Tawi-Tawi is one of my major bucket-list since 2019. I’ve been constantly searching for destinations in Tawi-Tawi and I always find myself getting extra excited every single time. To give you a bit of information, Tawi-Tawi is the southern most part of the Philippines as I have mentioned in my previous article here. Also, the province boasts off its stunning islands, unique cuisine and beautiful mountains for hiking. In this Tawi-Tawi travel guide, I will tackle more about this province in the South so continue reading for more!
We went to Tawi-Tawi last February this year as part of our ZAMBASULTA trip. And Tawi-Tawi in ZAMBASUL(TA)is the last province to complete the trip. Tawi-Tawi in a nutshell is a place of underrated pristine beaches and destinations. This specific province in the South is full of enticing adventures that will surely be unforgettable to anyone visiting here. Read more in this Tawi-Tawi travel guide to know more about the province!
Pre Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide
Tawi-Tawi is an island province in the Autonomous Region of Mindanao and its capital is Bongao. Also, Tawi-Tawi has a mix of Malaysian and Indonesian culture being the closest neighbors geographically speaking. As a result, most of the food in Tawi is spicy just like in Sulu and Zamboanga.
Best time to go here is during summer season in the Philippines to get the best out of the islands that you will visit.
To get around the province, there are jeepneys and tricycles available. If you will tour around Bongao for the whole day, you can hire a tricycle for PHP1,000.00 good for 4 pax. If you’re group is more than 10 pax, the best option is to hire a jeepney for PHP3,000.00 the whole day.
Language and Culture. Although tagalog is widely spoken in Tawi, the native language spoken in Tawi-Tawi is Tausug. Just like in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu, the most dominant religion in this province is Islam. As I have always mentioned in my previous ZAMBASULTA travel guides, please always bring a humble attitude and wear proper clothes as much as possible.
How to go to Tawi-Tawi
Take note that there’s only 1 airport in Tawi-Tawi and it’s located in the province’s capital city which is Bongao. So from Manila, book a flight going to Zamboanga (ZAM) since there are no direct flights from Manila to Tawi-Tawi. After arriving in Zamboanga, you have 2 options to get to Tawi-Tawi.
Option 1: via air and option 2: via sea travel. From Zamboanga Airport, book a flight to Tawi-Tawi (TWT) aka Sanga-Sanga airport. The only airlines catering this route is Cebu Pacific. Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Zamboanga to Bongao in Tawi-Tawi and the travel time is about 18 hours. I highly suggest taking the plane since it will be more convenient especially if you’re traveling in a time-sensitive manner.
Where to Stay/Where to Book Tours
There are hostels and resorts available in Tawi-Tawi. Howeverm I highly recommend Ate Nursida in Tawi. She’s a local and her house is just right outside the airport. All you have to do is walk towards her house. In our experience, Ate Nursida did not gave us a specific rate per night. She just humbly tallied down the expenses accumulated for our food and that’s what we paid. Of course, we added extra for the nights we stayed and it’s up to you how much you will give. She also provided our land tour and island hopping trip. Ate Nursida’s family is really kind and welcoming that’s why she deserves to be recommended! Check out her contact details below:
Ate Nursida – 0906 328 3378 and her Facebook name is Nursuda Diamson.
Important Reminders/Tips (Tawi-Tawi travel Guide)
- Make sure to contact Ate Nursida at least 1 week before your trip.
- Ideal days to stay in Tawi is at least 3 days so you can also visit Sitangkai.
- Please wear proper clothes. For ladies, please wear less skin revealing clothes since there are lots of Muslims in Tawi.
- Don’t forget to bring clothes you can use for hiking and sun-block for island hopping
- There are ATM machines available in Tawi.
Things to do in Tawi-Tawi
There are a number of things to do when in Tawi-Tawi. Therefore, it is highly recommended to stay here for a minimum of 3 days to truly get around the province. As part of this Tawi-Tawi travel guide, I have listed below some of the recommended things to do in Tawi.
Island Hopping in Tawi-Tawi
Island hopping in Tawi is probably the most recommended to do in the province. Why? Well it includes visiting the longest sandbar in the country and the first Mosque ever built in the Philippines too. For detailed information, check out the separate travel guide I created below.
Check out the Chinese Pier
The Chinese Pier is located in the main market area in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. In here, you will see various sea foods and fishes in different sizes and types. You may buy pasalubong of different dried fishes here.
Try Mie Goreng and Maggi Kari
Just like in Zamboanga, mie goreng and maggi kari is also famous in Tawi-Tawi as exchanged goods. We ate lots of these instant noodles as soon as my friends and I got to Ate Nursida’s house.
Enjoy the View in Boloboc Cave
Visiting the Boloboc Cave is part of the land tour and for me it’s one of the most beautiful sights during our tour. In Boloboc Cave, you will see rock formations and the most famous is the circular rock formation. Activities you can do here aside from picture-taking is swimming at the beach and checking out the whole cove.
Hike to Watch the Sunset in Bud Bongao Mountain
Apart from island hopping, one of the best things to do in Tawi-Tawi is to watch the sunset in a 360-degree view up in Bud Bongao mountain. The hike is considered a minor hike since you can get to the peak within 1-2 hours depending on your pacing. As part of our land tour, we climbed the peak of Bud Bongao to watch the skies turn yellow. I highly recommend hiking Bud Bongao to end your day on top of a mountain with a bird’s eye view of Bongao.
Did you know? You can see Malaysia from the top of Bud Bongao. Just locate where the sun sets and that is already Malaysia’s land.
While hiking the mountain, you will see lots of monkeys in the trail. There are really lots of them and you can bring crackers or bananas with you if you want to feed them. Actually, this is my first time hiking a mountain with so many monkeys along the way. Only in Tawi-Tawi!
Make a Wish on Top of Bud Bongao
You’ll be surprised that not only tourists hike this mountain. The locals also make it to a point to hike the mountain as part of their tradition. Locals in Tawi-Tawi that if you hike the mountain you can make a wish to the mountain’s Goddess and it is said that it will come true. Before making a wish, you will need to tie a piece of cloth or plastic in the tree’s branches. However, as much as I wanted to ties something in the branches I just couldn’t. These pieces of plastics will stay there for so long and they are non-biodegradable.. Still I respect the locals’ tradition so I won’t be against this kind of practice. For me, I think tourists can use dried leaves to tie something instead of plastics. 🙂
After a long day of touring around Bongao, here is a satisfying and worth it prize!
Visit the Badjao Village
In Bongao, there is a village where the Badjaos live and it’s part of doing a land tour in Tawi. In the village, you will learn to appreciate life more. I personally had a different feeling when I came here and after seeing the kids in the village. I don’t know why it’s part of the land tour because seeing the village where life is poor is not a destination for me. It will be more on realizing life and the blessings that we have right now.
Visit Sitangkai – Tawi-Tawi’s Southern Most Municipality
Although Sitangkai is not part of the island hopping trip in Tawi-Tawi, Sitangkai is a separate trip you should visit and allot at least 2 days in this municipality. Tawi-Tawi is the Southern most part of the Philippines. But, Sitangkai is the municipality in Tawi-Tawi located at the bottom. If you really want to get any closer to Malaysia, you should visit Sitangkai.
Take note that Sitangkai is another 4 hours boat ride from Bongao. One of the most famous thing to expect here is the floating market where you can observe barter system of different goods from the neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
Sample 3 Days & 2 Nights Itinerary (Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide)
Day 1: Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi
6:00AM Take the first flight to Tawi from Zamboanga with Cebu Pacific
7:00AM Arrive in Tawi, procees to Ate Nursida and drop bags, breakfast
10:00AM Ride a ferry to Sitangkai (Schedule: M-W-F 10:00AM) 4 hours trip
2:00PM – 8:00PM Explore Sitangkai
9:00PM Ride a ferry back to Bongao
Day 2: Land Tour in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
1:00AM Arrive in Bongao, proceed to Ate Nursida’s house
8:00AM Breakfast and prepare for land tour
9:00AM – 6:00PM Land Tour (Bud bongao, Boloboc Cave, Badjao Village, Chinese Pier, etc.)
9:00PM Lights out
Day 3: Island Hopping in Tawi-Tawi
6:00AM Wake up time, breakfast
7:00AM – 5:00PM Whole day island hopping (Panampangan Island, Simunol Island and Sangay Siapo)
8:00PM Dinner, socials
10:00PM Lights out
Day 4: Take the earliest flight back to Zamboanga at 7:00AM with Cebu Pacific
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