|Adventurous travelers can now explore Batanes by ATV!|
Romantic lighthouses, stone house villages, rolling meadows and dramatic cliffs paint the signature landscape of the Batanes islands, one of the best places in the Philippines to ogle at desktop wallpaper-worthy landscapes and authentic native culture. First-timers usually see these northernmost islands on a sightseeing tour package by rental van. But more adventurous travelers now have a new and exciting way to explore this incredible province — by ATV or all-terrain vehicle!
Batanes ATV Adventure, a tour operation based in the provincial capital of Basco, launched guided ATV excursions last June 26, during Batanes Day. “Our tours offer the best way to experience outdoor adventure while enjoying at hand the breathtaking sceneries of the island,” says 33-year-old local businessman, Jover Basco Vargas, who decided to provide a different tourist activity to the province after meeting tourists at his mini-grocery, who were looking for more exciting things to do after their van trips.
Accompanied by my Ivatan friend and his teenage niece, I asked Jover to take us on an afternoon jaunt of the island to revisit some of the sights on Batan. I’ve tried driving an ATV last year for the first time in Camarines Sur, but I felt my skills have now become rusty. So, I requested for refresher lessons, before I could drive one confidently on the main road. The units were first brought to the town plaza of Basco, where Jover gladly taught us the basics: how to turn the units on and off, how to shift gears and go on reverse, and how to park them safely, among other things. Donning our safety helmets, we rode around the large grassy field, quickly learning to maneuver our ATVs.
|Test-driving our ATVs on the tarmac of Basco Airport|
After we got the hang of things, we rumbled onto Basco Airport to give our fresh wheels a test-drive on the long and wide tarmac. The runway is opened to the public in the late afternoon, offering an ideal place for residents to jog and exercise. But since it was drizzling during most of the day, we had the entire strip to ourselves. It was a totally a unique and thrilling perspective having to drive down a runway on an ATV, compared to landing on it on a Philippine Airlines turboprop plane a few days earlier. After a few test runs, speeding up and down the entire stretch of the runway, we were ready to take on the highway with Jover as our tour guide, and drive all the way to the southern town of Ivana, 10 km away.
While ATV tours have become a popular tourist activity elsewhere in the Philippines, especially in Boracay Island and Mayon Volcano, I couldn’t think of a better place in the country to experience this outdoor activity than in Batanes. It was exhilarating, having to behold unobstructed views of endless pastures and rugged coastline. The cool sea breeze blew on our faces, as we snaked along the zigzagged cliffside highway to the next town of Mahatao. As we rolled by quaint villages, local passersby and motorists were amused by our brightly colored convoy, and they would smile and wave at us. The habagat (southwest monsoon) also provided comfortable overcast weather that made us really enjoy the long afternoon drive without having to bear the stifling heat of the sun. Moreover, it was the low season for tourists, so there were only a few sightseeing vans to watch out for while we drove down the narrow highway.
|Rolling by the traditional stone houses of Ivana|
An ATV indeed combines the freedom and excitement of a bicycle or motorbike with the safety and stability of a four-wheeled vehicle. Batanes ATV Adventure rents out 110 cc and 125 cc single-seater models, which are not designed for very rough off-road handling, but were robust enough to negotiate hilly, unpaved terrain and the steep climbs and sharp turns of Batan’s coastal roads. We enjoyed our own itinerary at our own pace, easily pulling over to take photographs of the beautiful tourist attractions along the way, like the Basco Lighthouse, Mahatao Boat Shelter and House of Dakay. We eventually reached the Honesty Coffee Shop in Ivana to enjoy a cup of joe as the orange sun sank behind Radiwan Port.
While only ATV tours around the main island of Batan are available for now, Batanes ATV Adventure will soon be introducing trips around neighboring Sabtang and, much later, to far-flung Itbayat as well, says Jover. His tour operation currently offers only nine ATV units, but more will be brought in if the business picks up. With his fun and flexible excursions slowly gaining interest among residents and visitors alike, it looks like Batanes ATV Adventure is on the road to success, especially when tourists start pouring in again during the Christmas season.
|Enjoying the sunset at Radiwan Port in Ivana|
Visitors may book guided ATV tours through Batanes ATV Adventure, located at Amboy corner Abad Sts, Basco, Batanes, Tel. +63 9985519656 or +63 9085012288. Rates are PHP 1,800 per day, or PHP 300 per hour, excluding fuel cost. For all-in ATV tour packages, contact Batanes Travel & Tours, Tel. +63 2 4000992 or +63 9989844359, www.batanestravelandtours.com.
This trip was made possible with Philippine Airlines, which flies to Basco, Batanes from Manila five times a week. Book your flights at www.philippineairlines.com today!
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