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
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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