Maragondon: Formidable Fort of Carabao Island

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Aerial view of the island; shot by Buknoy (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The island is surrounded by jagged cliffs, caves, rocky shores and topped by a lush, green forest (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

More known as Fort Frank, this island is one of the complexes of defensive islands built by the Americans at the mouth of Manila Bay. The long, narrow island is surrounded by jagged cliffs, caves, rocky shores and topped by a lush, green forest. Its beauty is sometimes compared to that in Batanes. Though located just near the capital Manila, it is seldom visited, which probably helped in the preservation of its beauty.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

On our way to the island in our humble and dependable boat (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

From Barangay Mercedes (Patungan), we sailed by boat going to the island. It took us forty minutes to reach the island. As we sailed further from the mainland, the initially calm waters slowly became more aggressive, driven by the Amihan winds. Even Mang Victor, our guide with thirty years experience of fishing and sailing here, told us that docking at the island would be very tough and perilous due to the strong waves. We were dismayed, but we asked him to take us to other parts of the island if possible.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Mang Victor told us that it’s risky to dock the boat (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

At the southern part where it is sandwiched between the tall cliffs, we were shown to an eroded spot where we can climb on. We were so eager to reach the island that we anchored our boat on the shallow waters and swam on our way, carrying our electronic gadgets in tightly-wrapped floating plastic bags (warning: very risky, do not try it yourself). Reaching the shore, we immediately took the more than 100-foot climb to the uplands. Being steep and lacking any footpaths, it is very difficult to climb. There is no assurance either of what we’re stepping on: most rocks give way when being stepped on, and when they give way they will certainly roll all the way down.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

So we anchored on a shallow sea and swam to the island (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Just be careful on the strong waves hitting the rocks (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The flock safely arrived at the islands (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Shortly after the American conquest of the Philippines, the United States Armed Forces began on their fortifications at the mouth of Manila Bay. The topography of Manila Bay made it a very nice strategic location in the defense of the capital Manila, and several natural islands were developed into a system of defensive fortresses, including Corregidor, Fort Drum (El Fraile) and Fort Frank (Carabao Island). The latter was named in honor of Brigadier General Royal T. Frank, one of the heroes of the American Civil War.

Like the other island fortresses, Fort Frank was also built with a complex network of tunnels and chambers dug beneath the island.

On February 21, 1942, thirty-four soldiers were killed when a Japanese artillery ricocheted into one of its tunnels.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The climb is 30 meters high. Short but challenging (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Breathtaking view awaits those who endured reaching the summit (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The war has long been over, and many were familiar with the role of some islands in Manila Bay as a defensive fortress, and their morbid history, notably the Corregidor and the lesser known Fort Drum. But Fort Frank, in the Carabao Island, is one of the lesser-known island fortresses.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Into the darkness (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The atmosphere within the former fortress is eerie (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The atmosphere within the former fortress is eerie, and the feeling of creepiness intensifies especially on its darker parts and with the sound of howling winds. Scars of the savagery of the war are still present, with bullet holes and artillery damages clearly visible. Despite its seemingly eerie nature, many people still braved going here. There are several digging spots scattered, and I wonder whether they were dug in search of supposedly hidden treasures. Much of the metals found inside the fort were scavenged for the junkshops. These include the essential rebar supports for the tunnel’s structure, and lacking these, some parts of the tunnel are in danger of collapsing anytime.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

A perfect location for a post-apocalyptic movie (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

One of the tunnel entrances (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

We just learned that we’re in the Koehler Battery room (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Its jagged cliffs may have earned the island its name because, at the distance, it looked like a submerged carabao (kalabaw). The island is used by the fisherfolk as a stopover and a resting place. It has also become home to several eagles and hawks.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The best place to go here is during summer (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

The waters surrounding the island is clean and clear, which makes it favorable for swimming. The best place to go here is during summer when the waters are on its calmest. For those seeking adventure with a touch of history, this and the other island complexes around Manila Bay is one of the perfect places for island hopping.


Take the road to Brgy. Mercedes (Patungan), Cavite. It is the last village of Maragondon that borders Nasugbu, Batangas. It’s almost 3 km away from Kaybiang Tunnel. Arriving at the port of Patungan, rent a boat and say you’re going to Carabao Island. Rental boat will cost p1200-p1500 (five people).

Take a bus bound for Maragondon, Ternate and drop off at the town of Ternate (P80 fare). From there ride a tricycle and tell the driver to drop you off at Sta. Mercedes (Patungan), P300 fare (good for 4). Its pretty far away from the town so it’s better to get the contact number of the tricycle driver to fetch you when you’re finished. Arriving in the village, you have to rent a boat.

(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

A quick dip on its clear water is a must after the hike (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)


  • The island is one of the training grounds of the Philippine Marines (where their camp is located nearby), so make sure your schedules won’t conflict. It’s better to ask permission at the local office of Maragondon.
  • It is advisable to go here on a clear, fine weather. Docking will be difficult (if not impossible) during strong waves.
  • Bring a powerful flashlight to illuminate the dark tunnels.
  • Bring extra clothes as you will be surely getting wet even during the boat ride.
  • Look out for the holes in the tunnel, some of them are deep.
  • A bolo can be handy especially when going through the shrubby parts of the island.
  • Leave no trash
  • After the hike, you can go on a side trip to the Kaynipa Cove (near the Marine Base).
(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Time to go (Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)


(Carabao Island/Fort Frank, Maragondon, Cavite)

Carabao Island aka Fort Frank (Maragondon, Cavite)

Kaynipa Cove, Ternate, Cavite;

Kaynipa Cove, Ternate, Cavite


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  1. Yamet says:

    Good day Sir.My name is Yam.I’ve been googling for months now on how to go to Carabao Island and I saw your blog.This is informative and pictures were greatly composed.From an angle of view and persperctive of those images,it was apparent that drone was used to capture those amazing shots.Beautiful shots!However,there was no mention of how much was the rent of the boat from Patungan Cove to the island.Also was the 300 fare of trike from Ternate to Sta Mercedes already for two-way ride or just one way which is good for 4.Thank you in advance.

  2. Tupang Gala says:

    Hi Yam. Thank you for the compliment. Yes we risked the drone to fly it from aboard the boat just to capture the beauty of the island. You can rent a boat in Patungan Cove or Ternate Beach for 1200-1500 (good for five). Also, P300 fare is for the one way ride only. May this help you and stay safe!

  3. Registrar says:

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  6. Anonymous says:

    how to get a permit there we are planning to visit carabao island.

  7. Gina says:

    Good day, were planning to visit the island for school documentation, how can we secure a permit? Also, do they have a larger boat for a group of ten?

  8. danny rodriguez says:

    is there a resort in carabao island?

  9. Tupang Gala says:

    wala po.

  10. Anonymous says:


  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi. Aside from renting the boat, is there like public boat?

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