November 20th, 2017
A roaring fire was lit under the enormous black cast iron pot and steam began to rise from the herbal contents within. It was time for me to get in and become human soup...
Boracay is heralded as one of the best islands in the world for many reasons – the abundance of activities, the mostly pleasant weather, friendly locals and of course the beautiful White Beach! But now Boracay is also emerging as an eco-adventure start-point due to the close proximity of the gorgeous, green jungles of neighboring Panay.
Just a two-hour bus ride away on the mainland is the unspoilt beauty of Tibiao, Antique, offering trekking, kayaking, zip lining and rafting and, something you should definitely try: the famous Kawa hot baths. Here’s all you need to know about an eco-adventure trip to Tibiao!
Getting there – the cheap and easy way!
Once you’ve taken the ferry from Boracay to Caticlan port, jump on the public Ceres bus from Caticlan, and ask the driver to drop you at Baranguay Importante, San Jose. This is a seriously backpacker-friendly way to travel at just over 100php each, one way.
When we arrived, we stopped off at roadside eatery, Kasa Raya where we were warmly greeted by the owner. Offering Filipino food at reasonable prices, slow-cooked pork and rice set me back just 99php. Then it was time to head up the mountain. A single motorbike to the eco-park is 70php and there was a park entry fee of 50php.
Where to stay
We chose to stay at the beautiful Kayak Inn (500pppn for a basic nipa hut to share, including breakfast), but there are a couple more options as you walk up the hill – most places offer the Kawa hot baths, one of the main reasons people visit Tibiao. Our pot overlooked the rushing river raging through the valley and we were surrounded by beautiful, lush jungle and tropical bird sounds. Heaven. (Oh and there’s zero signal so embrace the ‘late upload’!)
So what’s a Kawa hot bath? Originally, locals used the pots for cooking sugar, but then someone had the bright idea of using them for tourism, and the idea took off! A fire is lit beneath to warm the water and as you bathe amongst the herbal-smelling leaves, you get the rather odd sensation that you are being stewed for a giant’s feast! A very relaxing and pleasant experience, we emerged feeling fresh after travelling – they’re great for soaking muscles and scrubbing up after a long day eco-adventuring, too. Kawa pot experience is around 200php per person for a large pot for three people. It’s a great photo op as well!
Into the wild
After a quiet evening and an early night, sleeping amid the sounds of the jungle, we woke early for adventuring. Sadly the river was too ferocious for kayaking (it chucked it down all night being rainy season), so we decided to trek 30 minutes to Bugtong Batu Falls. Escorted by the Inn’s friendly dog and our 150 peso guide, Vic, we enjoyed the pleasant and relatively easy hike through the village, rice paddies, and over streams and through mini falls.
Bugtong Batu is beautiful. A huge, gushing waterfall plunging into a cool pool, we scrambled over the rocks and waded in. There are more falls you can reach by climbing a lethal-looking flight of steps while gripping a rope, but again, it was too ferocious because of the rainfall so we stayed at ground level. Apparently at the top of the third fall you can see the falls below and jump from what looks like about 20 metres… only the brave…!
Once we were sufficiently cooled and the selfies with the dog perched on a rock were taken, it was time to trek back, pack and catch a ride back to the main road to make the bus back to Caticlan. The owners of Kayak advised us the best time to visit is December, so go on! Treat yourself to a holiday adventure this year!
– Thrill-seekers and nature lovers
What we loved:
– It’s a really cost-effective adventure if you travel this way
– Going back to nature and being in the jungle
– The trek to the falls is easy
– The Kawa pots!
What we didn’t
– It was a shame we couldn’t ride the rapids, so if this is something you want to try, make sure you go in December when it’s not too dangerous!
– There aren’t many habal-habals available to take you back to the main road when you want to go home
– Over two days and one night, we spent 2,000-3,000php each, including all travel, food, adventures and accommodation
What to take:
– A waterproof bag
– A rash vest for watersports
– Reef/water shoes – much better grip in the wet mud than slippers!
– Drinks and games for the evening – there’s nothing to do but socialise
…And a sense of adventure!
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