My Island-hopping with a Banca

Adventure is worthwhile.” ―  Aesop


“Every man should pull a boat over a mountain once in his life..”.{ Werner Herzog}

I grew up in the second largest archipelago in the world, and with 7,107 islands with 36,289 kilometers of coastline,the sight of Banca ( Banka in Tagalog , pumpboat or  canoe ) is as common as hundreds of  typhoon-visits I’ve seen in my whole life! Although, we didn’t live near the sea, my childhood is filled with family swimming trips and beach getaways with friends. A country with tropical climate and abundance of water sports, it is very easy to indulge in the beach and explore nature through a tiny fishermen’s boat. The banca, also known as ‘pumpboat‘, which has 2 large outriggers which are usually made of ‘Bamboo‘to give the necessary stability.

Accidentally we found another beautiful island…

Just like any firsts,  my first Island hopping experience was unforgettable, at the same time, liberating.  I said this because when you ride a banca, you will lost all your inhibitions, your sea & motion sickness , tensions, and fear of the waters will be gone. ( At least it works for me! )  Thoughts like ; ‘Is it strong enough? Will I reach alive in my destination?  or what if it suddenly sinks? ‘. Totally morbid thoughts!

Sitting at the dock of the Bay { Soundtrack of my Life}

When you go on an adventure boat ride, it seems that the boat absorbs all your worries and transport you into another world, literally. Every move, the roaring motor sound it makes, the way that the boatman pull and start the engine, every push of the paddle and waves creates a magical nostalgia. This is how every island trip becomes special to me.Imagine owning an island for a day? Or sleeping under the stars, endless bonfires and the beach as your backdrop!

As each banca has its own personality, so as the journey. There is something so raw, exciting, and at the same time exhilarating about sitting in a wooden rugged ,slim boat where you can see the  fishes swimming, your face get wet from the splashes of the tides, and the open view of the sea that makes your horizon like  blue infinity.

Our rental Banca during  Island hopping 

The banca is as typical as the colorful Jeepney, but  only 20 % of about a million bancas are registered. Uniquely, all of them have a name. Yes,you can recognize them in their flamboyant writing such as ‘Princess of Coron‘, Poseidon, Madonna or Seahawk. Most bancas are normally named after their owners, like the name of the hotel and resort, their son, or daughter. Isn’t nice to have a boat named after you?

Waiting for the next destination…

I have boarded the largest sailing ‘Dhow’, the Al-Hashemi in Kuwait and explored nearby islands through a modern Catamaran, but my excitement can never surpass  the time when the wind blew over my face when I am on board in the little,skimpy, noisy, and colorful Banca. Have you ever wondered how a banca is made? If you watch the Secret Life of a Banca then you will realize how special it is.

Unique cone-shaped bancas we used to explore the craters of a volcano

After the devastating  typhoon Haiyan, around 30, 000 bancas were destroyed, debilitating  the poor fisherman’s source of income in the Philippines. The old Banca  is being honed and re-engineered from the old model with the new through the use of fiberglass boat technology.Aside from its touristic usage, the Philippine bancas are now being built better, to empower the local livelihood and to weather the storms of the future. They are not just for photo shoots and having some fun in the islands, for the locals in the coastal areas, the banca  is the way of life and a way to live.

Our rental banca in the midst of limestone rock mountains

If you’ve never ridden a boat, maybe the sight of a banca might intimidate you. But trust me, they are the  most reliable mode of transport to cross the sea, river, and lakes and wander through the mountains into the best-kept hidden paradise. Bancas are relatively robust if they run to ground since they have no deep-set keel or a centre board (sailing boat). But their maneuverability is relatively limited due to the flow resistance of the outriggers and the small oar blade. They are only partially ocean-going. Bancas can differ in degree of motorization, forms, sizes and colors.

Bancas in front of the houses in the local neighborhood in Negros Oriental

I have seen smaller paddle-bancas. Children who lives along the coast  uses these boats as their playground. At an early age, they are taught to swim and  join their parents to go fishing.Poorer fishermen have only a paddle-banca but at night, they join the bigger motorized boats to catch more fish. The sailing-banca are seldom used but can only be seen in the southern regions of Sulu, especially used by Badjeros. They are famous for their colorful sails. In Boracay island, I saw bancas with blue sails docked on a bay during sunset. They look spectacular in summer!

A beautiful day to sail

During island-hopping, the banca is usually provided and arranged by the hotel we are staying. They have their own boatman, with a guide and they are all experienced in sailing. They provide life jackets and are very flexible to our needs.While exploring the island, snorkeling, and swimming, our rented banca is just there, waiting  patiently . Everytime we hop on back to the banca, I know that the next adventure awaits.

“The sea is the same as it has been,since before men ever went on it in boats”

{ Ernest Hemingway}

Until then…we shall sail together again.


Have you ever ride a small boat like the banca?

How was your experience?

If you love reading this post, share it with your friends and leave your comments. Thank you once again for stopping by and see you in my next island hopping adventure!



24 thoughts on “My Island-hopping with a Banca

  1. What a beautiful post, Christina. You brought back my recent memories of banca rides in Palawan. I loved riding on them too! I went and sat at the tip which allowed me to sunbathe and enjoy unobstructed views of the breathtaking surroundings. I can understand why they are so important to Filipinos, especially those living near the coast. What island is the first picture? It’s stunning! I wonder what it’s must be like to grow up in a country that has so many islands and beaches. It’s the opposite for me because I grew up in landlocked Nepal. While the sight of even 7-thousanders is ordinary for me, I find the sight of seas and oceans absolutely mesmerizing ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When we went on our honeymoon we rode out to our island on a dhoni as it was very dark. It felt like such an adventure, so exposed to the elements. I loved it.
    This is such a beautiful post and it sounds like a totally idyllic lifestyle. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah I loved this post because it about (in my opinion) the most beautiful country in the world! I did ride a banca while I was there and I remember looking at it skeptically before embarking (haha). Gorgeous pics of a gorgeous place!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you! I know how it feels. We don’t need any more bragging about the Ph beaches, they are simply gorgeous.
    Other beaches I’ve been just don’t have the same “enigma”.


  5. I knew you have the same adventurous spirit Miriam!
    Island hopping is one of the things that I missed about my home country.The adventure there is so much fun and exoticI kept thinking of the islands when I feel the cold and surviving winter here.
    Thank you for a meaningful comment Miriam!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never been to Samar Sheryl. I am looking forward to explore more once I have a chance to go home, my daughter would be big enough and she can enjoy the islands as well!
    Thanks Sheryl, have a great day!


  7. Oh really! Sitting on the tip is my favorite too!
    I spent much time just waddling my feet into the waters while we sail and feel the wind. Such a great escape, totally relaxing!

    That island was an unexpected surprise. Since the tide was high, we can’t go to the island we supposed to go, but then the detour was fantastic. This island is near to Malcapuya, also part of Calamianes group of islands. It’s a tiny strip in the middle of the beach, a perfect stop over. I love how the horizon splits up by water.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. It is always great to hear from you.


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