Onse Islas Travel Guide

Monday, October 29, 2018

diy guide to onse islas

I already wrote about my recent visit to these islands in this comeback narrative (that’s over 2,000 words long but I’m so proud of it so I hope you could read it), but here are the essentials you need to know should you wish to see and experience these islands for yourself.

But before we proceed, please have a look at the Leave No Trace Principles:

Onse Islas is a string of eleven islands split between Brgys. Panubigan and Dita in Zamboanga City. Three are in Brgy. Dita (Lampingin, Sirommon, and Panganak), and the rest are in Panubigan. These remote villages are mostly inhabited by the Sama Banguingui – a Moro ethnolinguistic group. Assisted by the local government and various tour operators, they manage the eleven islands.

The official jump-off is in Brgy. Panubigan – which means “source of water” in the local Tausug tongue. It is about 40 kilometers away from the city proper. This village is by the sea and you’ll see stilt houses lining the way to the port. Bunches of agar-agar or seaweed can be seen strewn along the streets to dry. Here, visitors are received and taken to a briefing before proceeding to the tour.
stitled houses panubigan

agal-agal zamboanga

As of October 2018, four of the eleven islands have been deemed ready to receive guests. These are Bisaya-Bisaya, Baung-Baung, Buh-buh, and Sirommon.

Aside from the sparkling white-sand shore, the island of Bisaya-Bisaya plays host to a slew of geological wonders, from honeycombed cliffs and rutted wave-cut platforms to a natural infinity pool. The island is also ideal for snorkeling (bring your own gear) and kayaking (kayaks are available for rent).
wave cut platforms onse islas

natural pool in onse islas

Personally, I think this island has the best waters for swimming. Clean and cool and not at all rocky, it has the same teal-and-cerulean gradient as the rest of the islands. It also has a trail that leads to a view of nearby Bisaya-Bisaya island.
trekking baung baung island

onse islas trekking

This island is one of the few inhabited ones. It is meant to showcase the rich culture of the Sama Banguingui. If I’m not mistaken, the LGU is planning to set up a small museum here. Buh-Buh island can be distinguished by the mosque just a few strides from the shore.
sama banguingui zamboanga

With a name compounded from the English words “sea, room, and moon”, this island possesses the same gleaming, chalky sands of its neighbors as well as a swirl of sandbar dotted by seastars. There is also a short trail that leads to the other side of the island where a treehouse, a wooden gazebo, and a grove of trees for hammocks can be found. Because of the facilities like cottages, kitchen, restrooms –  simple as they are – this island is also the spot to have lunch.

sirromon island sandbar
Photo courtesy of Glen of Escape Manila

Second day in Zamboanga City was spent exploring three of eleven islands in the villages of Panubigan and Dita. All three islands’ shores are decorated with the city’s trademark vibrant vinta sails, creating a beautiful contrast against sand, sea, and sky. ⛵️☀️✨🌊🏝 . More of the “Once Islas” soon on Celineism.com . 📷 @karasantos . #OnceAgainZamPen #ZamboHermosaFest #TPBGovPH #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines #awesomeglobe #grammerworld #discoverglobe #onseislas #wonderfulplaces #ourdailyplanet #bestplaces_togo #guardiancities #travelersnotebook #iamatraveler #worldmastershotz #igpodium_mag #infinity_shotz #igersmood #superhubs #thebest_capture #theimaged #earthfocus #unlimitedparadise #resourcetravel #heatercentral #passportready #beautifuldestinations #natgeotravel #wanderlust
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The other islands in the group are Simaddang, Sallangan, Lambang-Lambang, Baguias, Panganak, Kabugan, and Lampingin.
Visitors must reserve a slot before going to Onse Islas. Follow the procedure below to book your trip:

Through the Zamboanga City Tourism Office, reserve and book your slot
You must fill up three (3) copies of “Form A”
Zamboanga City Tourism Office
Paseo del Mar
8AM to 5AM, Monday to Friday
(062) 975 6341

Proceed to the official entry point in Brgy. Panubigan (directions below)
Present reservation slip, settle fees, and attend the pre-tour briefing at the baranggay hall

Secure a local guide and proceed to the port
Board the assigned ferry

Depart Onse Islas via Brgy. Panubigan no later than 3PM

(per pax unless otherwise stated)
Entrance Fee – Php100
Environmental Fee – Php100
Ferry (round trip, group rate; maximum of 15 pax) – Php2,500
Local Guide (Required; recommended 1 guide per 5 people) – Php300
Kayak Rental (Bisaya-bisaya) – Php300/hour, good for two
Cottage Rental – Php150/day

- Guest MUST book with the City Tourism Office prior to coming to the island. Walk-in guests will not be entertained. This is because the islands follow a carrying capacity – maximum number of tourists allowed per day – of 200 guests.
- The islands welcome guests everyday EXCEPT Friday, from 7AM to 3PM
- No overnight stays
- Prepare your food beforehand. Bring utensils. Pre-cooked pork dishes are allowed, but whole lechon (roast pig) and grilling of pork are a no-no. This is in respect of the local culture.
- Wear modest swimwear.
- No pets allowed.
- It’s highly recommended to bring your trash with you back to the mainland, but there are designated disposal facilities in each island. Please dispose of your garbage properly. (READ: 8 Basic Etiquette Rules Every Modern Traveler Should Know)

To get to Brgy Panubigan, take a van bound for Brgy. Curuan at the van terminal in Tomas Claudio cor Saavedra Sts., then alight at the Panubigan Crossing. Fare is Php60. Here, habal-habal motorcycles can take you to the baranggay hall for Php20. Alternatively, you may reach the crossing by getting on a bus at the Zamboanga City Integrated Bus Terminal for Php50. Travel time is about an hour from the city proper. The Tourism Office could also arrange private cars for you and your group should you prefer it.

For a hassle-free trip, you may also contact iTravel Tourist Lane. This travel agency specializes in tours around Zamboanga.

Have you been to Onse Islas? How was your visit?

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