Starting in Balabac

Caribao Grazing Beneath the Palm Trees.

Balabac is one of the southern most islands in the Palawan archipelago. It is most unusual to find tourists here but I suppose anything is possible. There are no tourist facilities here whatsoever with the possible exception of the JD Lodging house upstairs of the Sing and Swing karaoke bar.

The Melville Lighthouse

The biggest point of interest is the Melville lighthouse on the southern coast of Balabac.

A fast pumpboat can make it down there in about 2 hours from the main town of Balabac. To hire a boat might cost as much as 10,000 pesos.

My original intent was to drive down there on a motorcycle but I was advised against it.

A local character named Barry told me that one of his guys did that trip one time but it took him 8 hours and he still had to walk the last few kilometers. There are only slippery trails once you get a few kilometers from town.

The Southern Point of Balabac Island

We went down there with Barry’s boat man, but had to use a stand in because the primary boatman was down with malaria.

Barry gave him some fanzidar to help him shake it. Malaria is not rare on Balabac but filariasis is the most feared because it causes swelling in the extremities and there is no known cure at this time.

Tourists need not be alarmed because this area is 300 to 400 kilometers from the tourist areas.

Balabac lighthouse

I did go to the lighthouse and was very impressed. It is a beauty. A word of caution is in order however – for those who just want to take a trip down there on a lark.

I suggest planning the trip with someone from the area who knows the ins and outs because it will avoid a lot of headaches.

The easiest way to get down to Balabac is to take the ferry from Rio Tuba. The fare is around 350 pesos and it is quite an enjoyable trip.

Pier at Bancalaan Island

Stops are made along the way including one at Bancalaan Island where supplies and passengers are dropped off and taken on.

Bancalaan  is flat with lots of coconut trees and a nice sandy beach.

There are no tourist facilities whatsoever on this island but it would be fun to visit if you knew someone from there.

I also paid 350 pesos for my bike.

Bancalaan Island Waterfront

The boat will arrive at the pier in Balabac just before night fall.

Walk up the gangplank to the pier and head to town.

As soon as you get to the main road take a right and walk 300 to 400 meters and there will be the Sing and Swing karaoke bar.

The owner lives in the house two doors to the left when facing the bar. The rooms are cheap and every bed has a mosquito net that you will want to use.

Boat in Balabac Harbor

I did take a motorcycle down there one time but it was a bit difficult because we had 3 riders on it.

I am used to driving with 3 or 4 people on my bike but the mud in Balabac is very slippery with no grit in it whatsoever so we had to turn back after 14 kilometers.

Trails on Balabac Island

I kind of like Balabac. There are a few carinderias that serve some pretty good fish. In fact Balabac is known for its “bulad” or dried fish.

We landed up buying 6 bags of it for my friends mother who lives in Nara in southern Palawan. She was excited about us bringing it back to her and we ate some of it at her place when we got back.

Most tourists on a tight schedule will want to give Balabac Island a pass but those with more time on their hands might want to give it a go.

Cheryl and kids with fish - Balabac pier

Keep in mind my tips about malaria but don’t get overly paranoid because it is not a common problem in the north where most tourists go.

Palawan also has outstanding malaria clinics should you have the unfortunate situation where you come down with it.

Balabac Island Palawan

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