Mactan Island provides some of the best Island Hopping Adventures in the entire Philippines.  Being a coral island itself, Mactan has many relative close islands in which to hop to.  There is vast diversity of islands to chose from, with each one having its own special interest. This article will lead you through, from years of experience and knowledge the best islands, most affordable, and best way to set up your island hopping tour


How to arrange your perfect Island Hopping Tour :


     This alone has been a much discussed topic, with many different opinions. The best option for taking a island hopping tour from Mactan, for tourist here, would be to use a local, qualified agent, or tour operator. The cost for this will be a small amount higher than the actual cost. But in the end, it will be cheaper for you. If you try to do it on your own, 95% of the time, it will end up costing you more than the agency fee. This happens daily here on Mactan Island. Plus the fact of the stress, headache, and time and trouble it causes your vacation. It’s  not worth it. Not for the minimal amount you will pay the tour operators for their services.  It’s  really a big deal to get all of the things in order, and find the trust worthy people, the best equipment, the best and most helpful, knowledgeable guides.  That is no small task to accomplish, especially if you are just visiting the area. So allow the experts who are here on the island for years take care of all of that headache for you. Then all you have to do is show up, get on board, and you are off on your adventure..... Tour operators here only average making P 500 to 1000 per person on a island hopping tour. ( According to how many persons are on the tour ) .  That is a great deal, especially when you do not have to deal with pier hustlers, street vendors, tri cycle drivers who will constantly be trying to add on charges later, and not tell you. Trying to get the money up front, in general all the time trying something.  It will stress you out and ruin your island hopping just to always trying to keep on guard, and remember and wonder what’s coming next, will they be trouble, what will i do, is that included, did they bring the food, ect, ect...  Even if you research and know what to look out for, its still a headache just to try to remember all what to watch out for and to ask about, and make sure is correct...

LIST OF QUALIFIED, EXPERIENCED, TRUSTWORTHY OPERATORS ON MACTAN ISLAND:


Cheap Tours  

Fun, Sun and Dive

K and R Travel and Tours

Island Banca Cruises

Ocean Dreamer island Tours  

CHOOSE YOUR ISLANDS


 Island hopping tours vary from one island to up to 5 islands.  Of course the more islands, the more expensive. The farther islands away from Mactan also make the tour more expensive. The most popular and best tour is to choose two of the major islands, and couple of the smaller ones.   They are 5 major islands to choose from, and many smaller islands.  
Major Islands off Mactan :  Listed in order of most popular and down.....
HILUTUNGAN ISLAND -  Fish Sanctuary
Famous for its dive spots and great snorkeling. Many different fish to see and colorful. Island does have restaurants and beach at low tide only. Best of all islands for snorkeling and diving.
Pandanon Island - This island has cottages and nice beach also. Good for swimming and snorkeling. Snorkeling is not so good. More for beach which is very long and white sand. Mostly just relaxing place.
Nalusuan Island(Marine Sanctuary) - This is private owned island, which the staff lives right on the island. Cottages also available on the island. It also has a fish sanctuary with very good snorkeling. Has a restaurant, white sand on one side of the island. Good for snorkeling and swimming. Has its own pier, and drinks are not allowed to be brought on the island.
Caohagan Island(Marine Sanctuary) - Beach at high tide only, fish sanctuary, good snorkeling, swimming, cottages available. Good for snorkeling, relaxing...
Olango Island ( Bird Sanctuary) -  This island is good for snorkeling, swimming. Has bird sancturary on the island. ( Seasonal ).
Other small islands to see is :  Tingo, Sulpa,Talima, and others.


TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN ARRANGING YOUR ISLAND HOPPING:


* Most all island hopping tours never leave the boat. Most never go onto land. Please ask if you wish to go on land and visit one of the cottages, and beach..  
* Make sure it all inclusive. Ask to make sure no hidden charges... Ask about gasoline charges, entrance fees, towels, snorkel, mask, fins. Also ask docking fees, pier fees. Ask if hotel transfers are included.  Most each island charges a fee docking a boat or mooring a boat off shore.
* Ask what you lunch is in detail.. Some will just be BBQ on a stick and fruit and hanging rice. Others give better quality lunch’s..  
* Be prepared for vendors in boats who will come on board your boat to try to sell you arts, crafts, coconuts, and many different items. They will price these very expensive, so you can try to bargain for at least half what they price...
* Do not take valuables on the boats. If you have watches, billfolds, or bags, put them in the hands of your guide. Boat captains will not be responsible, and crews are sometimes not regulars. So if something is gone, you will hear it fell overboard..  They won’t take responsibility for it...  If you have no guide, give it to the captain, count it and show it to him. That way he and you know what is there...
* Restrooms on the boats are not much... Small Plywood room, and not lot of luxury. Don’t expect much.
* Bring extra towels, sun screen, underwater camera, extra batteries for camera, shoes that you can get wet. Sometimes you have to wade in the water to board the small dingy boats that will take you to the big boats at low tide.. Sharp rocks can cut your feet.. Bring extra snacks and drinks. Some do not bring any extra drinks except your lunch.. Again, this is the difference between a tour operator and just a local, street vendor..  They will not supply but the bare necessities. Some tour operators bring extra drinks, and snacks for you... Bring extra bread for fish feeding.  You are supplied with only a certain amount. When it’s out, the fish will leave...

 Thing to Watch Out for If you do it Yourself: 

Outside of Resorts, at the beaches in and out of the resorts, at Tourist Spots, Tri Cycle Drivers, other Water Sport Activities, at most all these places you will find the local who does Island Hopping. " Hey Joe, Island Hopping, Great Deal, Cheap, Sir you want Island Hopping."  That is what you will hear mostly. Sometimes you will have three or four asking you the same thing, trying to pull you in that direction. This is your first red flag.. If they were professional, licensed, they would not be doing this.. Avoid these...
     If you must do it go to the piers of Mactan and ask.. Transport from your hotel to the pier will depend upon where you are staying. Least amount will be P 100,  Small boat for Island Hopping will rent for P 2500 ( 10 seater ). A 15 to 20 seater will rent for P 3500. ( This includes gasoline, crew, lifejackets, and should include a snorkeling guide, if guide is not included then you will probably have to pay another P 500 for that.)   Mask and fins are P 150 each, Island fees are Hilutungan P 100, Olango P 50, Pandanon P 150. Others are similar. ( Does not include cottage rentals or island docking fees) Lunch is whatever you want to make and bring. If you eat at one of the Islands be prepared to spend P 500 or more. Plates, spoons, forks, glasses, and also remember you will be eating in front of the captain and crew. They should bring their own, but most do not. Not required, but expected… Drinks and ice and cooler are also what you want to bring and spend. Do not forget, if you are going to cook on the boat, do not forget the charcoal, matches.  Tips are not required but will be expected. Won’t be so bad with the captain or guide, but the ones who carried you cooler on the boat, the dingy you transferred to the large boat on, and those will follow you until you leave in taxi...


WARNING:  What is stated above is the way it should be, and might even be the way some will make it sound. But, be prepared, because it will almost guarantee that if you don’t have a tour operator and guide with you, somewhere and somehow they will ask for more...  Now they won’t do this when you return back to the pier.. They are too smart for that. They will do it when they stop on the back side of one of the small islands, in which you are wondering why they are stopping,,, then they will start to tell you the excuses of why you need to pay more.. Now with a captain, and three or four crew, plus his friends who are probably close on the island, who have run this scam all their life, are telling you what you need to pay, in the middle of the ocean, on the back side of some small island, with loud voices and mean looks. What will you do??  Have heard some to get up to P 6000 thousand from people by this tactic..  What your thinking now is, pay and call the police when you get back to the pier. WRONG, when they arrive, it’s your word against his, and remember where you are, and they are same nationality. That is just another waist of your time... Even if the police officer believes you were scammed, when the man slips him P 500 of the extra money he got from you, suddenly you should have had a written contract, or some other excuse.. Plus, in general, they know tourist will not fool with or take the time to go through all that hassle and time. They will just chalk it up to experience. That’s the key they work on......
So hope this article helps someone, and someone takes the time to read it... They are thousands of horror stories out there about this subject.  Do not let yourselves be the next one.  From one traveler to another,  lived here for 8 years now, and been doing Island Hopping for 5 of them…