Your Guide to Island Hopping in the Philippines

“Island hopping” is on the top of many travelers to do lists when they visit the Philippines. With over seven thousand islands in the archipelago, it’s an understatement to say adventurers have a lot of boats and islands to choose from.

If you are not restricted by a tight budget, think about island-hopping with Tao Philippines Expeditions. This Filipino company runs regular five day / 4 night “Open group expeditions” through the relatively remote Linapacan group of islands. The trip currently costs 25000 PHP, or about $550USD. This price does not include alcohol (though you can BYO). And towels are not provided. Book in advance if you really want to do this trip, especially if you are traveling at peak season. These trips fill up quickly!

The Balitik route though the Linapacan group of islands.

Tao uses different boats depending on the size of the group (from 12 to 24 people per trip). Back in 2009 travel writer Ellie Fazan described the small and intimate 72ft wooden bangka that she sailed on with Tao.

Bangkas are traditionally used for fishing, and typified by their long thin hull and extended out-riggers that give support and improve fuel efficiency. The Aurora is unique, adapted for guests with a working kitchen and second upper deck, where my shipmates (three Australian conservationists, two Americans, a Canadian wildfire fighter and a British photographer) and I would sleep. We were aged between 27 and 37, but Tao attracts all ages, families as well as backpackers. Four local crew were there to look after us: Lito the captain, Butchok the chef, Oggie and Ollie the boatmen, with Eddie and Jack as our guides, plus Ulan, the ship’s dog.

So what do you get up on the island-hopping adventure? The days are spent on the water, visiting different islands, swimming, snorkeling, and chilling on the boat. In the evenings, the group set’s up at one of the Tao base-camps. The company website explains each campsite

has its own personality, a raw untouched island, a traditional fishing village, our own organic farm or our hidden jungle lodge. Enjoy a few beers and share stories round a fire as the moon rises and fall asleep in open cabanas to the sound of the waves, ready for another day of adventure!

The Dubai-based Danish traveler and mother Mie writes we slept in small bamboo huts (There was NO luxury, proper toilets or showers – a challenge YES – but I actually loved the low-key life without hairdryer and makeup – for a few days!!) on deserted islands hundreds of miles from modern civilization, discovered hidden underwater caves, swam in mangroves and hot springs – and just enjoyed life! We went around the North of Palawan and visited some of the 700 small islands there – most of them have no inhabitants and are basically untouched. Amazing 🙂

And you eat lots of delicious food. The South-London based couple “Mr and Mrs Lemon” blogged all about the delicious meals they enjoyed on the five day expedition (I’ve pinched some of their great photos below). Our Awesome Planet also posted a food-focused report of life onboard a Tao Philippines expeditions cruise.

tao sashimi
The Lemons write “I was amazed at the high quality food produced from a tiny kitchen on a boat. It was all so fresh, from the sashimi on day 2 to the chicken curry on day 5 where the chickens were literally killed over the side of the boat – not for the faint hearted!”

palawan lechon

"I was amazed at the high quality food produced from a tiny kitchen on a boat. It was all so fresh, from the sashimi on day 2 to the chicken curry on day 5 where the chickens were literally killed over the side of the boat – not for the faint hearted!"

Vegetarians report being looked after too. ‘Arobinsonuk’ wrote on tripadvisor (the vegetarian stuff was as amazing as the fresh fish; banana flower burgers to-die-for, fresh mangoes, pan cooked biscuits, drool!). But if you don’t eat fish or meat, it is best to make this known when you book your trip so your diet can be catered to.

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