ZAMBASULTA is an abbreviation for the following provinces: (1) ZAMboanga del Sur, (2) BAsilan, (3) SULu and (4) TAwi-Tawi. These provinces are located in Mindanao and is also the farthest provinces you will see in the South of the Philippine map. Yes! That’s what make it really exciting to backpack these provinces. In this ZAMBASULTA DIY Travel Guide, I will help you get to the best destinations in each of the provinces. Learn where to go, how to get there, ferry schedules and important contacts.

Before anything else, I’d like to thank the people I have traveled with and the friends we met along the way who helped us during our visit. To Ms. Merwa and Ms. Jainab in Sulu and to Ate Nursida in Tawi-Tawi! My friends and I are very grateful to have been welcomed by such beautiful souls in your province.

Generally speaking, backpacking in the Philippines has never been this crazy and bad-ass. Not to mention going to one of the most infamous provinces in the country. So, if you’re up for this backpacking trip too, continue reading below! Should you have any questions that are not in this travel guide, feel free to comment down below! πŸ™‚

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Related Travel Guides in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi

Zamboanga del Sur Province

Basilan Province

Sulu Province

Tawi-Tawi Province

What You Need to Know


Traveling to these places is no easy peasy, you have to read pre-travel guides and contact necessary people. Also, keep in mind that this backpacking trip will require a huge amount of energy for the whole trip! So better come prepared than suffer unwanted consequences along the journey.

The main religion observed in these 4 provinces is Islam. Therefore, be sure to blend in all the time. As I always say, wear less skin-revealing clothes to respect our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Be cautious when going to Sulu and Basilan. Especially in Sulu. Don’t forget to book tours with the Sulu Toursim office ahead of time. Read more about Sulu here. Moreover, it’s important to have advance contact to the places you will go since there are no phone signal in most areas in Basilan and Sulu. Meet up with guides from the tourism office as much as possible.

The best and fastest way to get to Tawi-Tawi is booking a flight with Cebu Pacific rather than wasting 18 hours of ferry trip from Zamboanga to Tawi. Don’t worry because you’ll just add extra to book a flight compared to a ferry trip. It’s not necessary to waste 18 hours of time especially if you’re traveling in a time sensitive manner. Book in advance to secure your seats. Take note that only Cebu Pacific offers this route as of writing (April 2020).

Furthermore, this backpacking trip has mixed adventures of chasing waterfalls, island hopping and hiking. Most activities done in this trip requires getting exposed under the sun. Be sure to bring enough sun block and other necessary stuff to protect you from getting your skin burnt.

Important Contacts for Each Province (ZAMBASULTA DIY Travel Guide)

First of all, it’s important to know the proper contacts when you go to these places. Most importantly, it is highly recommended to contact them at least 1 week before your trip so they can prepare for your arrival. Below are the relevant contacts for your information for this ZAMBASULTA DIY travel guide.

Zamboanga Important Contacts:

  • Sta Cruz Island: to secure your slot, reserve slot by emailing them at or contact them at +63 905 601 6316.
  • Once Islas: to secure your slot, reserve slot by emailing them at or through their official Facebook here.

Basilan Important Contact:

Sulu Important Contact:

  • Contact the Sulu Provincial Toursim Office through their Facebook page OR contact Ms. Jainab directly through this contact number: 0917 592 9225. (Please say hi to Ms. Jainab and Ms. Merwa for me!)

Tawi-Tawi Important Contact:

  • Nursida Diamson – 0906 328 3378


  • Is it safe to travel in these provinces? YES and NO. But to get to the safest decision and for the good of the majority, please request for escort from the Tourism office of Sulu before going there. DIY IN SULU IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED AND NOT ALLOWED BY THE TOURISM OFFICE – for safety measures.
  • Should I contact the destinations ahead of time? YES. Reach out to all the contacts I provided above at least 2 weeks before your trip.
  • How long is the ideal days for this trip? We traveled to these 4 provinces in 7 days but the ideal days to stay is 8-9 days. At least 2 days in Basilan and at least 3 days in Tawi-Tawi.
  • Is it necessary to wear Muslim clothes? Not literally the Muslim outfit but DO NOT WEAR ANY SKIN REVEALING CLOTHES. Like I said, let’s respect our Muslim brothers and sisters enough to wear appropriate clothing.
  • Can I travel alone? Whilst it’s possible to do so, I still highly encourage you to bring a travel buddy. Especially for female solo travelers. This is not our trip, my dearest independent and strong ladies, please bring travel buddies with you. I guarantee that you do not want to travel here alone.

Other Related FAQ’s

  • How do I travel cheaper? Do everything in DIY way as much as possible. But for Sulu, book tours and request for escort.
  • Do you suggest ferry travel to Sulu than booking a plane ticket? YES. The ferry to Sulu is just 9 hours away and you can always take the night ferry so you can just sleep your trip to Sulu. Since the fare for ferry and plane has a big difference, taking the ferry will be better plus it will save 1 night in a hotel.
  • Is it hard to do this trip? No. As long as you’ve come prepared and you read this whole ZAMBASULTA DIY travel guide that I prepared for you, you’ll be just fine!
  • Is it worth it? Hell YES. Getting to the bottom of the Philippines? It’s one of the craziest feeling ever!

7-Days Backpacking Itinerary

Check out our ZAMBASULTA DIY travel guide and itinerary below! Should you have any questions, feel free to drop it in the comment section.

Day 1: Zamboanga

7:00AM Flight from MNL – ZAM
9:00AM Arrive in Zamboanga, check in at Casa Canelar Pension, rest
11:00AM Zamboanga city tour
1:00PM Proceed to Merloquet Falls
7:00PM Back in Zamboanga, dinner
9:00PM Lights out

How to go to Merloquet Falls? From the city proper, ride a bus/van going to Pagadian and advise the driver that you are going to Merloquet. Drop off at the junction going to Merloquet Falls and charter a habal-habal going to the jump off point. Finally, from the jump off point you have to trek down 300+ steps to the falls. Going back to Zamboanga city is the same.


Day 2: Basilan

5:00AM Wake up time, prepare, breakfast, check out and leave baggage in the counter, head to Zamboanga port
6:00AM Buy ticket to Lamitan City in Basilan AND ferry ticket to Sulu for the same night
6:45AM First trip of ferry to Lamitan City
9:00AM Rent a tricycle that will take you to Bulingan Falls, rubber trees, museum and Yakan village
1:00PM Proceed to Malamawi Beach in Isabela City
4:45PM Ride the last trip of ferry back to Zamboanga
6:00PM Early dinner, get baggage from Casa Canelar
8:00PM Ferry to Sulu


Day 3: Sulu

5:00AM Arrival in Jolo Port, wait for escort and tour guide from the tourism office at the port
8:00PM Ferry from Sulu back to Zamboanga


Day 4: Zamboanga

6:00AM Arrive in Zamboanga port, check in baggage at Casa Canelar, breakfast, prepare for island hopping
8:00AM Proceed to Brgy. Panubigan for Once Islas
10:00AM – 3:00PM Oncel Islas island hopping tour
5:00PM Back in Zamboanga City, dinner
8:00PM Lights out


Day 5: Tawi-Tawi

5:00AM Wake up time, prepare, check out
7:00AM Take the first flight from Zamboanga to Tawi-Tawi
8:00AM Arrive in Tawi. Go to Ate Nursida’s home just walking distance from the airport
9:00AM – 5:00PM Tawi-Tawi land tour: Boloboc cave, Chinese pier, Bud bongao, etc.
7:00PM Early dinner, socials
9:00PM Lights out

Day 6: Tawi-Tawi

6:00AM Wake up time, breakfast
7:00AM – 5:00PM Island hopping in Tawi-Tawi: Panampangan island, Simunol island and Sangay Siapo Island.
6:00PM Back in the house, wash up, prepare for dinner
9:00PM Lights out


Day 7: Zamboanga

5:00AM Wake up time, prepare, breakfast
7:00AM Take first flight from Tawi to Zamboanga
8:00AM Arrive in Zamboanga, hire a taxi take you to Canelar Barter Trade and buy pasalubong
10:00AM – 2:00PM Sta. Cruz Island hopping, chill time
6:00PM Flight back to MNL



ZAMBASULTA Travel Vlog in Youtube

Here is our complete travel vlog in ZAMBASULTA last February 2020! I made this travel vlog detailed as much as possible. Check it out and SUBSCRIBE for more travel vlogs. πŸ™‚

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