I Left My Heart and Soul in Batanes (Part 2: Sabtang and Vuhus Islands)

A stunning cove we saw on our way to Vuhus Island
The highlight of our trip in Batanes was days two and three--when we explored the majestic islands of Sabtang and Vuhus; when we had our first faluwa (round-bottomed boat) ride; when we stayed at the Malakdang Lighthouse for a night; when we had the best lunis (Ivatan pork adobo) on a no-frills set-up by the beach; and when the spectacular underwater of Vuhus Island unfolded before our eyes. Those were the things that made our Batanes trip memorable.

We started our journey as early as 6:00 am when Ryan Cardona of BISUMI Tours and Services fetched us from Palangud Homestay. Ryan, an Ivatan who used to work as a tour guide, now operates his own travel and tours company. 

At about 6:30 am, we arrived at the port of Ivana where three faluwas were waiting for passengers, mostly tourists from different parts of the Philippines. We waited for all the passengers to board before we hopped on the outrigger-less boat as Ryan said it's better to board last so we can disembark first. True enough, the front seats were the best spot on the boat, as it allowed me to take photos while onboard.

I must admit that I was skeptical at first to ride the faluwa as I've seen horrible videos on Youtube, showing how huge the waves and how scary the ride is. In fact, I almost dismissed the idea of going to Sabtang Island days before our trip, but I convinced myself to take the risk in the end.

Contrary to what I've watched on videos and what I've read on blogs, we did not experience rough seas during our trip. It was smooth and just a little bit bumpy in the middle, but nevertheless it wasn't the worst boat ride I've ever had. (If you've read my posts on San Vicente, Palawan, you will understand what I mean). Take note that we went to Batanes in June. Travel time from Batan Island to Sabtang port was exactly 30 minutes.

Passengers boarding the faluwa
With Ryan Cardona of BISUMI Tours and Services
One smooth ride
Approaching Sabtang Island, we were welcomed by sights that instantly captured our hearts: white shores, a lighthouse, and beautiful rock formations. Alas, I survived the faluwa ride!!!

The Malakdang Lighthouse
The lighthouse from afar
Arriving at the port of Sabtang
In Sabtang, tricycles usually have cogon roofs
We then proceeded to the Municipal Tourism Office a few meters away from the port. All tourists are required to pay Php 200 environmental fee which is good for the duration of the guest's entire stay on the island, unlike in El Nido, where the fee is only good for 10 days. If you availed of the packaged tours, this fee is usually included already, so no need to worry.  

Where to stay in Sabtang:
Usually, tourists opt to only do a day tour of Sabtang, which enables them to go back to Batan Island by around 1:00 pm. However, many guests now spend more time on the island to appreciate its breathtaking views. We really allotted a night in Sabtang Island simply because we wanted to explore its neighbouring island of Vuhus.

There are several accommodation options on the island. One is to stay at a stonehouse in Brgy. Chavayan. This allows guests to experience how Ivatans live within cogon roofs and limestone walls. Kindly note though that Brgy. Chavayan is a bit far from the capitol, so you must buy all your supplies like food, booze, etc. before proceeding to your homestay.

Alternatively, one can stay at the Municipal Tourism Office, where there are basic rooms that can be your shelter for a night or two. Unlike in Brgy. Chavayan, this accommodation is right at the heart of the capitol and is near the port.

A room at the Municipal Tourism Office
BUT... for me, the best accommodation in Sabtang Island is right at the Malakdang Lighthouse! Yes, you can spend a night beside the lighthouse where there is a privately-owned, fully-furnished villa that can fit 4-6 people, or even more. When Ryan ask me if I wanted to stay at the lighthouse, my initial reaction was "What??? Isn't it scary???" All the while I thought the lighthouse in Sabtang was one of those creepy old Spanish lighthouses we usually see on TV during Halloween. But as soon as I stepped inside the compound where the lighthouse is, I knew for sure that I wanted to spend the night there. The place commands a spectacular 360-degree view--from pasturelands to blue ocean to sunrise and sunset. The views surrounding the house were priceless! If you're getting your tour package from Ryan, you may request to be billeted here, and believe me, you will not regret having to shell out more than what usual homestays would cost.

The house beside the Malakdang Lighthouse
A fan-cooled room for four persons
The living took, dining and kitchen
The room in the house is fan-cooled but it's not a problem at all since the house is elevated and the cool wind blows 24/7. There's also a regular power interruption starting at 12 midnight everyday in Sabtang Island.

Oh, and did I tell you the house has its own videoke, too? Yes, you can sing out loud and no one will bother you (or the other way around) until the power shuts down at midnight.

A view from the backdoor of the house
A view from the veranda

From the lighthouse, you can see the long stretch of sand and the Sabtang Port

From the lighthouse window
From the backdoor

A glance at the lighthouse before we proceed to Vuhus Island
Exploring Sabtang and Vuhus Islands
We started the tour of Sabtang and Vuhus Islands right away after picking up our lunch at an eatery near the port. What a pleasant experience it was to hop on a cogon-roofed tricycle! Our first stop was the Nakanmuan Village, the smallest baranggay in Sabtang, which only has around 20 families--that's how small it is!

Along the way, I couldn't help but be in-love with the stunning vistas. There were back-to-back white sand coves, verdant hillsides, towering cliffs, as well as cows and goats freely roaming around common pasturelands. My heart was shouting with joy!

A view of Nakabuang Beach from the uphill road
That's Vuhus Island across the blue waters!
Another cove along the way
And this one, too!
Winding road, right?
After we crossed so many uphill and winding roads (yes, via a reliable cogon-roofed tricycle, that is), we finally arrived at the coastal town of Nakanmuan, where a smaller faluwa was already waiting for us. Again, jitters consumed me as I imagined how it would be like to cross the supposedly rough seas with a smaller boat that has no outriggers. Imagine an oversized kayak made of wood cruising on the West Philippine Sea. But we were already there anyway, and the sight of a pristine beach from afar made all my reservations go away. That's it! The next thing I knew, I was already aboard the small faluwa, with Ryan trying to distract me from seeing the waves ahead.

Our faluwa to Vuhus Island

I was right--all my fears vanished when I saw the unspoilt beauty of Vuhus Island. Its sand may not be at par with Boracay, but its purity and rawness were what captivated my heart in an instant. Who needs a crowded Boracay when you can have an island like Vuhus all to yourself? It's not a party island, mind you. It's a place where you can relax and just enjoy nature's bountiful gifts of sun, sand, and sea.

Low tide at Vuhus Island
Docking at the sand bar
Vuhus Island is one of the uninhabited islands of Batanes. Well, not really, because technically, there's someone who guards the pastureland on a shifting basis, but that's about it. The island is fringed with coarse cream shore and a spectacular coral reef perfect for diving and snorkeling.

The ranger house
We stayed on the island long enough for us to enjoy the beach and the alluring surroundings. While it was quite impossible to swim here at low tide, the tides got higher in the afternoon just in time after lunch. By the way, our guide brought our packed lunch as there were no resorts nor restaurants on the island. Our food was composed of fish, veggies, and the best lunis I have ever had in Batanes (no exaggeration here)! To know where to find this heavenly lunis, ask Ryan. =) This version was soft and succulent, yet the skin and fat were deadly crispy and oozing with flavours, unlike other versions that you would encounter in some restaurants in Batan!

Can you spot who's the real beachbum here?
Best lunis ever!
The tide's getting higher
When the tide got a bit higher, Ryan asked our boatman to fetch us in front of the ranger house so we can explore the island's colorful underwater scenery. The sea was calm and there's no trace of huge waves along the way. Plus, the sun was up so visibility underwater was good enough. We stopped somewhere in the middle of Vuhus and Sabtang Islands and the boatman anchored our small faluwa. Ryan and another guy from his team geared up (they only have masks, no snorkel by the way) and dove into the azure waters. My husband then followed, clinging on to a lifevest and a set of improvised flippers. He brought our Sony DSC-TF1 underwater camera so he could take snapshots.

If you plan to snorkel around Vuhus Island, it is best that you bring your own gears like masks, snorkel, aqua shoes, lifevests, and of course, an underwater camera.

See how beautiful and clear the water is?
What can you see underwater? Here are some photos taken by Ryan and my husband while they were fishing and snorkeling in Vuhus Island.

Look what they have caught!
After snorkeling, we continued cruising our way back to Nakanmuan Village. On the way we saw another faluwa with a fisherman onboard, and another, with a solo traveler who also explored Vuhus Island.

A fisherman on his faluwa
From Nakanmuan Village, we went next to Sumnanga Village, also known as Batanes' Little Hong Kong. It was named as such not because it has expansive shopping malls like Hong Kong; rather, the stonehouses here are perched on a cliff overlooking the picturesque Duvek Bay.

Stonehouses line a street in Sumnanga
Duvek Bay
Cattle on an expansive pastureland
Our last stop for the day was the pristine Nakabuang Beach (also known as Morong Beach) with its iconic Ahao Arch. We intentionally went here in the afternoon so we can have the beach all to ourselves. This spot becomes crowded specially at noontime as it is a famous lunch venue for day trippers on packaged tours. For day trips, this is the last stop before they go back to the port and board the faluwa back to Batan Island.

The gleaming fine white sand
The other side of the beach
Ahao Arch
Gazebos where lunch is usually served
We spent more time in Nakabuang Beach as we really enjoyed walking barefoot on its fine white sands. And when our cameras finally went drained, we decided to go back to the lighthouse so we can recharge the batteries before sunset.

Our home in Sabtang Island
Isn't it priceless to go home after a tiring day with this view right at your backdoor? Sorry, I couldn't get over the fact that we were actually staying beside a lighthouse which commands fantastic views of one of the most elusive destinations in the Philippines!

Backyard view
Time for sunset came and of course, we did not waste any moment to capture this magical hour. The warm hues of the sun against the rolling hills and the boundless ocean were a surreal view to behold.

Sunset in Sabtang

At dinner time, Ryan brought us again to the eatery near the port. Apparently, this is one of the famous eateries among tourists in Sabtang. They rarely accept walk-ins as they only have limited resources on the island so reservation is a must. Your guide can do this for you so all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the night. A set dinner costs around Php 300 per person.

For dinner, I requested again for lunis while they also served us adobo (the saucy variety), fish sinigang (local soup), and veggies.

Lunis for the win!
Fish Sinigang

Pork Adobo

Sabtang and Vuhus Islands certainly stole my heart. It was love at first sight. This side of the country is indeed, heaven on earth.

Up next: More of Sabtang Island

BISUMI Tours and Services
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