During a motorbike tour of the central Philippines, Leyte Gulf Travel and Tours invited me to experience the gem of their province - Stunning Kalanggaman Island. I had received some inside tips about the sandbar on this island, so I already knew it was a MUST SEE...
Words & Photos By Nathan Allen
Tour Departs By Boat From Palompon Town
Due to the nature of my trip (weather...possible motorbike breakdowns...etc), unfortunately I couldn't inform the tour company exactly when I would be there. I was impressed, because even at the last minute, they were able to throw an overnight camping trip together for me. What a dream come true!
I met my guide, Mrs. Warblitz at the Palompon port early the next morning. It was a bit cloudy, so I hoped the weather would clear for nice pictures.
It was only about a 45 minute boat trip, and before I knew it, I was already exploring the tiny island! I came across the rocky beach pictured above, and also a small island chapel...as well as a tree house on the far end. I heard that it's private property, unfortunately.
I took a few photos and made some new friends...there were some tourist groups from the Philippines, and quite a large one from China. Soon, the clouds began to part, and I was thrilled to see the sun shine down on our little island paradise...
A Picture-Perfect White Sandbar
The tide was starting to come in by the time the sun came out...so the sandbar was slowly submerged by the sea. As you can see here, there is a native-style lifeguard tower, and the lifeguard is constantly kept busy chasing after tourists who try to cross the sandbar at high tide (you're only allowed to cross when the sandbar is exposed).
There is a small mound of sand at the end of the sandbar...it becomes its own little island at high tide, too. It's incredibly beautiful.
Blessed by powdery white sand and the shade of plenty of coconut trees, Kalanggaman island truly is a gem in the pacific. "Langgam" means "bird" in the local dialect, and the island gets that name from its shape, when viewed from above.
I climbed up in the nipa hut lifeguard tower for a better view of the sandbar.
The lifeguards were friendly, and I interviewed them a bit as they kept watch on the beach. Below is Nick, who came to Palompon because he has family here. With all the discipline of a military man, I had no doubt that Nick and the guys would keep the island safe throughout the night.
Some tourists recognized me on the beach, and requested a photo. Thanks for sending me the picture, Mrs. Suzette!
Overnight Camping on the Island
Here I am in my own little "bahay kubo", or native hut. Made from bamboo and nipa, these are iconic in the Philippines. I just relaxed and got some reading done in my hammock. Not a bad life!
As you can see below, the tour company took good care of me. My trip was so last minute that they were not able to include an overnight tour guide. For me this was actually ideal...I love being on my own to take photos and explore. They introduced me to the island guards and the caretaker, and left me with all the supplies I could ever need...
I had a tent, a hammock, rain gear, coffee, tea, fresh vegetables, and an assortment of Filipino foods to last many meals. I even had nachos and beer...and there was enough food to share with new friends, which is the Filipino way. The team set up a beautiful campsite before departing the island. The boat would return to pick me up in the morning.
Being left on my own beautiful tropical island...this really is the kind of adventure I've always dreamed of. Guess what? It gets better...
Snorkeling Off The Beach
A local told me where I might find some corals near the beach. You'll have to ask for specifics once you're there. In the fading afternoon light, I managed to get some underwater photography done. Here is a small school of colorful fish above the corals.
There were some beautiful flower-type coral gardens, with both hard and soft corals.
(Click photos of the coral reef for more info)
I also spotted a puffer fish, a large lionfish, and a beautiful giant clam. Not bad for an island which isn't even known for its snorkeling! Something I'll never forget is one of the young guards who wanted to go snorkeling with me, to make sure I was safe out there.
It was actually his first time using a snorkel & mask to see underwater! He was totally blown away, and I loved watching him experience it for the first time.
TIPS: Always wear a life vest, and do not swim or snorkel near the actual sandbar. The lifeguards told me the current is incredibly strong there. Also, please apply "reef safe" sunblock if you use it, as the chemical "oxybenzone" can kill or damage the coral reefs. I think Banana Boat for kids may be OK.
(continued below, but I do hope you'll consider following along with me...)
Sunset on the Sandbar
By sunset, the tide had gone back down, and it was safe for us to walk along the sandbar and take photos. I can imagine the sunsets get even better than this on less cloudy days, too. Just magical.
The local guys and I listened to reggae music (I brought a tiny speaker) as we enjoyed the prepared food. Around 9pm they retired to the other end of the island, and I had the whole sandbar and coconut grove to myself. Perfect weather to sleep outside...so peaceful. I'll never forget it.
How To Get To Kalanggaman
The most convenient way might be to take a cheap promo flight to Tacloban from Manila or Cebu, then join Leyte Gulf Travel and Tours. They provide vans for the 2-3 hour trip, and of course the boat and all your supplies.
Where to Stay
Overnight camping was pretty epic, but you can also stay in Palompon Town. I stayed at Asayas Pension Plaza...it was OK, but they don't have online reservations. Mrs. Warblitz or Mrs Ludette @ Leyte Gulf can make some good hotel recommendations for you if you need.
Again, many thanks to the team for providing this incredible experience! I'm not usually a "tours" kind of guy, but after experiencing everything they have to offer, I can see why it's worth the extra money. You can just enjoy your vacation...without the stress of planning so many things. They were super nice, and most importantly – professional.
For me, Kalanggaman Island is just incredible - not too developed or crowded...with a nice white-sand beach and plenty of shady coconut trees. Add to that friendly locals, and you've got a perfect recipe for paradise.
Really, this island is pure eye candy.
Enjoy, and be sure to check out my other Leyte posts!
- Nathan Allen
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