9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi: A Personal Perspective

9 places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi in 2023: A Personal Perspective

Tawi-Tawi, located in the southernmost part of the Philippines, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This province is often overlooked by travelers due to its distance from Manila and its reputation as a conflict-prone area. However, those who make the effort to visit Tawi-Tawi are rewarded with a unique and rich cultural experience, stunning natural beauty, and friendly locals.

A Cultural Melting Pot

Tawi-Tawi is home to a diverse mix of ethnic groups, including the Tausug, Badjao, Sama, and Bajau, among others. This melting pot of cultures is evident in the local cuisine, festivals, and traditions that can be found throughout the province. Visitors can sample exotic dishes such as “Satti” (barbecued meat served on bamboo skewers) and “Curacha” (a type of sea creature), attend vibrant festivals like the “Kaliguan Festival” and “Pahambak Festival,” and witness traditional wedding ceremonies and dances.

Stunning Natural Beauty

Tawi-Tawi is blessed with a wealth of natural beauty, from pristine white sand beaches to crystal clear waters teeming with marine life. Some of the most popular destinations for visitors include:

1. Panampangan Island

Panampangan Island | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

Panampangan Island is truly a gem in the heart of Tawi-Tawi. As you arrive on this small island, you are instantly transported to a different world. The island is surrounded by crystal clear blue waters, dotted with vibrant coral reefs and an array of colorful fish, perfect for snorkeling and diving. The stunning scenery is only enhanced by the powdery white sand beaches that stretch for miles. It’s easy to lose yourself in the peace and tranquility of this idyllic paradise.

One of the highlights of visiting Panampangan Island is the hike to the top of the hill. The trek to the peak is relatively easy, and it offers breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding waters. It’s truly a feast for the eyes. As you reach the top, you will be surrounded by lush green vegetation, and the fresh sea air will fill your lungs. You can sit on a rock, breathe in the fresh air, and admire the beauty of nature.

Another unique aspect of Panampangan Island is the diverse marine life that can be found in the waters around it. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned diver, the island has something to offer. The colorful coral reefs and diverse fish species are a sight to behold, and they make for an unforgettable snorkeling or diving experience. If you are lucky, you may even get a glimpse of the occasional sea turtle swimming by.

2. Sibutu Natural Wildlife Sanctuary

Sibutu Natural Wildlife Sanctuary | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

The Sibutu Natural Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the picturesque town of Sibutu in Tawi-Tawi. This protected area is a nature lover’s paradise and a must-visit for anyone interested in wildlife observation and bird-watching. The sanctuary is home to a diverse range of species, including birds, reptiles, and mammals that call the lush forests and pristine beaches their home.

One of the highlights of visiting the Sibutu Natural Wildlife Sanctuary is the chance to see the Philippine Flying Lemur, a unique and fascinating species that glides through the air using its large skin flaps. This species is considered endangered, so the sanctuary provides a critical habitat for its preservation. Another must-see species in the sanctuary is the Blue-naped Parrot, known for its striking blue feathers and vibrant green plumage. The Green Sea Turtle is also a common sight in the sanctuary, with its majestic size and gentle movements making it a sight to behold.

For those who love hiking and outdoor activities, the Sibutu Natural Wildlife Sanctuary offers numerous trails that wind through the lush forests and along the stunning coastlines. The trails offer opportunities to see the local wildlife in their natural habitats and to admire the breathtaking scenery of the island. The sanctuary is also an excellent location for bird-watching, with the many different species of birds that call the area home providing a feast for the eyes and ears.


3. Sheik Makhdum Mosque

Sheik Makhdum Mosque | 9 Places visit in Tawi-Tawi

The Sheik Makhdum Mosque is not just any ordinary mosque, it holds an immense historical value for the people of Tawi-Tawi and for the country as a whole. It is believed to have been built in the 14th century, which makes it one of the oldest and most historic mosques in the Philippines. The mosque is named after Sheik Makhdum, a prominent Muslim preacher who is credited with introducing Islam to the Philippines.

The mosque is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Tawi-Tawi and the Philippines. Visitors to the mosque are transported back in time to the 14th century and can witness the beautiful architectural style and intricate carvings that adorn the mosque. The mosque is not just a place of worship, but a symbol of the strong Islamic presence in the Philippines.

Visiting the Sheik Makhdum Mosque is a unique experience, and it offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Philippines. The mosque is a must-visit destination for those interested in Philippine history and culture. The mosque is located in the town of TubigIndangan, Simunul, and is easily accessible from other tourist destinations in Tawi-Tawi.

Sheik Makhdum Mosque is a treasure trove of history, culture, and architecture. Visitors to Tawi-Tawi should not miss this magnificent mosque and should make it a point to visit this historic site. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture enthusiast, or simply curious about the Philippines, the Sheik Makhdum Mosque is a destination that should be on your itinerary.

4. Gusong Reef

Gusong Reef | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

The Gusong Reef is a must-visit for anyone who loves nature and marine life. Located in the charming town of Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, this stunning reef system offers a unique and breathtaking experience for snorkelers and divers alike. The waters around the reef are teeming with life, and the colorful fish and vibrant coral that inhabit the area are truly a sight to behold.

For those who are interested in snorkeling or diving, the Gusong Reef is an ideal spot. The clear and calm waters make it easy to see the diverse marine life that calls the reef home. From vibrant schools of tropical fish to sea turtles swimming gracefully through the water, there’s always something to see and admire at the Gusong Reef.

If you’re not a fan of getting wet, don’t worry – you can still experience the beauty of the Gusong Reef on a boat tour. During the tour, you’ll get to learn about the various marine species that inhabit the area, and you’ll also be able to see the reef from a different perspective. Whether you’re a nature lover or just someone who wants to relax and take in the stunning scenery, a boat tour of the Gusong Reef is a great option.

5. Bud Bongao Peak

Bud Bongao Peak | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

The peak, which is located in the town of Simunol, is known for its breathtaking views of the surrounding waters and lush vegetation. Hiking and trekking are popular activities at the peak, and visitors can experience the beauty of the mountain while getting a workout.

As you make your way up Bud Bongao Peak, you’ll be surrounded by lush green forests and an abundance of wildlife. Keep an eye out for various bird species, and who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of some rare animals that call this place home. The cool breeze and fresh air will surely invigorate you, making the climb even more worthwhile.

The summit of Bud Bongao Peak is a perfect place to take a break and enjoy the stunning views. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. From the top, you can see the blue waters of the Tawi-Tawi Strait, the nearby islands, and the lush greenery of the surrounding forests. It’s truly a breathtaking sight that you’ll never forget.


One of the best things about Bud Bongao Peak is that it’s accessible to people of all fitness levels. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just someone who loves a good walk in nature, the peak offers something for everyone. And, if you’re not up for the hike, you can still enjoy the views from the base of the mountain.

6. Turtle Islands

Turtle Islands | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

Tawi-Tawi, being a province surrounded by the Sulu Sea, boasts of a rich marine biodiversity and the Turtle Islands are one of the prime examples of this natural wealth. This group of islands is a protected area, established to conserve and protect the sea turtles that call these islands home. The turtles come to the islands to lay their eggs and it is truly a breathtaking sight to see these magnificent creatures nesting and hatching on the pristine beaches.

Visiting the Turtle Islands is a unique experience and is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Tawi-Tawi. Not only do visitors get to see the sea turtles, but they also get to learn about the conservation efforts being carried out to protect these endangered species. The island’s staff and guides are knowledgeable and passionate about the conservation of the sea turtles, and they take great pride in sharing their knowledge and experiences with visitors.

The Turtle Islands are not just about the sea turtles, however. The islands themselves are stunning, with crystal clear waters, coral reefs, and sandy beaches. The islands are also surrounded by lush vegetation and provide a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re a nature lover, a marine enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, the Turtle Islands are the perfect destination.

7. Sangasiapu Island

Sangasiapu Island | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

Sangasiapu Island in the Philippines truly showcases the beauty of Tawi-Tawi. As you approach the island, you’ll be greeted by the stunning sight of turquoise waters and pristine white sand beaches. The island is surrounded by lush vegetation, which provides a perfect backdrop for its crystal-clear waters. It’s no wonder why this island is quickly becoming a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

One of the best things about Sangasiapu Island is its diverse marine life. The island is home to an abundance of colorful fish, sea turtles, and other fascinating sea creatures. If you’re an avid snorkeler or diver, you’ll definitely want to spend time exploring the island’s waters. The clear waters make it easy to spot all sorts of sea creatures, and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with them. Whether you’re snorkeling or diving, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in the island’s waters.

Another highlight of Sangasiapu Island is its bird and animal life. The island is surrounded by dense vegetation, which provides a perfect habitat for various species of birds and animals. As you explore the island, you’ll see all sorts of fascinating creatures, from colorful birds to friendly monkeys. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or just looking to get away from it all, you’ll be sure to find something of interest on Sangasiapu Island.

8. Old Chinese Pier

Old Chinese Pier | 9 Places to visit in Tawi-Tawi

The Old Chinese Pier is a historic structure that stands as a testament to Tawi-Tawi’s rich heritage. Built in the 19th century, the pier was a vital trading hub that connected the island to the rest of the world. During its heyday, the pier was a bustling hub of commerce and activity, as merchants, traders, and sailors from across the region came to Tawi-Tawi to exchange goods and services.

Today, the Old Chinese Pier is a popular tourist attraction that offers visitors a glimpse into Tawi-Tawi’s rich cultural history. The pier has been well-preserved over the years and still stands tall, offering a unique perspective on the island’s past. Visitors can admire the architecture and design of the pier, which features traditional Chinese elements, such as curved roofs and intricate carvings.


One of the most interesting features of the Old Chinese Pier is the vibrant local community that surrounds it. The pier is located in the heart of Bongao town proper and is surrounded by bustling markets, shops, and local restaurants. Visitors can take a stroll around the area and soak up the lively atmosphere, as well as interact with the friendly locals and learn about their culture and traditions.

Aside from its rich history, the Old Chinese Pier is also a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. Visitors can sit by the water’s edge and watch the boats come and go, as well as admire the stunning views of the sea and the surrounding mountains. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a peaceful spot to unwind, the Old Chinese Pier is definitely worth a visit.

9. Kaban-Kaban Natural Swimming Pool

Kaban-Kaban Natural Swimming Pool | 9 Places in Tawi-Tawi

The Kaban-Kaban Natural Swimming Pool should be on every traveler’s list of places to visit in Tawi-Tawi. Its location in Bongao adds to its charm, as it is situated in a remote and peaceful area surrounded by lush greenery. The pool is a testament to the natural beauty that can be found in Tawi-Tawi. Its crystal-clear waters are an inviting sight for visitors, who can spend hours lounging and swimming in the cool, refreshing waters.

The pool itself is a stunning example of the power of nature, with its rock formations, cliffs, and cascading waters creating a breathtaking landscape. The water is so clear that you can see straight to the bottom, which is perfect for anyone who wants to take a dip and enjoy the scenery. Visitors can enjoy the sun and relax on the rocky cliffs that surround the pool, or they can go for a swim and let the cool water refresh and invigorate them.

The Kaban-Kaban Natural Swimming Pool is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and simply enjoy the natural beauty of Tawi-Tawi. It’s a peaceful and serene environment that provides a sense of calm and relaxation. It’s the perfect spot to spend a hot summer day or to simply take a break from the hectic pace of travel. With its clear waters and stunning surroundings, the Kaban-Kaban Natural Swimming Pool is a must-visit for anyone looking for a tranquil and refreshing experience in Tawi-Tawi.

A Friendly Local Community

The people of Tawi-Tawi are known for their hospitality and kindness, and visitors are sure to feel welcome from the moment they arrive. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets of Bongao or relaxing on a secluded beach, you’ll find that the locals are always eager to help and offer a warm smile.

Overcoming Misconceptions

Despite its many attractions, Tawi-Tawi remains one of the Philippines’ least visited provinces due to concerns about safety and security. However, it is important to note that Tawi-Tawi is no more dangerous than any other tourist destination and that crime rates are relatively low.

It is also worth mentioning that Tawi-Tawi is a predominantly Muslim province and that visitors should respect local customs and dress modestly, especially when visiting mosques and other religious sites.

A Personal Perspective

Visiting Tawi-Tawi was one of the most rewarding travel experiences of my life. The stunning natural beauty, cultural richness, and friendly local community make this province a truly unique and unforgettable destination.

I would highly recommend taking the time to explore Tawi-Tawi and to challenge your preconceptions about this often-misunderstood province. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Don’t forget to check out its neighbor island Sulu as well!


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