Within a few minutes of leaving the sandbar at Bantigue Island, our next destination came into clearer view. Immediately to our front, an inviting white sand beach stood out between two massive, sprawling masses of limestone rocks. Clusters of lively green shrubs crowned the rocks while coconut palms lined the white sand beach. Our boat covered the next several meters of turquoise waters in what seemed like a breeze and we were soon walking along the creamy white shores of Antonia Beach.
Antonia Beach is located on the eastern end of Gigantes Sur, one of the islands that make up Islas de Gigantes or the Gigantes group of islands. The latter is part of the municipality of Carles, Iloilo and lies in the Visayan Sea just off the northeastern tip of the main island of Panay. We initially thought Antonia was an island – many referred to it as Antonia Island Resort – until we realized it was really a part of Gigantes Sur.
Antonia Beach lies between the two limestone formations earlier mentioned, with the sea on both sides. Boats usually dock on the western side as ours did. We were soon exploring the northern end of the beach where tall karst formations carpeted by verdant shrubs stood watch over this part of the island.
The tall karst formations on the beach’s northern end actually has a small cave that may be explored but we skipped that part. We were content just to wade in the crystal clear waters and enjoy the view of the rest of Gigantes Sur from this side of the beach. There were a few boats and guests in the vicinity but otherwise Antonia Beach was a postcard-perfect picture of serenity on this day.
As the morning wore on, the sun’s heat began getting to us so we decided to head for the clump of coconut palms lining the center of the beach. From what we know the cover afforded by the palms was much better back then before Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made its violent visit here, knocking down some palms and removing much of the fronds from the rest. There are tables and chairs here for guests to dine in and a small store that serves cold drinks. There’s also a line of tents for rent on the western side of the beach; guests can camp overnight here.
The eastern section is the quieter section of the beach, although both western and eastern sides offer good swimming areas. The western side offers good snorkeling particularly the portion near the long pile of massive slanted rocks on the southern end of the beach. We would spend the remainder of our time at Antonia Beach happily exploring the marine life here.
There’s a good variety of fishes and corals on Antonia’s southern end and after not having snorkeled since visiting El Nido last summer, we were like children enjoying the colorful marine life here. Interestingly, we noticed that fishes here were not shy at all and seemed to be swimming around us waiting for handouts. (We learned later that fish-feeding is done here sometimes.) We also encountered what looked to be an aggressive fish protecting its territory, chasing other fishes away and even biting us in our toes (it didn’t hurt though). We learned later that there are several excellent dive sites around the Gigantes group of islands although these have yet to attract dive tours.
Shortly after our boat left Antonia Beach for the final destination of our island-hopping tour, we asked our boatman and tour guide if we could stop just past the pile of rocks at Antonia’s southern tip. This unique collection of rocks is probably Antonia’s defining feature as we have yet to encounter a similar topography even in places like Coron, El Nido and the Caramoan Peninsula. After a few moments of gazing at the spectacle and a few clicks with the camera we were off for the final leg of our Islas de Gigantes tour.
Antonia Beach is on the itinerary of island-hopping tours based on the island of Gigantes Norte. You can travel to Gigantes Norte, stay at one of the resorts there and book an island-hopping trip from there (resorts usually arrange these tours for their guests). For suggestions on where to stay in Gigantes Norte and other travel tips go to this page.