Zamboanga City recently opened to the public one of its prized gems: Once Islas.
As the name implies, this attraction is composed of 11 islands located in the Moro gulf. These islands belong to the barangays of Dita and Panubigan, Zamboanga del Sur.
Only 4 of these islands are open to accepting tourists and are therefore the main attractions during the island hopping, namely: Baung-Baung, Bisaya-Bisaya, Sirommon, and Buh-Buh. These islands are home to the Sama Banguingui tribe who depend on fishing as well as seaweed farming for livelihood.
Tourists need to first undergo a brief orientation at the Panubigan Barangay Hall prior to starting the tour. After this, you’re good to go! So, what can you expect from this island hopping? We’ll give you a glimpse!
- Bisaya-Bisaya Island – This is famous for its white sand beach as well as its deep turquoise green waters. The island is well-maintained by the LGU. There are also a lot of coconut trees in the area, giving you that perfect island vibe. You can pay some locals to get you some fresh buko juice, too. If you come here and it’s low tide, you can actually walk a long distance from the shore and just soak your feet in water while basking in the sun. Or better yet, go for a swim! Furthermore, if the tide is really low, you can cross and walk towards a small islet adjacent to Bisaya-Bisaya. In here, you can find a small natural pool, perfect for a quick cool dip. But there’s more to this island! On its other side, you can do some trekking and see some awesome rock formations. This can serve as your background for an IG-worthy photo. Other things you can do in this island include snorkeling and kayaking.
- Buh–Buh island – This island houses the only mosque that can be found in Once Islas. However, most of the trips no longer stop in Buh-Buh island,
- Sirommon Island – Of the 4 islands, this one is the best spot for snorkeling and diving. There’s also a sand bar by the main beach where you can see a lot of star fishes! This sand bar is also a perfect place to take your beach photos and do some sun bathing.
- Baung-Baung Island – This island also boasted of a white sand beach and calm waters perfect for swimming. But one of the main attractions here is a short trek towards a view deck overlooking the Bisaya-Bisaya island! Don’t worry for it’s just a 10-15 minute trek. But the view is definitely worth it.
RATES & OTHER INFORMATION
- Entrance fee – P100 per person
- Open: Tours last from 7AM-3PM daily (except on Fridays considered as a holy day for prayer in Islam communities)
- P150 each island (optional)
- Other fees:
- Environmental fee – P100 per person
- Tour guide – P300 per group
- Boat rental – P1200 – P2000 (max of 9 tourists)
- Kayak rental – P300 per hour (for 2 tourists)
- Tourists can bring their own foods. Just make sure to bring a garbage bag and dispose them properly. You can also request for lunch to be included in the tour, just contact the Zamboanga Tourism Office prior to arrival. There are also fresh seafoods you can purchase from the residents in the barangay and you can have it cooked (P50 fee per dish)
- The tour guides are locals who have been trained by the local government. So visiting them helps provide income to the locals too!
- Trips are strictly regulated. Therefore, tourist must first make a reservation. Only 200 tourists are allowed daily.
- Overnight stays are not allowed.
- Zamboanga Tourism Office contact info:
- Telephone: +63 (62) 975-6341
- E-mail: [email protected]
HOW TO GET THERE?
EXACT LOCATION: Barangay Panubigan, Zamboanga City
BY BUS: From Zamboanga City, hop on a bus in their terminal. Ride a bus bound for Pagadian or Ipil. Then stop at Panubigan crossing. From there, ride a habal-habal and ask the driver to drop you off at the Panubigan barangay hall. Total travel time is approximately 1 hour.