The morning was sunny and the waves seemed calm when we left Kota Beach Resort on our way to our first island destination of the day. But within a few minutes our boat was pitching up and down a suddenly rough open sea. We were about to go into panic mode but one glance at our calm and unperturbed boatman helped us relax and made us realize that things were going to be just fine.
About 30 minutes after leaving Kota Beach in the island of Bantayan, our boat slowly glided into shallow, crystal-clear turquoise waters and into a white sandbar at Hilantagaan Island. Located off Bantayan Island’s southeastern section, this island’s main attractions are two adjacent white sand beaches on its southern tip.
Serafin, our boatman, docked at the southwestern beach where a small fishing village marked by several outrigger boats is also located. There’s a small sandbar or sandspit jutting out into the turquoise waters here but it was high tide when we arrived and the sandbar wasn’t as pronounced as it would have been during low tide.
It was tempting to bath in the crystal-clear waters but after conferring with Serafin, we decided to stay here only for a short time and to swim and snorkel at the next island instead. We requested Serafin to take our boat for a short tour around the nearby beach to the east.
It was even more enticing to swim and snorkel at the second beach as we observed the clear turquoise waters teeming with marine life. The sand here is also fine and creamy white. Karst formations stood at each end of the gorgeous beach. There’s another small fishing village inland here, too, but the fisher folks have been able to keep the beach clean.
After several minutes enjoying the scene at Hilantagaan, we were ready for our next destination: the much smaller but no less fascinating Virgin Island. Also known as Silion Island, Virgin Island lies to the northwest of Hilantagaan and is just a 20-minute boat ride away from the latter.
Crystalline aquamarine and turquoise waters, wide stretches of white, fine sandy beach and lush coconut palms make Virgin Island a tropical paradise. The coconut palms and other trees here provided plenty of shade from the late morning sun. Unlike Hilantagaan, there are basic accommodations here – huts, cottages, picnic tables, lounge chairs, beach umbrellas and even a small restaurant.
There are snorkeling spots around the beach area. At shallow depths we could already spot several colorful species of fish. Particularly interesting were two varieties of parrot fish – one of them having a predominantly neon blue color, the first time we ever spotted this variety in the wild. Interestingly, the fishes were not shy and even approached us – a clear indication that they were expecting to be fed. We later learned that visitors were feeding the fishes here – not exactly an exemplary situation.
Hiking a short distance north from the beach on a pathway through a forested area, we came across a cliff diving spot – a phenomenon that is common at Bantayan. Adjacent to a short stretch of another white sand beach, the cliff diving spot is provided with a lifeguard.
We stayed at Virgin Island well past our lunch hour, just enjoying the beach and the marine life. This is one place where you can easily relax and while away the time with a cold drink and a good book. By 2 PM however, we were ready to return back to Bantayan Island and onto our next adventure.
There are boats for rent at Bantayan that can take you to the two islands. Most resorts will arrange a boat trip for you. Or you can head out to the congregation of outrigger boats near Abaniko Resort and Anika Resort in Santa Fe, Bantayan – this is the point of the shortest distance to Hilantagaan from Bantayan – and ask a fisherman or boatman to take you to both islands. They usually charge P800 to P1,000 depending on the size of the boat. You may also want to contact our boatman: Serafin Veliganio at 0975-1384713.
Virgin Island charges an entrance fee of P500 for the first 2 persons and P100 for each additional person for a group on an incoming boat. There are no entrance fees for Hilantagaan.