Sunday, November 4, 2018

Zamboanga Travel Blog : ONCE ISLAS

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When you hear about Zamboanga City, you would probably think of vintas and Sta, Cruz Island. These are two iconic tourist attractions that the city is known for.  It may not be just two in the future as there is another attraction that is getting much attention lately – Once Islas.


Once Islas

Once Islas is a new eco-cultural tourism attraction in Zamboanga City which opened in July this year. It’s located within the boundaries of Barangays Panubigan and Dita, about an hour away from the city proper. As the name suggests, it’s a group off 11 beautiful islands waiting to be explored. 


Four out of the 11 islands of Once Islas are now open to the public. These are Bisaya-Bisaya, Baung-Baung, Sirommon and Buh-Buh. 

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM


The City Government of Zamboanga City is gearing towards a sustainable tourism industry which I really admire. They put a cap to the number of visitors the island can accommodate each day. Only 200 people can visit Once Islas in a day. Visitors also need to pre-register before they can start exploring the islands. 

The local community is involved in protecting the islands. They were given livelihood to make sure that they actually take part in maintaining the order in Once Islas. They were trained to give a short orientation about Once Islas, the do’s and don’ts when visiting the island and how to deal with the influx of tourists in their community.

I find these measures commendable. The more they (the community) are involved the higher the chance that they will take care of the islands. Kudos to the LGU of Zamboanga City for promoting sustainable tourism over mass tourism.

BISAYA-BISAYA ISLAND

Our first stop was at Bisaya-Bisaya Island – the closest island to the mainland. This is where you can swim, snorkel and enjoy the underwater world of Once Islas. You can also do a short trek to the side of the island and see fabulous rock formations. For safety and accountability, make sure you trek with your tour guide.

A short walk during low tide will bring you to another islet with a tidal pool. This is a must-see spot in Bisaya-Bisaya. Never leave the island without seeing this. 




Aside from enjoying the sceneries of the island, you can also do kayaking. For a minimal fee, you can enjoy the water of Bisaya-Bisaya with a kayak. You just have to book in advance to avail of a kayak.

SIROMMON ISLAND

Our second stop was at Sirommon Island where we had our sumptuous lunch prepared by the locals. It was actually a feast! We had a “boodle fight” over fresh seafood – fish, crabs, seashells and seaweeds.


After filling up our hungry tummies, we started exploring the island. Sirommon Island is famous for its sandbar. Luckily, it was still low tide when we arrived in Sirommon so we were able to capture shots of the sandbar. We walked through it and then we enjoyed the clear waters.





BAUNG-BAUNG ISLAND

Our last stop was at Baung-Baung Island. Here, you can trek to the overlooking view of Bisaya-Bisaya Island. 


I was already tired so I decided to just stay in the docking area and took a nap while waiting for the rest of the group to come back from the short trek to the viewing deck. It wasn’t that long, they were back in less than 30 minutes. It was indeed a quick trek!

BUH-BUH ISLAND

Due to limited time, we were not able to stop at Buh-Buh Island. This is an inhabited island where the city is planning to offer cultural tours at its mosque and local community village.


WHY VISIT ONCE ISLAS? 

  • You’re helping the local community by providing them livelihood.
  • You’ll get to explore four stunning islands.
  • You’ll get to support and promote a sustainable tourism destination.

HOW TO GET TO ONCE ISLAS?

The jump-off point to Once Islas is at Panubigan Boat Terminal. To get there from Zamboanga City, you can take a north-bound bus or a van to Pagadian, Ipil, etc from the Zamboanga City Provincial Bus Terminal. and alight at Panubigan crossing. Fare is around Php50 and travel time is about an hour. From Panubigon Crossing, take a motorcycle (habal-habal) to the barangay hall and register from there. If you want a hassle-free transfer to the jump-off point read below.

COST OF ISLAND HOPPING (ENTRANCE FEE AND OTHER CHARGES)

  • Entrance fee Php100 / USD 2 per person
  • Environmental fee Php100 / USD2 per person
  • Boat rental fee for up to 9 people Php2,000/ USD38
  • Local guide fee Php 300 / USD6
  • Cottage rental Php150 / USD3
  • Kayak rental Php300 / USD6 per hour

HOW TO BOOK A TOUR TO ONCE ISLAS?

Once Islas is open to the public every day, except Fridays in observance of the Moro’s prayer day. Tour begins at 7AM and ends at 3PM. As mentioned above, there is a 200 maximum capacity each day so you must pre-register in advance if you intend to visit the island. You may contact the Zamboanga Tourism Office at +63 62 9756341 or visit them in their office at Paseo de Mar. You may also send them an email at asiaslatincitytourism@yahoo.com.

HASSLE-FREE ISLAND HOPPING TOUR

If you want a hassle-free island hopping experience to Once Islas, we highly recommend you book a tour with iTravel Tourist Lane. They will arrange the pre-registration, transportation and all necessary logistics to make your island hopping experience smooth and easy and more enjoyable. You may email them at info@itraveltouristlane.com.

TRAVEL REMINDERS

  • Respect local culture and tradition
  • Dress appropriately
  • Travel responsibly – segregate your trashes and bring them back to the mainland and dispose of properly.
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol is prohibited in the island. Again, it is not allowed!
  • Prepare your own food. Grilling pork and bringing lechon is not recommended as a respect to the local community.
  • No overnight stay. All visitors must leave by 3PM.

ACCOMMODATION IN ZAMBOANGA CITY : Where to Stay in Zamboanga

Recommended hotels to stay in Zamboanga City. Please click the name of the hotel below to check the rates and availability.
  1. Marcian Business Hotel
  2. Garden Orchid Hotel
  3. Grand Astoria Hotel
  4. Ever O Business Hotel
  5. City Inn Hotel
  6. Winzelle Suites
  7. Casa Canelar Pension

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