The 7000+ islands would take you years to traverse individually, time that most do not have to dedicate to this one activity, but missing out on any will mean missing out on the beauty and personality that comes with these unique little islands and islets.
The Sarangani Island group is one of these little gems, home to only a few people and even less in the way of civilization. There are just in reach of those looking for an all-natural island getaway for some distance from the daily interaction with civilization.
Balut Island is one of two major islands (the other being Sarangani Island), and here we will take a closer look into some of these tiny overlooked jewels of the sea!
Where is it?
Balut may bring up images that do not invoke feelings of laying on a white sand beach, but it is actually used in the context of the Maguindanaoan term for “island”. The island group sits in Davao Occidental at the southern tip of the Mindanao region. In fact, they are the southern-most points in the Philippines!
Being an uninhabited island is all well and good until people want to find a way to visit, wherein problems begin to arise. Thankfully, in recent years there has been more chatter and interest in visiting the Sarangani Island group, allowing for a little more clarity on getting to the islands.
Begin your journey by getting to Davao City’s International Airport if you need to fly internationally into the region. Once there, take a bus or a rented van down to General Santos City or the Sarangani Province, depending on your level of bravery. If you prefer a larger cargo vessel help you and your companions get to your destination, head down to Puting Bato in General Santos City, otherwise, take a motorized banca from Batulaki in Glan, Sarangani.
You can also fly directly into General Santos City via a domestic flight from many locations around the country.
*Do NOT expect phone/internet signal in this neck of the woods.
**Do take note of the dates and times that you go, as the ocean can be treacherous if you pick the wrong time to go. As a quick guide, because you are facing the open ocean, the summer may be the best time to go (first half of the year) as the monsoon season is rough on open waters.
Places to stay
Upon reaching Mabila Port, Balut Island, what becomes quickly apparent is the lack of luxury accommodation which is definitely an eyesore. Nothing ruins natural beauty more than unnecessary civilization sponging up all the resources of an area. Nonetheless, there are several air-conditioned and fan powered rooms available for you, as are homestays in the local villages, more than happy to open their doors to travelers with a smile.
Make sure to ask about the situation with power wherever you decide to stay, as much of the island only gets electricity at set times. Alternatively, bring a tent and pitch it on a beach! If you stay within a resort’s vicinity there may be a pitching fee, but it is nothing compared to the view greeting you upon you waking up.
Being surrounded by the ocean has its perks, with fresh seafood being served up all over the island. Just follow your nose to lead you in the right direction (if that does not work, just head to the town proper and you will find food there)!
Finding places to purchase snack foods on Balut Island is just like looking for it anywhere else in the Philippines. Either find it in the town proper or in one of the many subdivisions around the island, where there will almost certainly be a locally owned shop waiting to serve you the snacks and drinks you desire!
About Balut Island:
Locals of the land consist of the indigenous B’laan and Sangil people with a few Indonesians mixed in (that is how far south the island is). Amazingly, they are comfortable with both Bisaya and Tagalog, meaning communication is not much different from the urbanized mainland.
Interact with the locals and learn about their way of life! In today’s modernized society, it is a breath of fresh air to learn about and talk to people who live their lives simply.
Trek Balut Volcano
The volcano is no doubt the centerpiece of the Sarangani Island group, as it is probably the first hint of the islands you will see on your boat ride here. Trekking it is an almost all-day task, so put on your hiking boots and be prepared for the climb! Expect cooler temperatures, a stunning panoramic view from the top, and an abundance of flora and fauna along the way.
Getting around the trio of islands is a breeze, especially if you take more than a day trip and interact with the locals. They will be happy to take you around the island and to the other islands.
Sabang Hot Springs
The local government once took advantage of the presence of natural hot springs near the beach and built a resort around it. Unfortunately, it never took off and today it is run down and the only real recognizable part is the hot spring itself.
Why bring it up? Well, while the water in the spring is too hot to dip your body into, it is perfect for cooking eggs, or even the island’s namesake, the Balut! Try it, it’s awesome.
While there are many beaches around the island, as designated by their ‘owners’, this little island is really surrounded by one long beach. Wherever you are on the island, other than atop the volcano, you will be near a beach. Find a quiet spot, kick your feet up and enjoy!
If what you are looking for is a completely natural escape then head to Balut Island.
Unfortunately, Southern Mindanao has caught quite a bad rep in recent years and even has many locals afraid to travel to the area. However, with enough research and the right friends, you will have a whale of a time down here in southern Davao.
Stretch out your hands, and maybe you will find Balut Island just within reach for your next island adventure!