Calatrava is a small town at the Northern part of the island. What has convinced me to go there, where photos of the secluded beaches and mountains around. I decided to stay in Turtle Cove Resort. It’s a small hotel, featuring 3 private beaches and accessible only by boat. It’s as secluded as it can get and I loved it. The accommodation was very simple and a bit on a pricey side but the view and nature totally bought me.
If you wish to stay in a town itself, there’s an inn next to the Fish Port. It’s called Calatrava Inn. Contact number: 09215931597 or 09475973909.
- Snorkelling: There are nice snorkelling sites straight from the beach. You can actually snorkel from one cove to another.
- Kayaking (kayak rental costs 300 PHP ~6$).
- Trek to the bat cave (takes around 30 min). It’s a bit tricky, since you have to do a bit of rock climbing, but as long as you don’t have any serious knee problems or acrophobia, you should be fine. The bats are super cute. You can actually see them up close. They have only around 3–4cm.
- Mountain trek – You can trek from Calatrava to the closest hill. I was actually told that it’s not possible but I didn’t believe it. What I did, was to walk along the beach, West from Calatrava. When I reached the foot of the mountain there was a village. I asked people there if there’s any trail to the top and they pointed me to the path behind one of the shops. The trail led through a mountain village, a forest and a grassy mountain top. View was absolutely stunning. On the way I met a local forestry student who offered to be my guide. That was a really surprising and nice encounter. Filipinos are in general very friendly and kind. Whenever I went somewhere for a walk people were greeting me with a smile. Once I climbed down the mountain, a group of villagers came to ask in bewilderment why I went to the top. "I wanted to take a photo. The view is really beautiful there." They seamed flabbergasted. I guess only a foreigner would think to climb all the way up just to take a photo.
From Manila to Tablas Island:
- by plain (flies 3 times a week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday)
- By ferry – Go to Buendia Bus Terminal. Take a bus to Batangas (185 PHP ~3,5$). There you can take a ferry to Odiongan on Tablas Island.
- 2go ferry departs on Mondays at 16.00 and Tue – Sun at 10 am.
- Montenegro departs every day at 17.00
- Navios Lines departs on Wed, Thu, Sun at 17.00.
- CSGA FERRY Departs on Tuesday at 16.00
Any ferry ticket can be purchased at the ferry terminal before the departure. 2go additionally offers an online booking (it also has the best standard). Travel takes around 7-9h, which means that in most cases, you’ll arrive in Odiongan in the middle of the night. The fare depends on the ferry and the class, but it’s usually around:
800 PHP (~15$) for the economy class
1000–1200PHP (~20$) for the tourist class (with AC)
1500 PHP (~29$) for a cabin
Odiongan to Calatrava:
The cheapest way is to take a jeepney (150 PHP). Jeepneys wait in the port whenever the ferry arrives (and yes – in the middle of the night too). My ferry arrived at 2:30 am and there were jeepneys to Calatrava, Caticlan and San Augustin waiting by.
There are also vans you can hire (around 600 PHP).
Jeepney to Calatrava took 1,5h. Which means I arrived before the sunrise. If you’re in the same situation I suggest to get off at the fish port (it has benches and a light all night long) and just wait for the sunrise (around 6:30 am). In the morning walk along the main street to the town. You’ll see green and yellow booths by the beach. That’s where you’ll get a boat to the Turtle Cove (locals call it Baksit). Just ask around. The boat shouldn’t cost more than 250 PHP so don’t let them take you for a ‘private tour’ for 600 PHP or more.
· Phone reception is very poor all over the island (except for the towns themselves). After you go to the resort, it will be hard to access the internet. It’s better to send any important emails beforehand. It’s also good to download or bring some books to have something to do in the evenings.
· There’s no working ATM in Calatrava, so bring enough cash. (As far as I know, the only ATM on Tablas that accepts foreign cards is in Odiongan).
· The only access to the resort is by boat, which means that if the weather is bad, you’ll be stuck. It happened to me. On the day I was supposed to depart I was told that the typhoon is coming and no boats are running. So, I had to stay another night. The next day they said that there might be a boat in the afternoon. At 12.00 I was told that there will be no boats that day either. What the resort offered in exchange was to hire a few people to carry our luggage (there were 4 more guests in the same situation) and to trek to Calatrava. We agreed. It was crazy but fun. This wild trek through the mountains, that took us around 1,5h, is actually something I remember the best from this whole trip. The most amazing were the guys carrying our luggage though. The trek included a bit of rock climbing, and they did it in flip flops carrying 15kg suitcases on their heads. Really guys… RESPECT!