Venture out into the secret gem that is Biri Island in Northern Samar.
Biri Rock formations do not sound appealing to the ordinary traveler, but that is probably because he has not been to Biri Islands.
Located in Northern Samar, Biri boasts of spectacularly large rock formations reminiscent of the Grand Canyon in the United States.
These rock formations, standing tall along its northern coast, seem to guard the island against the crashing waves of the ocean.
Scientific studies done by the National Geological Sciences Research of UP Diliman dates Biri Island’s rock formations to about 18 to 24 years ago, formed in a shelf continental slope.
The rock formations tickle the imagination, as people try to describe what each of the seven formations looks like: tall buildings, perhaps, or a towering tiger as one writer suggests. The area is so picturesque, it has been declared a protected seascape and landscape area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Biri in Northern Samar photo by Biri Northern Samar FB
Biri was also recently named one of the Department of Tourism’s chosen destinations as part of its “Northern Samar Summer Fun” campaign.
How to get there
Fly to Catarman airport in Northern Samar. From Manila, the flight is a little over an hour long. Once at the airport, take a tricycle or ride a jeepney to the main terminal in Lavezares town. This ride will take another hour to get to the port.
Once at the Lavezares port, ride a boat headed to Biri. If you’re seasick, try to get a ride in the morning; waves get bigger in the afternoon, so expect a rough ride. The 45-minute ride will take you to Biri town, where you can get a motorcycle or habal-habal ride to nearby hotels or guest houses.
Where to stay
Biri has several small guesthouses where you can stay and relax while on the island. These cheaper homestay alternatives will set you back around P200 to P500 per night, depending on the room’s amenities. One trusted place is Ate Glo’s Homestay, where you can even ask Ate Glo herself to prepare food for a minimal fee.
Tide Pool at Biri Island Rock Formation photo by Rene Sangco Photography via retiredinsamar.com
If you’re looking for a more upscale accommodation, Biri Resort & Dive Center offers the usual hotel amenities, including snorkeling and diving packages and bike rentals.
It is important to note that electricity on the island only runs from 12 noon to 12 midnight, so choose a room that has large windows and good air circulation.
What to do
There is no shortage of impressive rock formations to see in Biri Island. Visit Bel-at Rock Formation to see a rocky shore battered by beautifully large waves. To get to Bel-at, hire a habal-habal to take you there, for a fee of roughly P150.
For more adventurous scenery, check out Magasang Rock Formation, which boasts of a natural salt water pool in the middle of towering rock formations. A habal-habal ride is necessary to get to the area, after which you will need to wade through a shallow ocean to get to the central salt water pool. Definitely worth the trek!
Other rock formations to see in the area are the Caranas, Magsapad, Pinanhawan, and Macadlaw formations.
If you visit in June, make sure to catch the Biri Fiesta which happens from the 23rd to the 25th. Anywhere you go in the island, locals will welcome you with open arms as they offer their homes and feed you with delicious fiesta fare. In the evening, the party rolls out in the streets as family and friends come together to eat, drink and be merry.
For those who want to give back to Biri, there are volunteer programs available that tourists can participate in. A program by NGO Biri Initiative invites volunteers to dive and help remove sea pests feeding on corals. By doing so, volunteers are able to help preserve the underwater resources of Biri Islands for many more people to see and enjoy.
Tips when going to the rock formation sites:
– To see some of these rock formations, wading in water is required. This is why it is advisable to schedule a trip to these areas when the tide is low; that way, it is much easier to cross to the rock formations, and at the same time avoid stepping on corals and damaging them.
– Bring packed lunch and other snacks. There are hardly any stores or eateries in the area, so it is best to bring your own food and enjoy a picnic as you go sightseeing.
– Bring a flashlight, especially if you plan on visiting the rock formations late in the afternoon and expect to stay there until after the sunset.
– Wear appropriate footwear. Keep in mind that there will be wading involved, and that the rocks get slippery when wet. Choose footwear that has traction even in wet areas.