I first saw Gibitngil island on a boat trip from Daanbantayan to Kinatarcan island last January. Keen on checking out lesser-known northern islands of Cebu as alternatives to Bantayan or Malapascua, I revisited the north last month to finally explore this rocky island.
Fantastic Medellin Adventure (Mobile: +63 9227343533), a local boat operator, arranged a day tour for us from mainland Medellin. On this weekend trip, I was accompanied by fellow content creators Anthony of Tonyo Travels, Christian of The Bisdak Explorer, and Bea. Our bus departed Cebu City at 4:30 am and we arrived a little before 8:00 pm at Kawit Public Market to buy lechon manok, pusô (hanging rice) and snacks for our island trip.
While most tourists directly go to Funtastic Island and spend their entire time at the resort, we dropped by another spot first to make the most of our tour. In just 15 minutes, we arrived at the southern end of Gibitngil to visit the white-sand sandbar fronting the fishing community of Sitio Pasil.
Unfortunately, during our visit, the sandbar folded back to the shore due to the prevailing amihan winds, and looked like a regular beach. Apparently, the beach extends into a sandbar only during the habagat season (southwest monsoon).
The beach wasn’t very inviting because it was crowded with fishing boats. Concrete houses lined the seaside. Trash and discarded fish also littered some portions of the beach. The area, however, gives visitors an interesting glimpse of life on the island. We saw boats from the mainland unload bamboo poles and other construction materials onto the beach. There was dried fish (bulad) backing under the sun – a specialty of northern Cebu.
At the western end of the beach, cheery local children were leaping off moored boats and limestone outcrops. While the rest of the group hung out at the boat, I spent most of my time swimming here.
Funtastic Island Resort
After eating our lunch on the boat, we moved on to our next and final stop, Funtastic Island (entrance fee: ₱20 per head). The government-run resort is the most popular attraction on the island and has become synonymous to Gibitngil so much so that more people are familiar with the resort than the island’s actual name.
Our boat rounded the southern end of the island, which had impressive cliffs that rose up from turquoise waters. This seascape reminded me a lot of nearby Kinatarcan island.
Built on a group of rock formations close to the western coast of the island, Funtastic Island Resort began in 2011 as a Bantay Dagat lookout for civilian fisheries patrol to monitor the waters of Tañon Strait, the largest marine protected area in the Philippines.
As the rock formations drew more and more visitors for its snorkeling and cliff diving, cottages and concrete walkways were built on them. These man-made structures were originally painted in a multitude of colors, which gave it a tacky appearance. Thankfully, the resort has been repainted mostly in white in recent years, which I found agreeable. During our visit, a restaurant and bathrooms were under construction on the main shore.
Since we visited on a Saturday, there were a lot of people at the resort, albeit it wasn’t too crowded. Most of the guests were lounging at the cottages atop the rock formations or swimming in the clear waters. Adventurous visitors were snorkeling between the rock formations, or leaping off the rocks. The highest ledge was around 30 to 40 feet high!
Upon the advise of our boatman, we departed the island by 3 pm while the waters were still relatively calm. From Funtastic Island, we followed the northern coastline of the island, which harbored more limestone cliffs, before traveling the strait back to mainland Medellin.
Gibitngil makes for a nice day trip, but if you’re looking for a less touristy escape in a similar seascape, I’d recommend Kinatarcan island. A visit there, however, deserves at least an overnight stay.
How to Get There
From Cebu City, take a bus from the North Bus Terminal (SM Cebu City) bound for Daanbantayan via Kawit, Medellin (4 hours, PHP 190, non-AC). Alight at the junction to Medellin Port (Kawit Port), the jumping off point for trips to Gibitngil island.
There are public boats (₱30 per head) that ply between the port and the island, however, schedules aren’t fix. The most convenient way to explore the island is to rent a boat for the day.
Boat Rental Rates
Fantastic Medellin Adventure (Mobile: +63 9227343533) rents out their bangka (outrigger boat) with a maximum capacity of 20 passengers for ₱1,500 for a group of 12 or less, or ₱2,000 for 13 to 16 persons. Additional persons are ₱100 per head. I recommend tipping the boatmen, if you are satisfied with their service.
Where To Stay
There are several beach resorts along Kawit, however, they are often fully booked on weekends. We stayed at an affordable inland guesthouse with a dipping pool called Two Crazy Monkeys, located at Barangay Bakhawan, Daanbantayan – only 3.7 km north of Medellin Port.
Find discounted room rates here!