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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Iloilo Sand Bar Island Experience

Just 40 days after our Boracay getaway, we escaped from Manila to Iloilo. We were giving Panay Island much love that time. Rains and storms just couldn't stifle the travel itch. Yup, it was August. Typhoons were still in and out of the Philippine archipelago.

Beau originally conceptualized a Guimaras-Concepcion route. But I wanted to go to a more off-the-beaten path. I know Iloilo is huge so I kept looking for other places to go to. I stumbled upon the website and saw other options. From there we decided to do Concepcion-Carles instead.

Iloilo Day 1

We took a morning PAL flight and touched down in ILO at 9:30 AM. It was raining when we arrived. From the airport, we took a shuttle (van) going to Jaro where the bus terminal to Concepcion is. We alighted in front of Jaro Cathedral and took a few photos there. Then we rode a jeepney going to the Tagbak Bus Terminal for a minimum fare.

Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral

We rode the HPQ Bus bound to Concepcion. You'll see it right away as they have big signboards in front. It is non-aircon by the way. The travel time is 2.5 to 3 hours. Fare from Jaro to Concepcion was PHP 110.

Our 1st Destination

We left at around 10:00 AM and arrived in Concepcion 1:00 PM. The first thing we did was look for the Tourism Office. We found a satellite-office near the port where we were entertained and asked to register. We immediately informed them of our intention to go to the Sand Bar Island. Then it came to the tricky part. The boat service negotiation. According to our research, the round trip boat fee is just PHP 800. We were extremely appalled when this guy named Ricky (of the Tourism Office) quoted us a price of PHP 1500! It's just a 30 minute boat ride! And there was just the two of us so we didn't need a big boat. After much arguing, we were taken to the island. We were actually surprised to see the boat with some people on it already. We were at least expecting it to be private by paying such a big amount. I was pissed off even more.

The sea was a bit rough because it was monsoon season. But it wasn't a scary ride. We disembarked at the island after 30 minutes. It was a relief that the island looked peaceful and nice. My annoyance started to dissipate.

the serene side

Yes, the mini-island is in the middle of the sea so it has two sides. In front is where the calm water is and at the back, is the rougher side. I believe that side is facing the open sea while the other was surrounded by other islands and islets blocking the waves.

going to the sandbar

We met the caretakers of the island. We told them of the "Tourism Office incident". They say that they want to start standardizing the fees which prevents tourists from hiring the locals' boats, in short they want all the money going straight to them. That was my interpretation. We've been traveling around and we kinda know how things work.

After securing our room, we immediately changed to our swimming clothes and headed to the sandbar.

the sand bar

This island's official name is Bulubadiangan Island. It just became known as Sand Bar Island for its famous sand bar which does not disappear even when it's high tide. Can you see the difference? There are waves on left and none on right. The caretakers said there's an abundance of corals on the rougher side.

going back

The monsoon wind made it unbearable for us to stay longer in the sand bar. The waves are fierce, the wind was so cold we couldn't bring ourselves to try dip in the water and most of all, the sands hit us like anything. It seriously hurt! Yup, the wind was that strong. It felt like a bit of a sand storm. We were also afraid it might get into our eyes so we just left and decided to go back in the morning.

We went back to our niche and just spent time chilling in the hammock. There was no sunset that day too. We were the only visitors in the island, so we had it all to ourselves. I enjoyed the silence and the surroundings. The sand, the sea, the waves, the trees and the wind. Just us and nature. I loved every moment of it.

Since there was no electricity (just a generator), we prepared our dinner and slept early. I wanted to wake up promptly the next day to catch the sunrise.

Iloilo Day 2

I woke up at around 4:45 AM the next day. I literally jumped from bed and ran to the beach, afraid to miss the sunrise. I was so lucky I caught it right on time.

my glorious sunrise

The island is a perfect spot to watch the sunrise. Once again, I was in awe. I so love watching the sun when it rises and when it sets.

Good Morning Iloilo :)

As soon as we finished breakfast, we went to the sand bar. It was so calm that morning, very opposite to what we witnessed the previous day. It was super low-tide too.

Mt Pan de Azucar on the backdrop

The care takers said we can snorkel on the back beach, but we opted not to anymore. We'll be pressed for time since we'll be leaving for Estancia that day too.

eyes squinting over flying sand

We just enjoyed our remaining time in the sand bar. We ditched the idea of an island hopping tour which was originally included in our itinerary. Things did not properly fell into place. You know, time constraints, the rough sea and the overcharging "Tourism" guy. It lessened my desire see more of the surrounding islands.

We left the island at around 8:30 AM. We just paid a total of PHP 1000 for the round trip boat services (instead of 1500). We were glad that the caretaker understood where we're coming from. We thanked him a lot for his kindness.

so long Sand Bar Island

During that time they only have a limited supply of fresh water in the island. The boatman took us to a local's house upon reaching the town for us to take a bath. We were so happy that they entertained us not as tourists but just like someone they knew. They even had someone to take us to the bus stop. How sweet of them.

We may have a not so nice encounter with the Tourism person charging us too much, but we still had a great time in Concepcion. I just wish they had a better way of  treating the travelers visiting their town. Blatantly showing them how much you wanted to make money out of them is a major turn off. It would have been a more wonderful experience if not for that. It was bitter-sweet.

I also think this island is better visited on summer months, when the sun is relentless and the sea is windless and waveless. I bet the sand bar looks more impressive when surrounded with aquamarine waters and snorkeling will be much more enjoyable too.

 Here is the link to my recommendation entry for the resort:

Beach Rating: ♥♥♥

*This trip happened on August of 2011. I will post the updated rates on my travel guide coming soon.

This is Part 1 of my Iloilo travel series.


  1. I love sand bars! =) If only it were possible to visit ALL the sand bars in the Philippines, I probably would. =) As it is now, though, there are islands in our country that not even nearby locals have access to.

  2. Same here Claire! I wish someday we'll be able to visit ALL of them! :)