Tablas – Philippines – To Carabao Island

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MARCH 2016:


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I had spent 8 nights in the AGLICAY BEACH RESORT, Alcantara on Tablas Island.

I had planned to go from Tablas to Romblon Island for a few weeks but had to abandon that idea when I realised that I had to renew my Philippines Visa before the 16th March.

The Visa renewal meant that I had to head south to Boracay. There are no Bureau Of Immigration offices on the Romblon islands. I decided to stop off in Carabao for a few days on the way. I hear that this is an ‘undiscovered’ Boracay.

I had already gone Around Tablas Island By Scooter and talked to the locals in Santa Fe about the boat times to Carabao: they were 9:00am and 3:00pm every day.

The ‘pump boat’ only takes 45 minutes, so I decided to aim for the 3:00pm.


I asked the receptionist at the Aglicay how I could get to Santa Fe the next day. I asked her for the price to get to the main road so that I could catch a Jeepney. She suggested that I catch a Tribike all the way. I asked her to get back to me with the prices.

During breakfast the next morning she told me that a Tribike was PHP800. This is a ridiculous price for the Philippines. The total distance is only about 20kms and about 1 hour’s drive. PHP800 is double the average Filipino Tablas Islander’s daily wage.

I said that I just needed a Tribike from the resort to the main road. The Tribike was to take me to the Bus Stop to connect to the Jeepney direct to Santa Fe.

The Tribike was booked for 10:00am. He arrived at 8:30am. I packed fast and we left at 9:45am. The driver told me that there was no direct Jeepney to Santa Fe and that I needed to go via Looc. He said that he was going to Looc and the price would be PHP400.

I politely declined and asked him to drop me off on the main road as planned. He dropped me off at the Aglicay Resort turnoff. The 4km drive took 10-15 minutes.

A good ‘rule of thumb’ for a Tribike is PHP10 for each km PLUS PHP10 for each suitcase / backpack. This rule of thumb put the price at PHP50; OK, he had to drive to the resort, so let’s double it to PHP100.

He wanted PHP300. I gave him PHP200 and refused to pay any more. There were some Moto drivers sitting in the Bus Stop watching. After the Tribike driver drove away, they confirmed that it should not have cost more than PHP100.

They, then, told me that he had dropped me off at the wrong Bus Stop. The Bus Stop for the direct Jeepney to Santa Fe was 2kms further south on the main road at the Guinhaya-an turnoff. One of the Moto drivers took me to the correct Bus Stop for PHP20. My suitcase sat on the seat between us.

There were more Moto drivers sitting at the Guinhaya-an Bus Stop. This is normal, they wait for the Jeepneys and take passengers the remainder of their way home.

They were a friendly bunch and we talked a while. Within 15 minutes the Jeepney to Santa Fe drove past. They waved it down for me. It was full so I had to get up on the roof with my bags.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Santa Fe. They dropped me off on the waterfront near the peer. The price was PHP50.

My door-to-door price from the Aglicay to the Santa Fe ferry terminal was PHP270. It should have been PHP150. A couple of ‘in-the-know’ GRANDPAckers should budget PHP200 (PHP100 for the Tribike to the correct Bus Stop on the main road and PHP50 each for the Jeepney). But, the Jeepney was a bit ‘rough’… I am sure that if a couple of 65 year old ‘foreigners’ tried to get on they would get a proper seat (and a couple of young Filipinos would have been told to get up on the roof). The Filipinos are considerate like that.


It was 11:30am and the boat didn’t leave until 3:00pm. I had some time to kill.

I went to a little cafe on the waterfront, did some work, and had lunch: Fish Soup with Rice and 2 soft drinks (PHP75).

I wandered down the road towards the ferry terminal – which was only 200 metres away. There was a pleasant, shaded seating area on the waterfront. I stopped for a while. A couple of young boys came and sat with me and practiced their English. Then, a more elderly gentleman joined us and we started to chat. Then, the local councilor turned up on his motorbike and joined us. Then, a third guy turned up. We just chatted and had a laugh. It helped another 45 minutes go by before I had to head off to the terminal. One of the group walked with me. Nice.

When I got there at 2:45 people were already on the boat. One of the crew saw me coming, asked my destination, took my suitcase and loaded it for me.

They also guided me up the ramp onto the boat.

Whilst we waited for 3:00pm, the crew did some hand fishing. Come 3:00pm, we were off – on schedule.

The waters were calm and it was a pleasant 45 minute trip. You can see Carabao Island from Santa Fe… so, it was just a matter of watching it get closer and closer.

As I got off of the pump boat, I paid my PHP100.


I had tried to do my usual thing and pre-book a hotel online. But, again, there weren’t many options on the normal hotel search engines.

My research had also convinced me that I wanted to be on the east coast of the island on Said / San Jose / Hambil beach – it seems to have many different names. The eastern beach is meant to have sand as good as Boracay’s. The western beach(es) are not meant to be as good.

I did enough research to determine that there were several accommodation options on the east coast – none of which were in any of the online search engines. I decided to take a chance…

I had no idea where we were going to land. As we disembarked, I opened up Google Maps to discover that we had landed half way down the east coast. Perfect, this is where I wanted to be.

I had already decided to just book in to the first reasonably priced hotel that I found. I would rent a scooter the next day and tour the island. After touring the island, the plan was to pick the best spot and book in for 1 week.

I walked about 30 metres down the road from the ferry terminal and found a name that I knew: the Beach Hauz. It looked quite nice and sat on the beachfront. Alas, they were full.

I walked across the road to another hotel. They showed me a nice fan room to GRANDPAcking Standard.

They wanted PHP1000 / night.

I played ‘the game’ and said that it was too much and that I would keep looking.

I went down a side road to another hotel. They showed me a worse room and wanted PHP1500. I politely told them that they were’ dreaming’ and moved on.

They tried to discount the room as I was leaving… I heard it drop to PHP1000… but I just told them that they ‘had their chance’ to offer me a fair rate and that this chance had now gone.

I went back to the previous hotel and smiled. ‘How about PHP900’, I said. She said OK.

It had been a long day… and that was good enough for now.

Later that evening, I checked my research links and found Ate Luzvie’s mentioned on one of the blogs. The previous year a Filipino girl had stayed in the exact same room for PHP500 / night for 3 nights. I should have negotiated harder.


I asked Ate Luzvie where I could rent a scooter for tomorrow… putting my ‘plan’ into action… she didn’t know.

OK, it was only 4:30pm, so I walked along the waterfront looking for someone who might rent scooters.

All of the locals were saying ‘hello’ to me as I walked past. So typical ‘Philippines’.

One man said ‘hello’ in such good English that I stopped and asked him where I could rent a scooter. ‘At 513’, he said, ‘just down the road’.

I walked, perhaps, another 50 metres and found ‘5 Thirteen”.

I felt like a ‘hobbit’ having his ‘eleventy first’ birthday! And, then I looked again… it was the ‘Republic of Inobahan’.

The ‘Republic’ is one of the most written about places on the internet when you search for Carabao.

I walked in and asked how much their scooter rental was… ‘PHP1000 per day’! F**k me!

Oh, ‘we also have rooms’, they said. I expected the worst… if a scooter is PHP1000, how much was a room going to be!

I asked to look at one of their Fan rooms. The Manager (Edison) showed me the room; it was PHP750 / night (excluding breakfast). It came with satellite TV.

I said that I wanted a room for 7 nights… he said that he would give me a ‘friendly rate’ of PHP600 / night.

The room was not as nice as the one at Ate Luzvie’s but the PHP300 / night saved was almost enough to pay for my meals each day.

The inside of the main building is nicely laid out and is available for guests to use.

Outside, there is a nice restaurant looking out over the beach.

On the beach, there are beach huts. I could see myself working in one every morning looking out over the water.

I just had a ‘good feel’ about the place, so I said OK.

But, I challenged him on the PHP1000 scooter rental and told him that it was much too expensive. He said that I could rent his own scooter for PHP700. I said PHP500. He agreed. We shook hands and I told him that I would see him the next day. I asked if he wanted a ‘deposit’ or whether my ‘word’ was good enough. My ‘word’ was good enough. The deal was done.


The trip to Carabao Island from the Aglicay is an easy one.

In hindsight, I should have checked out of the Aglicay at 11:30, caught a Tribike to the Guinhaya-an Bus Stop to be there by about 12:00 noon, waited for the 12:30 Jeepney to Santa Fe, and arrived in Santa Fe about 1:15pm. This would have given me time to have a lunch in one of the little waterfront cafes before heading for the Carabao Pump Boat at the Ferry Terminal at 2:30pm to leave at 3:00pm.

This lands you in Hambil beach just before 4:00pm. This gives you plenty of time to walk along the beachfront to find a room in one of the hotels / homestays.

My first impressions of Carabao Island are positive.

From the Republic I have access to a beautiful white powder-sand beach and the township is only a 50 metre walk away.


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