Friday, 7 June 2013

2013 Caramoan

I'm sure that you've probably heard of the place Caramoan... Does Survivor Caramoan (Season 25 AND Season 26) ring a bell? Well, Caramoan is truly a beautiful place in a wild and untamed sort of way. This is probably the reason why the Survivor team deemed it fit as the location for their show in two consecutive seasons. If that is not enough credible proof for you that attests to Caramoan's beauty, well, you just have to be there in order to truly relish in its splendor. Just imagine a place filled with private beaches, turquoise waters, wild animals and a beautiful night sky!

Caramoan is evidently one of the Philippine's still unexploited treasures. My friends and I immensely enjoyed our stay in this paradise. Gean, Trish and I spent 4 days and 3 nights there and a travel time that would account for more than one whole day-- going there is 13 hours and going back is another 13 hours. That's 26 hours WITHOUT the waiting time for the bus, the boat, etc. 

Read on to know more about this beautiful destination!
In order to reach this beautiful island, we had to travel for around 13+ hours by riding a bus, a jeep, a boat, a tricycle then another boat. Yes, you can ride a plane going to Naga, but we opted for the more budget- friendly option, which was to ride a bus overnight.

We rode the standard DLTB bus going to Naga for P705.00. Our journey started at the LRT Buendia DLTB station and the bus officially started moving at around 8:00p.mWe arrived at Naga Terminal at around 4:30 a.m. so all in all, the bus travel time was around 8 hours and 30 minutes with two loooong bus stops for toilet/snacks.

This is a look inside the bus. The seats were comfortable and spacious enough, but the air- conditioning unit was TOO strong. This is surprising especially for someone like me who is 'balat-kalabaw.' We weren't really able to have a good sleep because of the cold-- and, we were even wearing jackets and using our sarongs as blankies! This is a fair warning for those who'd ride this bus going to Naga.

DAY 1: 

Kalagikhik Island, Aswang Island and Baliguian Waterfalls

When I purchased our bus tickets, the salesperson informed me that I cannot buy a roundtrip ticket-- that I can just buy the tickets once we reach Naga so we were expecting that the offices there were also open in the wee hours. Oh, how wrong we were. Once we got off the bus, the offices were closed so we were unable to secure our tickets going back to Manila. We just left our contact numbers with one of the vendors there who's apparently friends with the ticket vendor of DLTB. We were really anxious about our ticket going home, but it did not hinder us from continuing our long journey. We still had a long day ahead after all.

We walked a little bit in order to reach the SM Naga terminal where there are supposedly vans that go to Caramoan. At 5:00a.m., we didn't see any van, but there was a single jeep there that we rode for P100.00.

It was still dark when the jeep left the terminal. Again, we were unable to sleep because several passengers come and go which disrupted our sleep pattern... But, we did enjoy riding the jeep! It wasn't that uncomfortable. Sure, we were cramped sometimes (well OK, a LOT of times), but we were able to see the beautiful rural scenery much better. We arrived at Sabang Port at around 7 a.m. so the jeep travel time is around 2 hours.

Finding the outrigger ferry (lantsa) wasn't too hard. We rode the 7:00 am ferry going to Caramoan. At first, we were stuck in one of the benches without a back support, but one of the foreigners became claustrophobic and decided to ride another boat. So, we were able to move in on their seats. This was a good thing since the travel time by boat is around 2+ hours!

I can sympathize with that foreigner. It is true that there wasn't much space in the boat and it was really cramped inside. We barely had space for our legs and it was hard getting in and out of the boat by ducking in or out through the small window. If you're afraid of being stuck in small spaces for more than two hours, I suggest that you ride a roro or hire a smaller, but more spacious boat for your group. 

Our first peak at the beautiful mountains of Caramoan! It was beautiful enough to make us momentarily forget about our sore bums and cramped legs.

We alighted the ferry at the Guijalo Port at around 9:30 a.m. I've heard stories before that you need to be lifted by porters in order to reach the port... I was really relieved to find that the waters weren't that high so we were able to use the stairs. Upon arrival, we were fetched by Kuya Rene from CK-Inn who was already waiting for us 1 hour prior our arrival. He didn't want us to walk too much so in order to reach the other side of the port, he asked us to ride a tricycle for around 5 minutes. 

Then, we rode another small boat in order to reach CK-Inn. Just imagine how exhausted we were already! After around 13 hours of travel time, finally, we arrived at our accommodation at around 10:00 a.m. 

Aaaand, we were told that lunch was ready, which made us forget our tiredness. Our last real meal was 7:00 pm so eating REAL and delicious food seemed like the best idea we've ever heard of since beginning this journey. We were served fried chicken and escabecheng Lapu-Lapu, which tasted so divine! Now with full stomachs, we were ready to go island hopping!

Kuya Harvey was our tour guide for our island hopping for three days. He was very nice and accommodating. He wanted us to fully enjoy our Caramoan experience so he always made sure that the islands we go to do not have other tourists/people in it. 

Our first stop was at Kalagikhik Island, which was an island filled with coconut trees and surrounded with waters that have differing shades of blue. Just the perfect beach image you'd find in a postcard. Somehow, it reminds me of El Nido's Seven Commandos Island. Probably because of the coconut trees right in front of the beach.

photo by Trish

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that CK- Inn is the only resort that offers the use of (single) kayaks, which only made our island hopping experience more special.

photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey 

The day was just perfect for kayaking.  True, it was really hot since it was noon at that time, but the water conditions were just too perfect that we were unable to resist the call of the enticing sea water. We were kayaking for quite a while and was a little far from the beach when we heard several splashes. We saw some fishes that were leaping out of the water and of course, we were all awed by it, exclaiming "Flying fish (though it was actually a Needle Fish)!!!"  Then, we heard Trish shrieking and saw that one of the fish actually landed on her kayak! That was CREATURE ENCOUNTER # 1! 
photo by Trish

We certainly had our fill of laughter.

The next island on our itinerary is called Aswang Island, which is a really foreboding name for a paradise-like island. We asked Kuya Harvey if there were any mystical stories surrounding this island that inspired its name. He assured us that there were no horror stories involved, but up until now, they themselves are still wondering as to how this island came to possess that moniker.

We didn't meet any monsters or evil spirits in this island, but we did have our creature encounter # 2 here!

The waters here were literally sparkling-- it was just really overwhelming to be in the presence of that kind of beauty!

This is the spot where we had our CREATURE # 2. We were sitting in the shallow waters under the shade of the rocks when Gean suddenly screamed and hurriedly got up from her sitting position. We saw a snake slithering past Gean's legs so we did the only thing we could. SCREAM! 

At first, Kuya Harvey tried to convince us that it was probably just some kind of a harmless animal like a Sea Worm/ Sea Cucumber (I would've preferred the snake over this one, thank you!), but when we described that it was black and had some yellow stripes on it, he agreed that it was probably a snake. This just proves that the ecosystem here is still very much alive since wild animals are still thriving and roaming around in these areas.

Our third destination on that day was The Baliguian Waterfalls, which is quite a looong boat ride away from the other islands; around 45 minutes.  On our way there, we were lulled to sleep by the gentle caress of the waves against our small boat so when we finally docked the boat at the port of Barangay Baliguian, we were instantly awakened-- specially when I heard that we had to do a "little bit" of walking. That, for me, was a rude awakening since I really hate walking. It brings back bad memories!!!

Hi there, Aga!

At first, the walk was quite easy. It can even be described as a pleasant stroll. We passed by some beautiful scenery. 

Then,  the walk became more strenuous. After around 10 minutes, I was already sweating a lot and I was breathing more deeply. The walk became even tougher when we reached this area where there is a long cemented pipe- like structure. At that point, I already stopped taking pictures since I was using both of my hands to help me navigate through this terrain. I'm really thankful for Kuya Harvey for helping me!

True, this isn't really a hard walk and I am probably exaggerating a little bit here. I mean, this path can't even be compared to the likes of Mt. Banahaw's or Pico de Lorro's, but it was challenging especially when we reached the waterfalls area where we had to step on really slippery rocks. Overall, the walk lasted for about 20 minutes.

photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey

But, like they say, hard work pays off. We were greeted by the sight of the stunning waterfalls and we immediately started swimming in its cool, refreshing waters.

photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey

As you can see, we were wearing life jackets here because we were paranoid. Jeremy Wade often has this to say about rivers/lakes, "you don't know what's lurking underneath." But, we weren't surprised by the unseen forces of nature under the water. Rather, a decidedly big spider decided to appear on top of the rocks. This is CREATURE ENCOUNTER # 3. While scrambling to get off of the rock where they spotted the huge spider (which was just behind me), I suddenly had cramps, which delayed us a little bit. Fortunately, it was easier and faster going down than it was going up.

photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey

As we were on our way back to CK- Inn, Kuya Harvey pointed out some commotion happening in the surface of the water. There were lots of small fishes leaping out of the water. Kuya Harvey mentioned the name, but I've forgotten. All I can remember from what he said is that when these fishes appear, they are usually accompanied by butandings and/or other large fishes. It was definitely an amazing sight and a perfect ending for our first day of island hopping!

It's just a stroke of bad luck that we happened to see this after that amazing scene. Some stupid people painted graffiti on the cliff sides. It's just so disheartening to see wonderful sights and animals of the natural world then you come across these man-made vandalism. We should really be more responsible in taking care of nature!

The sun already went down, but the surprises were not yet finished.

For our dinner, Kuya Harvey arranged a "Survivor" themed dinner for us by the beach complete with these bamboo light posts. Our food was even more delicious than our lunch, which consisted of some big crabs, Chopsuey and Maya-Maya.

DAY 2:

Matukad Island, Lahos Island, Cagbalinad Island, Sabitang- Laya,  Bugtong Island & Manlaue Sand Bar

Our second day of island hopping was more jam-packed than the first one. We started the day by riding a boat to Guijalo Port. Then, we we rode a tricycle through Caramoan town proper for about 45 minutes until we reached Bikal Port where we rode another boat for about 30 minutes until we reached the first island.

This is Kuya Harvey, the nices tour guide ever! Please look for him if you're going to stay at CK-Inn. I guarantee you that you'd have the best time with him as your guide!

Our first look at Bikal Port where we rode Kuya Edmar's boat for our island-hopping tour. 

The scenery that we passed by on our way to the first island. Kuya Harvey mentioned something about Survivor shooting on this island.

Even the rock formations are exquisite!

The first island that we visited is called Matukad Island, which has really fine white sand that is comparable to Boracay's!!! It is also such a picturesque spot since there are rock formations that look good on photos; of course, we did not pass on the opportunity of taking some pictures here too!

All in all,  I loved Matukad Island because it was beautiful and it was fun swimming in its waters. There weren't a lot of seaweeds and coral bits that hurt your feet. However, compared to the islands that we've been to the previous day, the islands near Bikal Port seem to have more tourists. Thus, we left this island swiftly in order to see other islands that hopefully did not have too much tourists.

As luck would have it, there were more people on the second island that we went to, which is called Lahos Island. The fine sand here is similar to Matukad Island's. But, this particular island is pretty famous for having two beaches, which is probably why there are so many people in here! It is not as crowded as Boracay, but compared to other islands in Caramoan, it is the most jam- packed. Why, you ask?

Because there are two beaches on both sides! Awesome right?

We didn't stay for too long here; just took some pictures. Our group prefers peace and quiet after all.

Our third destination is called Cagbalinad Island, which is my most favorite island in Caramoan! Though the water here is not the shade of blue that I love the best,which is turquoise, I still like the alternating parts of green and blue in the water. I also find this peculiar rock formation interesting. Doesn't it look like a skull?

Best of all, I love this place because it was perfect for kayaking. The sea current and waves here weren't that strong so it was easier to propel the kayak through the water. It felt like I was gliding through the glassy surface of the sparkling sea water. Just look at that color! 

There were also more nooks and crannies that I was able to inspect much closer without the fear of crashing against the rocks because of strong waves. I even got close enough (though I wasn't able to dock the kayak since it's a private property) to Hunungan Beach where the host of Survivor stays at when they are filming!

photo by Trish

The only thing I found discomfiting about this island is that there are so many jellyfish. Kuya Harvey proved to us that that particular kind of jellyfish does not sting, but I was still afraid of wading in the waters because of it. Old biases die hard I guess. It's been implanted in my brain that I should avoid jellyfish!

By noon, we were already famished so Kuya Harvey decided that it was time for lunch. He brought us to the island called Sabitang- Laya, which has an ideal picnic spot. This island also boasts of having the longest stretch of beach in all of Caramoan. Kuya Harvey even shared with us that the cast of Survivor often went here for their morning jog.

photo by Trish

See, even Berni started jogging!!!

Best photobomb shot! Hihi.

This is the area where we had our lunch. Perfect place to unwind-- just to rest under the shade of the trees and share great stories with good company.

I can't stop praising Kuya Harvey. He is the best tour guide ever! He always makes sure we're comfortable. He takes our pictures without us having to ask him again and again. Aaand, he writes the names of the islands that we visit on the sand. Sometimes, he even decorates it with seaweeds and sea shells. He is the best ever!

We were startled when Kuya Harvey suddenly asked, "Gusto niyo po ba mag-snorkeling?" He pointed to the area where we saw several boats docked in the middle of the sea. Of course, we said yes. But, I was reluctant to do so when I realized that there were no ladders/ stairs going up and down the boat. Kuya Harvey just smiled and said, "Kami na po bahala doon!"

Caramoan can really boast of having good snorkeling spots. It's such a shame that we didn't have an underwater camera, but you'll just have to trust us when we say that it was really beautiful down there. The corals were very much alive. The colors were so vibrant and there were so many of them. We snorkeled for a long time. I could've stayed there all day, but alas, I had cramps again and I found it hard to move my arms; probably because I overworked my muscles when I was out kayaking.

Then, I realized my dilemma. How do I go up the boat again?  There were no ladders/ stairs. I turned to Kuya Harvey with a questioning look and he just said, "Apakan niyo lang po yung tuhod ni Edmar." I was aghast with his suggestion. I'm not the lightest and nimblest person out there after all. Poor Kuya Edmar. I stepped on his thighs repeatedly until I was barely able to haul myself on top of the boat. It was a good thing that Kuya Harvey was there to pull my legs up otherwise I would've gone down under again.

Here are some pictures of my struggle to get on board again, all thanks to Berni. I still can't stop laughing when I see these!!

 photo by Trish/ GEAN

photo by Trish/ GEAN

The last island that we visited is Bugtong Island and the Manlaue Sand Bar. Unfortunately, the water was a little bit high by the time we got there so no sand bar for us, only really shallow water.

We kayaked here for a little bit, but it was hard since the oar kept on pushing against the sand. It was a really arduous task.

photo by Trish

After a while, we decided to stop kayaking and decided to just enjoy the beach. We turned Sea Cucumberni into a mermaid when we got bored. Wishes really do come true, right Berni? Harhar!

photo by Trish/Kuya Harvey

photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey

Our second day of island- hopping finally came to an end and we had to go back to Bikal Port by 4:30 p.m. Going back took a much longer time since it was low tide already and our boat's machine kept on dying because it kept on getting entangled with the seaweeds. Again, poor Kuya Edmar since he always had to go down the boat in order to push it forward. Please, do remember to give tips to the boatman too!

By 5:45 pm, we were back at Bikal Port. Just see how much effort CK-Inn has given just to ensure that we would be able to use our kayaks. They are simply the best!

photo by Trish

We passed by Caramoan town proper again and this time, we had time to purchase some souvenirs.

Again, we ended the day by eating delicious food. On this night however, there were several short brownouts that happened so Kuya Harvey arranged a bonfire for us by the beach. Awesome right?

photo by Trish

DAY 3:

Cabangahan Beach and Tinago Cove Resort

Since we had an exhausting trip yesterday, we decided to just have a 'chill day' for our third day of island- hopping. But, when we looked at the sea that morning, the waves were really strong. So yeah, we had a terrifying boat ride going to our first destination. I don't usually wear a life jacket on a boat ride, but when Kuya Harvey suggested that we do so,we readily agreed. After all, our boat is really small (it can fit only up to five people) so the probability of it capsizing is really, really high.

The first island that we went to is called Cabangahan Beach, which is really unique. For one thing, the beach is not filled with sand, but with pieces of dead corals. Unlike other beaches where the sand gradually comes to the same level as the water, the rocks in this beach are arranged in a steep manner. There's even barely enough dry space to lounge around in so we had to make sure that our things were on the highest ground since the waves can come up really high. It's a little bit hard to describe. You just have to be there in order to see it for yourself.

Do you see how strong the waves are? It just made me realize how marvelous Mother Nature is. During our first two days, the water was so calm that it felt like we were cruising across a glassy surface with occasional small ripples in its velvety form. Then on our third day, BAM!!! Our small boat was rocked so violently that there were several moments I thought that we were really about to capsize.

 photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey

But the strong waves didn't really hinder us from kayaking. In fact, it was an enjoyable thing to do in this kind of condition since it proved to be more challenging. You have to really focus in order to keep your balance and you also have to 'feel' the wave. You just go with the flow instead of furiously working against it.

photo by Trish/ Kuya Harvey

When we came back to the beach, Kuya Harvey set this up for us, which really made us feel like we were just chilling out. Just see how special CK- Inn made us feel! What kind of tour guide would do this for you??? Only the best, so go look for Kuya Harvey!

The beach and coconuts... Perfect combination!

It was a good thing that we relaxed a little bit before riding out to see again because we were in for a scary ride once more and it lasted for at least 30 minutes. I think that's what you call 'calm before the storm.' 

Anyway, this is the entrance to our next destination, which is called the Tinago Beach Resort, which is just behind these rocks. Personally, I found it really terrifying when we were about to go inside this narrow space because the waves just became stronger. This is probably because of the rocks that acted like a rebound area for the waves so just imagine this: strong waves, narrow space and small boat with a long katig. Yep, really terrifying.

photo by Trish

Finally, our boat was able to pass through this narrow space. That just proves how skillful our boatman was! Just look at this scene. Outside, the waves were really strong, but inside, the water's really calm. It's a perfect lagoon!

photo by Trish

Tinago Beach Resort is simply a paradise. It's surrounded with lush foliage and calm waters. There's even a small shack by the beach where we could eat and rest a little bit if the heat of the sun got too much for us to handle. Best of all, it was a perfect place for wild animals. Specifically, we were able to see an eagle swooping down for fish and soaring among the thick trees. I've been to quite a lot of places (and I've even been to a bird watching trip), but it's the first time I've seen an eagle out in the wild. That's how magical this place was.

Just like a scene out of a story book. 

We spent the rest of the day bumming around this place: eating, kayaking, swimming and even snorkeling. But I stopped snorkeling when I got to that area with the dark green color... I wanted to snorkel around there because it's filled with seaweeds, which meant that there were probably a lot of fishes there. But as I was walking near the area, I stooped down and peered at the edge first then voila! There was a long sea cucumber just near my feet. For the rest of the day, I opted to wade around the shallow waters.

Again, this is Kuya Harvey's art work.

After a while, we got bored so we decided to create our own sandwoman that we named "Cara" in short for Caramoan. Isn't she pretty?

Trish being a bully (again)

photo by Trish

Again, we were subjected to the wiles of the angry ocean and got tossed around again and again. There were times that the waves were so high it was on the same level as our boat. We were laughing it off in the pictures, but inside we were terrified. In fact, after around 10 minutes, we were all quiet. I asked the boatman if there's a possibility that we would capsize and his reply was, "Oo, posibleng tumumba tayo; kahapon lang, merong tumumbang bangka na may karga na mga uling. Basta kelangan lang, magaling mag maneho yung bangkero." I'm glad that he 'walked the talk' and proved himself to be a good boatman.

photo by Trish

Finally, safety! We arrived in our sanctuary.

I didn't think it possible that our food would be more delicious compared to the previous ones that we had, but apparently, it was. I guess they reserved the most special food for our last meal.

Despite the fact that we were really exhausted, we wanted to spend our last day stargazing. Again, Kuya Harvey set up the "Survivor" lamp posts and a camp fire for us.

photo by Trish

photo by Trish

It was an enchanting experience to just feel the wind, to listen to the waves, and to be surrounded by a blanket of stars. We even saw a shooting star!!!

photo by Trish

photo by Trish

But look at this creepy shot. See the hazy, blue part? It's like there's a face there. Scary!!!

But, all good things had to come to an end. Finally, it was time to say good bye to Caramoan.We wrote in CK- Inn's guestbook.

And we asked for a summary of all the places we've been to as well as their contact number.

Parting truly is such sweet sorrow. On our way back to Sabang Port, we were presented with such breathtaking sights as if Caramoan is also bidding us goodbye.

The green mountains.

The blue sky.

The clear, turquoise waters.

All of these, I would truly miss. I love Caramoan. I LOVE THE PHILIPPINES!!!