Siargao – the surfing capital of the Philippines. My most spontaneous trip this year. I bought the ticket early this year and my cousin and tita joined me shortly after. I usually plan the general outline of places to visit/things to do a few weeks before the trip. However, with my ASEAN trip ending just the day before the flight I had to wing it for this trip. This resulted in an expensive but very memorable trip.
Full Gallery here
We arrived at Sayak Airport shortly before noon due to some minor delays on our Cebu Pacific flight. Stepping into the blazing sun, I was relieved that my tita went along since I hated any form of haggling. She managed to bring the asking price of the tricycle to General Luna from 500 to 300 Php. This turned out to be worth every peso since the ride to GL took longer than the airplane ride from Cebu.
First stop was Traveller’s Pension Inn – the cheapest accommodation for three with private bath that we could find. I normally don’t mind cheap substandard accommodations since I’m usually out most of the day but I’m very particular about customer service. This Inn disappointed me on both counts. Weeks before and 4 phone calls later (one of which they hung up on me) and I was not sure if we even had a reservation. Fortunately, my tita decided that she’d rather pay a higher price for a better room so we happily left.
Edeth (09092048627), our driver brought us to Boardwalk @ Cloud 9 located directly in front of the most famous surf spot on the island. It was peak season so most of the their rooms were already booked but luckily they had a vacancy for that day (2250 Php). After settling in, having some lunch and resting up we were ready to face the waves!
We got Roel (09071404532) and his friends to help us surf (Instructors: 300 Php/hr; Board Rental: 200 Php/hr, 500 Php/day). I’d already gone surfing a couple of times before but this was the first time for Luigi and Tita and they almost immediately were able to stand on their boards and ride the waves! Suffice it to say this was the highlight of their trip. After an hour, I had my fill but clearly Luigi still wanted some time with the waves. However, he graciously yielded to my and tita’s tired bodies and decided not to extend his surfing.
Before having our dinner Roel offered his boat for Island hopping the following day (1600 Php). Boats from GL normally charge 1500 Php but since we didn’t have to commute to GL if we went with him, we took up his offer.
Dark skies and intermittent rain greeted us the following day and provided a taste of what would be expected for the rest of the island hopping excursion. I was wondering how we would be able to leave the Cloud 9 area with its huge waves crashing everywhere but surprisingly there was a small corridor of “flat” ocean where we passed through, with the famous waves smashing on the breakwater on both sides of our boat. We still eventually had to ride through these waves in order to get near GL town where the islands were close to. Not for the faint of heart or stomach.
First stop was Naked Island, a small shifting sandbar that was the only Island that did not charge an entrance fee. On the way here the rain started falling heavily and the winds picked up strength so we were wet and cold by the time we arrived. Jumping into the warm water was a great relief and Roel offered his short board for paddling around to warm ourselves.
After the weather calmed down a bit we headed for Dako Island, which from its name was the largest Island we were to visit. It was here that the rains and wind intensified, obscuring the view of the surrounding islands and effectively stranding us for the next 2 hours. During the stay here I felt much like a kid again – trying to resist the waves entering the shore, failing miserably and getting dragged into the ocean. Not for small children but good fun for larger kids and kids at heart! Unfortunately, I lost half of my pair of Vivo Barefoot sandals here. Tip for those few people who own a pair: they don’t float.
By the time we left for Guyam Island, we were already running late for the 2 PM ferry to Socorro (the jump off point for trips to Sohoton Cove). This was the only Island where I noticed rocky intertidal areas so it (may be) a good snorkeling site. We spent just a few minutes wading here and warming up before the trip back to GL.
Upon reaching the pier in Dapa we found out that due to the strong rains, the ferry had been delayed for 4 PM (100 Php). With the remaining time we walked around looking for snacks to bring to Socorro. I also had an unpleasant experience with one of the vendors selling cheap slippers. I bought one, it broke within 45 minutes, and the girl selling them almost refused to replace them (“kuya kung masira ulit ito hindi ko na papalitan ha”).
I had arranged for our Sohoton Cove tour (5490 Php for a boat good for 10 including all entrance and guide fees) with Dodo (09399047019), a Tourism Officer there and he arranged for our guide Racy (09102845908) to meet us in the pier and bring us to Anthony’s Seaside Guesthouse (1500 Php/night good for 5 pax). He briefed us on the activities for tomorrow and showed us where we could request for packed lunch for our trip.
After breakfast the following day, we took the 2 hour ride to Sohoton Cove with the boat passing by some of the resorts constructed into the numerous limestone islands and lagoons of Bucas Grande. The scenery, similar to Palawan and Caramoan, reminded me of how lucky we Filipinos are to have so many beautiful islands unmatched by anything I’ve seen outside the country.
It was still high tide when we arrived in the Tourism office near the entrance to Sohoton Cove so we had to visit other places while waiting for the low tide. Like the hidden lagoon in El Nido and the twin lagoons in Coron, Sohoton can only be accessed through a channel submerged at high tide.
We visited the Crystal Cave and Bolitas Cave first which was not managed by the Sohoton Tourism Office. Both caves share the same entrance but the Crystal Cave is much more accessible, with high ceilings and several stalactites and stalagmites encrusted by glittering crystals. The Bolitas Cave is a claustrophic’s nightmare, accessible by a tiny canal with barely enough space to crawl through. This continues for 20 meters where the cave opens up a bit (you can now sit upright!) and further along it finally allows spelunking to stretch out. Like it’s name States, there are several clumps of tiny round stones like Bolitas scattered on the cave floor. My tita refrained from this Cave as recommended by Luigi.
We then got on small paddle boats and headed for the stingless Jellyfish lagoon. I imagine this place to be more amazing during the Jellyfish blooms in summer but we didn’t have problems spotting the harmless jellies either. Surrounding the lagoon are limestone cliffs with several trees heavily populated by flying foxes – the largest bats, also frequently seen in Subic.
Finally, the tide had receded enough to allow access to Sohoton Cove! We changed boats again and passed through the channel, our boat almost scraping the stalactites as we squeezed through. The water was crystal clear, inviting us to jump in. The guides brought us to Hagukan Cave first, named for the distinct sound (snoring) it makes as the tide rises or lowers due to escaping air. Swimming inside the cave you are transported to a seemingly alternate dimension where light is refracted and casts an eerie green hue and bleaching people’s skin white. I would love to bring a DSLR here and just shoot the crap out of everything with this lighting. Unfortunately, my GoPro isn’t the best at taking photos under these conditions.
The second (and final) attraction was the Magkukuob Cave where you crawl and climb up stalagmites to higher ground and the only way down is by jumping off a short cliff. Tita was hesitant at first but she eventually took the plunge like we did. We explored just a bit of Sohoton Cove and I can’t help imagining what else this secluded place holds. I hope there would be more explorations in the area to continue adding other places of interest to their tour.
Back in Socorro, we weren’t able to visit the Kapihan View Park (zip line opened just this October 27) so we walked along the coast to look for a nice secluded part of the beach. This would have been a nice relaxed ending to our Siargao adventure but little did we know that something else was in store for us.
Our flight back to Cebu was the following morning at 1130 AM from Sayak Airport so we had to take the only morning ferry to Siargao at 6 AM. When we arrived at the port at 530 there was only one boat so we walked right onto it, took our seats and then grabbed a few minutes of sleep. I woke up 30 minutes later noticing the scenery which looked similar to the one we saw on our way to Sohoton Cove. Alarmed, I checked my GPS and saw we were indeed going on the same path we did yesterday. I immediately told Luigi and Tita and they asked the other passengers who confirmed where the boat was going: Surigao! (200 Php)
I made some quick calculations on how long it would take if we chartered a boat to take us back to Siargao from Surigao – it wasn’t impossible but very unlikely that we’d make the 1130 flight. I then checked the rates of chartered boats on blogs and then compared these to the cost of getting new flights from Surigao. When I found out that taking a flight would be the cheaper option I scrambled to find someone to book our flights. My phone was already fluctuating between 1 and 2 signal bars with the slowest Internet connection possible. At the last minute, my brother answered by messages and I was able to send our details right before the signal faded to blank. When the signal came back on I saw his email with our tickets attached. Thank God!
Apparently, one of our cousins was also living in Surigao and they hosted us for the couple of hours that we were there. I was getting a bit nervous when my tita and cousin were still talking 45 minutes before the flight. I didn’t want to miss another flight and waste more money unnecessarily but thankfully, they knew someone from the airport and we were checked in even before we arrived (with 30 minutes left till our flight). As a souvenir I decided to get a Surigao shirt at the airport, which more accurately encompasses the places we visited on this going-with-the-flow, playing-it-by-ear trip.