Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Hundred Island Experience

As a grade schooler, I used to see a black and white picture of Hundred Islands in my textbook. This is one of the famous attractions listed in my book along with Rice Terraces, Chocolate Hills and several more. Back then, I just envisioned it as I see it in my book, plain and dull. It never really occurred to me that it will be an exact opposite, for Hundred Islands is one of the most vibrant places I've been.

I was in Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, my hometown. It was one of the occasions that I'm really waiting for, to be with my whole family. It's a rare occasion since I'm staying in Manila and my sister is working overseas. Everybody seemed excited and at 5 AM, we're all ready to leave for Hundred Islands.

The Alaminos bound buses (where Hundred Islands is located) from Manila have a different route, it would turn left once it arrives Tarlac City, passing through the town of Camiling so there's no chance that it would pass by the highway near us. What we did is ride a Dagupan bound bus for 2 hours then transferred to another bus going to Alaminos and arrived in about an hour.

Upon stepping down from the bus, tricycles started swarming us, offering to take us to Hundred Islands. We didn't even tell them yet where we were going so I'm a bit surprised. Before accepting the offer, I asked how much the fare is. Prior to this trip, I've contacted Alaminos City's Tourism office asking for different information including tricycle rates. I was quoted Php20 per person, 3 people in each tricycle, by the driver making it cheaper compared to the PHP80 that I was told. The tricycles dropped us to the Tourism Office located in Bryg. Lucap. I learned that we need to register first. From there, everything was so organized. Basically, we just paid for the boat rate and entrance, they are the one who provided us a boat. There's a standard rate for boats making it just fair to everyone. Before starting the tour though, we asked to be dropped to Island Tropic Hotel first, just in front of Lucap Wharf to leave our things. The trike drivers were really kind, even driving us to a grocery store where we bought mineral water. So when they left, we gave them Php100 each.

After checking in, our boat was already waiting for us right in front of the hotel. We started the 30 minute boat ride. Everybody was excited. Minutes later, we saw the vague islands from afar become more visible and become color green. It’s amazing that the islands are made mostly of rocks but trees are growing in it. One of our boatmen also served as our guide, giving us interesting information as we pass by an island. In a few minutes, we're very near Governor's Island which is one of the main Islands. By main, that would mean there are facilities, water and electricity (for a limited time). The view of Big Brother's house welcomed us then our boat docked.

It was beautiful. The water is blue green, the place is uncrowded and the sand is white. It was just exactly how I envision a perfect island. I already wanted to jump in the waters but I know there's more to explore.

We started climbing the nearby stairs that I guessed would take us to the viewdeck. My folks chose to stay near the shore not wanting to climb. Sign of aging I'd say. :P My sister, cousin, Nikko and I reached the view deck, which is said to be the highest point in all the islands. We we're rewarded by a panoramic view of the sea and the scattered islands/islets. We could have lingered a bit longer if it wasn't that hot.

Going down, we chose a different set of stairs that took us to the other side of the Island. There's almost nobody there, something that might be an opposite during summer.

After exploring Governor's Island, our boat started to thread towards Children's Island. It does have the same charm with the former island. Trees abound making the place very cool and airy despite the sun shining really bright. It's getting late and we decided to have lunch here with our boatmen. We rented a table under the shade of trees and needed to pay Php200, kind of expensive if you would ask me. After lunch, I really can't help but be hypnotized by the glistening calm waters. I walked down the stairs into the sand area, walked further to the deeper waters then started to enjoy it. There's no wave at all, very ideal for floating and backstroke. This side of Children's Island is very shady too. You can go up to waist deep waters and be protected by the trees from the scorching heat of the sun.

I swam to my heart’s content before we headed to Marcos Island. This is the only reason we opted for the service boat paying Php800 more compared to the day tour boat. Service boats can take you in all the islands that you want and time is unlimited. I was really excited going to this island for it features Imelda Cave. We trekked for about 15 minutes before reaching the entrance to the cave. It isn't ideal for spelunking since it isn't long but it is famous for the pool inside it where one can jump from the edge of a rock formation. I on the other hand chose to take the slippery wooden ladder then a rope ladder down to the pool. The rope ladder won't stop swaying and I had several scratches having bumped into the sharp rocks. It was worth it though. Water is so clear and cold! We met a French fellow who had so much fun swimming in the pool. There's a small hole at the roof allowing sunlight to brighten the pool. If you swim further, there's an opening at the other end of the cave that would take you directly into the seas. You can swim in that direction and ask the boat to fetch you. It's safer than climbing up the ladder again.

After the cave experience, our boat maneuvered in the direction of Quezon Island. We passed by the Cathedral Island, named after the cathedral shaped opening at the rock formation. It doesn't have a shore though.

Nearing Quezon Island, I noticed right away that a lot of boats are docked. When I stepped into the shore, I then realized that the previous islands are almost deserted because everybody chose to stay in this island. I can't blame them. I think that Quezon Island has the best swimming area. The water is clear and there's an area where you can do fish feeding, accessible only few meters from the sandbar. The water turns from blue to green. It has a wide cream sand bar that glistens and turns white in sunlight. A lot of Korean tourists were playing beach volleyball.

We didn't swim right away to escape the scorching heat of the sun. We stayed in the man-made cave where there are stone benches overlooking the sea. There are a lot of trees and the wind is cold in that part of the island. Speak of picturesque. After snacks, we hit the waters. I had so much fun with the gentle waves. When I got tired, I climbed up the stairs going to a bench area overlooking the beach. It is a very beautiful sight.

Since it was getting late, we decided to leave Quezon Island. I thought that concludes our wearisome but otherwise very enjoyable day when our boatmen passed and docked into another island where they said we can check out. It has a cave where you can walk and reach the end in just several steps. It doesn't have any stalagmites or stalactites but it still was fun walking into what seemed like a tunnel. The sand is really fine and soft in that part of the island. It felt like the sand in Boracay, only it is cream in color. The sand is so fine that it floats in the water. When we swam for the last time and tried capturing underwater photos, it turned out very vague because of the sand particles.

I don't want to stop swimming but the wind got even more colder so we decided it's time to go. On the boat back, the waves turned rough compared to the stillness we experienced the morning we arrived. Despite this, it was a fun ride as our boat was swaying in rhythm. Another boat passed by near us carrying foreign tourists. I waved at them, Maybe just a result of my playfulness, that day I felt like a kid again. What felt even better is they waved back. :) Few minutes later, our boat docked in front of our hotel. We gave a tip to both our boatmen and we bade goodbye.

How to Commute to Hundred Islands from Manila

Ride a Victory Liner Bus going to Alaminos, Pangasinan. Travel time would take about 3-4 hours. Upon reaching the terminal, ride a tricycle going to Brgy. Lucap. The ride takes approximately 15-20 minutes.

Entrance and other fees will be collected at the Tourism Office who will also arrange the boat for you. Entrance is Php20 as of the date we visited. Boats have uniform rate.

Small boat (1-5 pax)Php800 for daytour and Php1,400 for Overnight/Service Boat
Medium boat (6-10 pax)Php1,000 daytour and Php1,800 for service boat
Large boat (11-15 pax)Php1,100 daytour and Php2,000 for service boat

Accommodation is available in Governor's Island, Php10,000 per night for Big Brother's house.
Pitching your own tent is allowed with pitching fee of Php200 in the developed Islands.

You can contact Hundred Islands National Park at 075-551-2505/552-7406 for moe info.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...