach Cape Engaño on the right. Plus the mountains on the background.Such view!

The lighthouse has long been decommissioned and as the state of many lighthouse in the Philippines, this one in Cape Engaño is beyond useful. But it provides a good vista point, a 360 degree of Palaui and the wide open sea on the North with two small island --Dos Hermanas --- complimenting the already very beautiful view. There is a cliff on the Northern side of the island where you can have a nice photo opt. The ruins of of the lighthouse provides a refuge from the hot sun. Such grand culmination to the fun hike.

Photo Courtesy of Justelle www.tripo.com.ph

Photo Courtesy of Justelle www.tripo.com.ph

Photo Courtesy of: Alexandria Samson

We then went back to the resting area next to the beach where our boat was waiting. We had a quick lunch then off we go to the final part of our day tour --Island Hopping

Look for Part 2 of this post where I will discuss the Island Hopping tour and our final salvo in Tuguegarao City. I will link it here soon. Cheers!

Thanks to:
Group Adventures Ph
for making this already awesome trip more awesome!
Website: http://www.tripo.com.ph/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GAdventuresPh

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