Islands and Beaches

A Batanes-Like Island Near Manila? Rediscover the Forgotten Islands of Manila Bay

Metro Manila, Cavite

Julius Calvin Santos
Julius Calvin Santos | Sep 15, 2014

Oftentimes, we associate Island-hopping activities with destinations in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Little do we know that right here in the capital metropolis, a unique set of islands can be found just off the coast of Manila Bay.

Beyond their physical beauty, these islands are important parts of our nation’s history. However, after years of abandonment, Mother Nature has reclaimed these islands, restoring most of them back to their natural and untouched beauty.

Let’s explore and rediscover them one by one. In Part 1 of our series, we get to know Carabao Island.

Carabao Island (Fort Frank)

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Tourists will be greeted by the picturesque jump-off point to Carabao Island found in Brgy. Sta. Mercedes, Maragondon, Cavite.

Looking like a water buffalo with its head and body protruding above the water, Carabao Island is situated off the coast of Maragondon, Cavite, along the southern shores of Manila Bay.

Unknown to many, this island became an important part in the defense of Manila Bay against the Japanese forces during World War II. During this period, Carabao Island was named Fort Frank by the Philippine Department of the US Army. It became part of the fortifications of Manila Bay along with Corregidor and El Fraile.

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One of the prominent features of Carabao are these jagged cliffs that welcome anyone heading to the isle.

Today, the island provides a refreshing respite from the Big City. Despite its proximity to Metro Manila, Carabao Island gives you that feeling of being somewhere very far away.

Its rocky shore, jagged cliffs, and towering rises from the water can make anyone believe that this is actually somewhere, let's say, Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines.

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As the name implies, Carabao Island looks like a water buffalo bathing, showing only its body and head above the water.

Because of its topography, trekking is a great activity here. If escorted with a knowledgeable guide, one can also explore the extensive network of tunnels, the structural remains of the Battery Greer, and other bunkers tucked underground.

The water around the island was surprisingly calm during our visit (August 2013) – so anyone who has a kayak can use it to explore the vicinity of Carabao and to adore the magnificent geographical formations surrounding this isle.

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Batanes Isle? Nah! The Island of Carabao features a grassy area that gradually slopes down until it reaches the rocky cliff. (Photo credit: Karl Welteke.)


VIEW: Carabao's neighbor, Manila Bay's unsinkable battleship, floating fort & forgotten island.

manilabay


How to Go There

Carabao is now designated as part of the Philippine Marines' training ground, and any planned visits have to be coordinated with the Philippine Navy Headquarters. Once a permit has been obtained, the boat rental and local guide can be arranged with the tourism office of Maragondon, Cavite.

The town of Maragondon is located 54 kilometers south of Manila. Travelers who are planning to take the public transport can head to the Metro Manila Southwest Terminal and ride a Ternate-Maragondon bound bus. Travel time ranges from 45-90 minutes depending on the traffic situation and mode of transport.

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A ghostly reminder of Carabao’s past, the island is filled with ruins of underground tunnels and bunkers as part of the fortification efforts to defend southern Manila Bay during the American period. (Photo credit: Karl Welteke.)

For more island-hopping adventures, follow us at our Island Hopping Adventure Philippines (iHAP) page on Facebook as "iHAP" from one island to the other. LIKE US!

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