One Fine Day at Malamawi Beach in Basilan

Your Travel Guide to Malamawi Island

Malamawi Beach Travel Guide

Malamawi Beach Travel Guide

Because the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly restricted me from obtaining a double dose of Vitamin D and Sea, it made my trip to Malamawi Beach doubly memorable. That, and visiting the province of Basilan for the first time. As part of the Tourism Promotion Board of the Philippines’ Influencers Program aimed at promoting destinations in the Philippines to restart an industry hit hard by the pandemic, I joined other travel writers, bloggers, and vloggers on a trip to the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Walking to the edge of this stilt bridge gives you a better view of the beach
Walking to the edge of this stilt bridge gives you a better view of the beach.

After spending a night in Zamboanga City, we boarded a ferry for a 2-hour sea journey to Basilan. Among the places we visited upon arriving was Malamawi Beach.

A Feast of Traditional Sama and Tausug Cuisine

Since our trip centers on discovering the HILOM — wellness, HABI — weaving and, HALAL — cuisine of the region, we were treated to a sumptuous spread of traditional Tausug and Sama culinary delights at the Marang-Marang floating cottages located 20-minutes by boat from the port of Isabela.

Basilan Cuisine Platter
Basilan Cuisine Platter
Flat-lay of the delicious spread - Food in Basilan
Flat-lay of the delicious spread – Food in Basilan

Prepared by the members of the Women’s Association of Marang de Isabela, the platters consisted of a variety of sticky rice delicacies and assorted seafood such as crabs, lambi, panyang, langka salad, utak-utak, imbao shell, grilled squids, balunlung, the local favorite fish cake; putlih mandi, oko-oko (a Sama sea-urchin delicacy), and junay (rice dish wrapped in banana leaves and packed with coconut meat and spices).

Slicing Through a Mangrove Forest

On the way to Malamawi Island, coming from Marang-Marang floating cottages, we sliced through a maze of thick mangrove forest. It was a picturesque ride livened with interesting patterns of mangrove branches jutting out of the water and crisscrossing its way up to a small community living on stilt houses situated at the edge.

Thick mangrove forest snakes its way through the waters off Malamawi island
Thick mangrove forest snakes its way through the waters off Malamawi island.
Thick mangrove forest snakes its way through the waters off Malamawi island
Thick mangrove forest snakes its way through the waters off Malamawi island.
One of the members of the Women's Association of Marang de Isabela
One of the members of the Women’s Association of Marang de Isabela

Our guide told us that the local tourism office and the LGU of Isabela have been working hard to conserve this area because they know the importance of mangroves in serving as the first line of defense of coastal communities against natural calamities. Mangrove trees help slow down erosion and stabilize shorelines to create a natural barrier from storm surge and flooding.

A Banquet by the Beach

Upon arriving in Malamawi Island, we hopped on the back of a small pick-up truck for another ten-minute ride to the White Beach. Even though I was already expecting a wonderful experience marveling at a white sandy beach rivaling the many beautiful beaches in the country, I never anticipated that another banquet spread was waiting for us to once again pleasure our gastronomic chase.

A platter of joy in Malawai Beach
A platter of joy in Malawai Beach
A Malamawi beachfront feast starring the curacha crab
A Malamawi beachfront feast starring the curacha crab

Laid out on the table just in front of the turquoise-colored waters and the fine sands of Malamawi beach are giant curacha crabs and a medley of fresh seafood, vegetable salad, coconut juice sided with a variety of sauces and purees for tasteful dips.

Finally, Vitamin D and Sea

After getting my hands soaked with crab juice by happily shoving pieces of seafood meat in my mouth, I set my attention towards the crystal clear and calm waters of Basilan Strait and immediately dove right in.

Approaching Malamawi Beach
Approaching Malamawi Beach

The euphoric feeling immediately reigned over me, for it signified an escape from the uncertainties of the pandemic world and a return to the normalcy of freedom of movement before the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Malamawi Beachfront
Malamawi Beachfront

It was also a celebration of sorts of finally visiting Basilan, a province that has been both a bucket list of mine and a subject of false perception in my mind. I couldn’t be gladder to be proven wrong by experiencing the real Basilan with my own eyes, seeing the beauty of the province, feeling the friendliness of the locals, and sensing the kind of peaceful vibe typically felt also in other places in the Philippines.

Its a perfect day for some yoga as well
It’s a perfect day for some yoga as well
Malamawi Beach Travel Guide
Malamawi Beach Travel Guide

As we came to explore the weaving, wellness, and culinary culture of the region, in doing so, we also discovered the charming ambiance and the many appealing nature sights of the province — and YES — without the need for military escorts anymore.

Is it SAFE to travel to Basilan?

Colorful fishing boats can be seen docked here
Colorful fishing boats can be seen docked here.

A resounding YES. No, if’s and buts about it nor the need for military personal to escort tourists around. Much has changed since the Basilan etched in our mind hogged the headlines more than twenty years ago. The people of Basilan have been itching to showcase their culture to visitors to clear the many misconceptions about their place. To better experience the province, it is advisable to contact the local tourism office of Isabela de Basilan to coordinate your visit with local tour guides, culinary providers, and other tourism workers for a hassle-free trip.

The author at Malamawi Beach
The author at Malamawi Beach

How to go to Malamawi Beach from Isabela

  • Take a boat from Isabela Port to take you to Marang-Marang floating cottages, the mangrove forest, and Malamawi Island.
  • Take a Habal-habal to the White Beach in Malamawi

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