I just had some old U.S. friends come visit the Philippines. They first hit Thailand for two weeks, then the island of Coron in Palawan for three days until they flew into Cebu Airport. It’s there that I met them for a flight to Siargao, the surfing capital of the Philippines, for four days. It was really nice there, and we had an epic day visiting the Sohoton Caves and island hopping, but we were also soaked with rain most of the time.
Luckily, I had planned something extra special for our last three days before they had to go home, and it only could happen with the help of the small charter airline, Air Island Tours. In fact, we only had about 48 hours to make some magic happen on the very last leg of their trip, and I wanted to have a unique island hopping experience, too.
So I had arranged a charter air flight from Cebu to the tropical paradise island of Bantayan, and then back 48 hours later. I made the flight through Rohyle Air, their sister outfit in Dumaguete where I live. I’m familiar with Rohyle Air’s operation doing charter flights to several destinations, and they directed me to their partner airline out of Cebu that covers more routes, Air Island Tours.
Booking was strangely easy – I just emailed them and got a confirmation – not forms to fill out or even a pre-arranged payment. They did email once to ask for our names and what country we were from, but that’s it. Being paranoid that it was far too easy, I must have emailed and texted them four times as the date approached! But sure enough, once we arrived in Cebu airport on our commercial flight from Siargao, they had a representative waiting outside the luggage area with our names on a placard. She led us to a van that drove us 15 minutes around to the backside of the Mactan Airport, where the Air Island Tour office and the hangar are located.
The jovial young pilot greeted us at the van and walked us onto the tarmac to the tiny four-seat plane. I’m not sure if it was a Cessna or what, but it wasn’t even as big as the interior of an SUV! But still, we easily packed in three big bags and several backpacks.
After a few selfies with the plane that the charming pilot insisted upon, he told us that me and my buddy – the big boys – would ride in the backseat, and our female friend would ride up front.
You feel everything more in a small plane- every bump, gust of wind, and drop of altitude, but very quickly you get used to it, and it’s SO much fun! We had an amazing view of the rolling hills on the north side of Cebu Island, the coastline, and then head out over an eerily empty expanse of ocean for about 15 minutes. After 45 minutes total, we came to a bumpy landing on the rough, cracked pavement and grass airstrip on Bantayan. We have so much video footage since the plane flies far lower than most airplanes, which was some of the best part. After a couple fully sunny amazing days in Bantayan, we got to load up and take the ride back to Cebu. I absolutely love Air Island Tours, and I’ll fly their many routes anytime I can!
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