Why Leyte’s Kalanggaman Island is an example of tourism done right

Kalanggaman Island beach

Kalanggaman Island in Leyte is one of those local spots that had benefited from the recent tourism boom, which had attracted both foreigners and locals to the Philippines, thanks to Facebook and other social media. Two years ago not many had heard of Kalanggaman Island, and now it’s one of the most visited destinations in summer.

One of the very first thoughts that came to my mind during our overnight stay in Kalanggaman Island is this: the tourism office had done a great job here.

Ecotourism in Kalanggaman Island

Kalanggaman Island signage
Welcome to Kalanggaman Island! (Photo by Hali)

From my observation, tourism management in Kalanggaman Island revolves around one concept: regulation.

One of the first things you have to know about Kalanggaman Island is that tourists must be properly registered first in the tourism office in Palompon, Leyte. Walk-ins are accepted, but during holidays and peak seasons it’s encouraged to reserve weeks in advance to ensure slots. Recently, boats from Malapascua are no longer allowed to stop directly in the island, without the guests registering first in the tourism office in mainland Palompon.

A daily cap of 500 tourists a day is being strictly implemented. I’d talked about tourist capping before and explained how it is, in my opinion, a necessity for effective ecotourism and was glad to see this in effect here.

We pitched our tents in the island along with other groups of families and barkadas. Despite the crowd, it wasn’t bad at all, compared to my previous experiences in pools where you’d literally bump with someone if you swim more than 2 meters. In Kalanggaman Island, there was still plenty of space for everyone.

The men manning our boats also gave us two large garbage bags, for disposable and non-disposable items. Before leaving the island, these bags are diligently handed back to the boatmen.

If you think about it, what exactly is different about this setup? Nothing, really. Except that the tourism office in Kalanggaman Island manages to implement its policies — daily capping and cleanup activities — compared to other local destinations where these are merely optional, not mandatory.

Overnight stay in Leyte’s tropical gem

Kalanggaman Island is an elongated island an hour or so away from the port in Palompon, Leyte. It is mostly famous for its long stretch of sandbar, surrounded by aqua-colored water on both sides. The sandbar is seen during high tide only and is submerged, for the most part, during low tide.

Related Read: Cuatro Islas in Leyte

Kalanggaman Island sandbar
Kalanggaman Island’s famous sandbar. (Photo by Hali)

I’d been to quite a few beaches already with fine, powdery sand and was slightly disappointed with the large, coarse sands in Kalanggaman Island. It looked better online, though that not’s to say that Kalanggaman Island isn’t beautiful in itself.

Right after our arrival in the island, we looked for shaded areas to pitch our tents. We laid out large towels to sit on under a large umbrella stand and passed on shots of alcohol while sharing travel stories. This is what I like about talking with fellow backpackers. The stories are real, exciting, funny, interesting and not the superficial or hyped up version you often see in blogs.

Afterwards, we explored the island.

Kalanggaman Island beach
Chilling with a lady-flavored beer. (Photo by Hali)
kalanggaman-island6
One side of the island is a beach and this one is for snorkeling. (Photo by Hali)
Kalanggaman Island rocky shore
Mirror clear. (Photo by Hali)

During our stay, there was always a crowd of tourists taking photos and selfies in the sandbar, and it was impossible to get good shots without having to use a heavy-editing tool. In fact, at dusk the following day, there were already 20 or so guests in the sandbar, eagerly waiting for a sunrise photo.

Swimming in the sandbar area is prohibited, by the way, because of strong currents.

Numerous snails can be seen (and heard crawling) in the rocks. (Photo by Hali)
Numerous snails can be seen (and heard crawling) in the rocks. (Photo by Hali)

There’s also a stretch of rocky shore where guests can snorkel. Even in waters shin deep, we already saw small fishes, black starfishes squeezed underneath rocks, small crabs and lots of snails. The area was full of gliding, crawling animals.

Kalanggaman Island in Leyte
Another sand bar, which is disconnected from the main island during high tide. (Photo by Hali)

These aside, my favorite part of the Kalanggaman Island is its other end, opposite of the famous sandbar. There’s another sandbar here that’s a bit circular in shape, separated by a short stretch of sea. Here we found quiet. Here there was also a field of wild grass and flowers and a hut where Hali and I had stayed, seeking respite from the early summer sun.

We would depart the island in a few hours.

Getting to Kalanggaman Island:

All guests to Kalanggaman Island are required to register in the tourism office in Palompon. Here’s a useful guide to Kalanggaman Island in Leyte.

  • Palompon eco-tourism: (053) 338-2094, 0917-3037-269, 0917-3037-267

 

P.S. This post is part of our long road trip from Manila down south. See other pit stops we’d been to here:

18 Comments

  1. This is one of my travel goals for next year, I’m always waiting for promo fares for this destination and I’m really hoping I can visit this place before it becomes it becomes commercialized. I love your photos btw, it showed how blue the water is and sunset picture is very lovely.

    1. I think it is already commercialized, but that’s the point. 🙂 Commercialization wasn’t overdone and didn’t result in environmental issues unlike other discovered tourism sites here.

  2. I’ve seen Kalanggaman island on posts numerous times but I myself personally haven’t been there. I think this is one of next stop next month. Nice post and photos! Xx

  3. Great photos! And kudos to the people of Kalanggaman Island. 🙂 I really feel happy especially when citizens of a country would visit its scenic spots before exploring other countries. Love local! 🙂

  4. I agree on the tourist capping and regulation. But I also heard stories about boatmen just throwing the trash back in the sea. I dearly hope that isn’t true. Because all the efforts will be for naught.

  5. I am so happy to read that Kalanggaman Island is being protected for generations to come. Your pictures show a very beautiful area. The water is so clear and you are able to see wildlife which means the preservation is working.

  6. Ohmyyy this place looks so amazing! I’ve never been to Leyte and this is definiety being added to my list of places to gooooo 😀 anddd so good to know that it’s been taken care of (so important)!

  7. Beautiful pictures! My husband’s mom is from Leyte so we’ve always wanted to visit. 🙂 It’s nice to know that they’re implementing a tourist cap in Kalanggaman island. The last thing that we want is another Boracay right?

  8. I’m glad you mentioned about the sand or I’d be surprised too if I went there and find out it looks different from the photos. But it does look beautiful and I wanna go there. I wonder if the people is fewer if you go there on a weekday.

    I wish the people who maintain the other tourist destinations here in our country would take a cue from those who take care of Kalanggaman Island. God knows we need some serious maintenance in many parts here.

    1. Hi Marge, yes it’s better to go on a weekday. I’ve been told there are also fewer people during late afternoons on Sundays because guests on day tours would have to leave by 3PM. 🙂

  9. I wish I found your amazing blog before I went to the Philippines in the end of December! I would have definitely visited the Kalanggaman Island.
    Needless to say how much I miss the Philippines, the beauty of the nature, mangos, pineapple, sunrises, motorbike rides and of course people. I would love to go back next winter!

  10. It’s true, few years earlier this place is not well known to tourists. But when the photos in that place became popular most especially in Facebook, I had a feeling that this place will be one of the number one summer getaway for this year to most of the tourist (be it local or foreigners).

  11. Kalanggaman is doing it right. They should never forget what makes people go there and make sure who goes there sees what they expect to see. Nature that is virtually untouched.

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