Off the Beaten Track: Mapun, Tawi-Tawi

Guest post by Mara Ione Sarail

Mapun? Where is that?” I get this question a lot when people ask me about my hometown. I’d ramble on and on the island (its location and the culture and the pretty spots...) but since the place is not really in any of the Philippines tourist spots and is in the middle of nowhere, I might as well talk about Atlantis instead. But the island does exist. 

Mapun Tawi-Tawi or Cagayan de Sulu) is an island municipality in the Sulu Sea on the southwestern extreme of the Philippines, located very close to Sabah. Or from the way I see it on the Philippine map, the island is located on the Philippine’s “armpit”.

Mapun is a volcanic island. The picture above shows Mt. Nanggoy, an inactive volcano near the Sapah Lake. The most popular tourist attraction in Mapun would be the three crater lakes on the west part of the island. Legend says that the three lakes were once volcanoes that erupted together. The first two, Danao and Singuwang, became freshwater crater lakes (now quite inaccessible and infested with crocodiles), and the third lake, Jurata, empties out to the Jurata Bay. 

The island has plenty of undiscovered falls, natural springs, inland marshes and hidden white sand beaches and rock cliffs. There are also islets near the island where turtles are being raised.

How to get there: 
From Zamboanga City, go to Wee-Bin Wharf and inquire at one of the wooden ferries bound for Mapun for their schedule. Boats don’t have regular travel schedule. Departures depend on the weather and inconveniently, subject to daily, sometimes hourly changes. If you have limited vacation time, say a few days to a week, I won’t suggest vacationing here. But if you have unlimited time, then I’d say go for it. 

Travel time can range from 16 hours to as much as 36 hours. You can also get there from Palawan from one of the wharfs in Brooke’s Point and travel time usually takes about 12 hours. Word of advice: Don’t expect private rooms at the ferry. It will be one communal area with cot beds and no canteens so you have to bring bedding and plenty of baon, most preferably those not easily perishable.

Google Map on Mapun's location, here

Where to stay: 
Since the island is quite inaccessible most of the time, there are no hotels or inns available. You have to bunk in with a friend who lives there, or if you know me, you can stay at my house

What to expect: 

People subsist mostly on fresh fish and vegetables. There are no fast food chains or grocery stores, but some stores do sell dressed chicken and a lot of chicken products. Most of the people who live there practice Islam, but there are also Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists and they have been living in peaceful harmony for years. The locals are also quite friendly and very accommodating. 


  1. I wanted to talk about Mapun, too, although, I have never been to this place! I thought of it that nobody may ever have been here if they were not from this place!

  2. was casually browsing google maps when i caught a glimpse of this speck of an island off palawan and sabah. kala ko part ng sabah pero part pa din pala ng pinas. I can't believe we have a municipality in that part of the Philippine sea :) but I'm pleasantly surprised and amazed na meron pala tayong mga kababayan dyan. at connected na din sa internet!! :D may signal na daw ng globe and smart :) I immediately looked up Mapun Island on google and found your tripod website. I tried to leave a message thru the email address dun sa website kaso paso na yung address

    am so glad to find this site and wish to convey my greetings to our KABABAYANS AND KALAHI out there!!! mabuhay kayong lahat!
    how i wish i could get to visit that island (bago ako tumanda at malumpo hehehe)
    anyway... sana ma feature pa kayo sa mga iba pang forums at malaman ang tungkol sa inyo.

    regards from a manileño :)


  3. Hi,
    We would like to visit your place and hoping we can have a contact to ease our planning. Please let me know how to reach you by email or contact number. Thanks,


  4. Hi,

    I have read a blog on the Municipality of Mapun. We are hoping to get in touch with locals so that we can plan a visit on your place. Do you have any contact numbers we can keep in touch?



  5. Hi, you may contact her through Twitter, thanks!

  6. Hi Kin, am planning to move permanently to Mapun. is it possible?

  7. Hi LeMur, I suppose it is. It would help if you know some locals to guide you around, I think.

  8. hi, from mapun island, are there available boats to turtle island?

    1. hi, thanks. I will contact my friend about your question, i will post the reply as soon as I can.

  9. I 've been wondering what to see in this "in-the-middle-of-nowhere" island. I would want to go there. hi kin, can i stay at your house? Thanks.

  10. Hi kin I'm from Saba Malaysia how do I go there when I google the map I saw Mapun airport , is there any airline going there?

    1. Hi!

      I dont think there are any commercial flights going to Mapun. Best to take boat from Zamboanga or Brooks Point in Palawan.



  11. can i ask?how much is the fare from brooks point to mapun?thanks

    1. From Brookes Point Palawan ,its now P800/one way. From Zamboanga City, P1500/one way

  12. There's no way from sabah to cagayan sulu island?

  13. My mother's side of the family lived in Mapun, in the 1930s, some still lives there. When my grandfather bought a big piece of land in Mapun and raised 14 children (including my mother), the Guerzon family. I visited the island when I was a small child and then again in 1976 before I left for the U.S. I would love to visit again some day. I believe my grandfather's house is still standing strong.


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