Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao Sur is one wonder of nature that have captivated my curiosity. Beautiful and mysterious – there is something beyond that blue waters. The increasing “load” of the river due to influx of tourists and visitors have endangered its delicate state. I hope that the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Hinatuan will seriously consider the recommendations from this report. This gift of nature will surely become “a victim of its own success” if no concrete sustainability plan is in place. Kudos to Filipino Cave Divers!
The following is my official report to the Municipality of Hinatuan on Enchanted River Underwater Cave Expedition V (August 18-19, 2013):
HINATUAN ENCHANTED RIVER UNDERWATER CAVE EXPEDITION V
A Report by Alfonso Y. Amores, MD
In June of 2012, Expedition III was stopped dead on its track by a then unexplained blockage of the cave entrance by a pile of limestone. It now appears that this was caused by a cave-in based on further interview of the Enchanted River maintenance crew. Furthermore, review of our video footage of Expedition IV (June 20-21, 2013) reveals irregularities and cavitation of the cave ceiling right in the vicinity of the cave entrance and the forward half of Mayor’s Chamber. This expedition is intended to explore this particular area and document the possible cave in site. Additionally, a brainstorming with Mayor…
Being a water person, diving and snorkeling most often is my agenda in trips and being around in search for interesting sites, I can name five which I recommend worthy to explore. Although my hunt is still on-going I’m pretty sure there are still sites to discover around the country. I have snorkeled in these spots, and I wasn’t disappointed. Aside of the rich marine life and idyllic setting, all these spots are off beaten. So getting there is in itself challenging making the journey more enthralling, or would I say truly enchanting.
5. Lusong Gunboat. Located in Coron Bay in Lusong Island, this shallow wreck is one of the large concentration of WW II wrecks in the area. Lying from the surface about 10 meters, the wreck is very visible and watching the varied colorful marine life surrounding the area is wonderful. Most wrecks are too deep for snorkel, so having one this shallow is too interesting for non-divers.
4. Marine Sanctuary, Balicasag Island. Off the captivating Panglao Island in Bohol, it’s an eco-tourism destination and maintained by Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), it’s a marine life sanctuary. PTA and Philippine Navy jointly promote the island for underwater sports and as model for environmental and ecological preservation. It’s about 45 minutes by pumpboat from Alona Beach. It’s ideal for snorkeling, docking at fish sanctuary, feeding fish is wonderful as fish go near you up close, viewing deep down under with corals, sponges, star fishes, colorful fishes amidst deep blue waters is so breathtaking! I always believe that there’s much beauty deep down, more than what we see in the dry lands.
3. Enchanted River. This blue river is situated in Hinatuan, Surigao Sur and going there is such a long trip. But just watching the refreshing blue waters is truly enchanting. The marine life consists of snappers, sweet lips and rabbit fish – viewing them through your goggles or mask surrounded by its blue waters can be too mesmerizing, wondering such specie thrive in a river. They have grown in size and number and have claimed the blue waters as their home. Feeding them is an added attraction, at 12:00 noon as if they have clocks, they all float-up for their feeds. Wonderful sight!
2. Shimizu Island. One of the captivating islets we hopped on in El Nido, its just one of those idyllic islands with pristine white beach with a backdrop of limestone cliffs. Just stepping into the shallow waters, you can already catch glimpse of large herd of tropical fish swarming the waters. Shallow as one meter- sergeants, wrasses, damsels and other tropical species come near, so near your hand as you feed them. I have never such encounter with fishes so tame, they are all around swimming in swarm. So lovely!
1. Tojoman Lagoon. A hidden paradise! Nothing could be more wonderful than swimming with the stingless jellyfish not just in tens but millions of them. Those brown jellies in varied sizes swimming and pulsating, so near you. So incredible indeed! So friendly, one can touch. swim and play with these slimy brown creatures.. So serene, so beautiful. The lagoon is secretly tucked in Bucas Grande islands in Surigao Norte, comparable if not at par with Jellyfish Lagoon in Palau.
The above sites are truly worthy for a visit, so give in to your adventurous spirit and have a wonderful aqua trip. Don’t forget your mask, snorkel and sunscreen, its real hot out there!
Few months back, I went south in the Caraga region to experience nature’s wonders in this remote corner in Mindanao. The trip actually was like shooting several birds with one stone – while on an official meeting, I visited three amazing spots. Although I was reminding myself that we have work to do and it must be first things first – I was thrilled, I have wanted to visit these spots long time ago!
Surigao del Sur although still rustic in setting and often times with threatened peace and order situation has amazing wonders tucked in the rural areas. It is dotted with islands and idyllic white beaches, has great marine life, endowed with rivers, falls and lakes. The province is actually a remarkable destination for nature lovers, most of which are unspoiled and mysterious.
I have never seen a blue river before – just this one and that’s a real wonder. It’s a remote place and the trip is long, it lies in Barangay Talisay in Hinatuan, one of the coastal towns in Surigao Sur. Getting into the spot felt like you’re transported into another world in a different dimension, it’s a surreal experience. Although the spot is now developed to cater tourist & visitors, the river is maintained in its original form.
The bluish water is caused by the white pavement stone formation slanting towards the bed just like a wall. Since it is white, the blue sky reflected just like what we see on white beaches with blue waters. It’s about 30 feet deep, the water is salty and marine life exists. There were sweetlips, snappers and rabbitfish which actually thrive in sea water! This river is connected underneath with the sea, in fact there is a cave on its head believed to be direct to the deeps. A nature’s wonder indeed!
Although diving is not allowed, a group of certified cave divers were granted to do exploratory dive, but it was too deep before they could reach its end – it was a bottomless pit! The cold blue water is great for swimming, and with active fish life it is also great for snorkeling.
The trip to Bislig City was also long, going through rough roads and getting into the forest – mountains, lush vegetations and hectares of untilled lands will meet you as you go your way. From the entrance, in between is a wide clearing
perhaps by nature is for people to watch its great splendor, a three-tiered falls dubbed as Little Niagara due to its wide span of cascading waters. It was too wonderful to behold from afar, like I was engulfed in such majesty!
It was so natural, with cool fresh air and green backdrop. Going to the topmost is allowed and you can wade in the waters in every tier or get a body massage from the gushing waters – feels so good. At the ground pool, by means of raft one can get nearer the falls but the water is too rough for swimming, but the sound of fierce fall of waters is too reviving. Discovering this magnificent falls is worth the trip!
This group of islands has been in my list to visit, it was pure blessing since our lodgings was in San Agustin town so we had good access to the islands. It has a total of 24 islets – all uninhabited, but only five are commonly visited by
tourists. These islets belong to Barangay Britania, a coastal community which maintained two marine sanctuaries. The municipality of San Agustin is a partner for MRDP projects and a GEF site, a municipality active in preservation and protection of marine resources.
Although we were advised by the boatman to have an early cruise for the high tide, we left for the islands past twelve noon under the hot blazing sun! But it was all perfect – all the three islets we hopped were with white pristine beach – Hagonoy, Naked and Buslon islands. As it was during weekdays, the islands were all to ourselves – we swam and frolic to all our hearts content. It was pure nature fun under the sun, surrounded with cool blue waters while watching the nearby islets. So serene, so beautiful, so wonderful!
How to get to San Agustin:
CdO to Butuan – Aircon bus at P 337.00
Butuan to San Francisco, Agusan del Sur – Aircon bus at P 142.00
San Francisco to Brgy. Britania, San Agustin – Non aircon bus at P 72.00 or P 80.00 by van
Blue river? I was intrigued when I first heard of it, rivers may have clear waters or worse murky, but never blue. But this river is indeed blue! Couple of weeks ago, I visited this best-kept secret in Hinatuan, a coastal town in Surigao Sur. It was almost two hours from San Agustin, and as we go through the spot with those trees and vines, it felt like I’m transported into another world. It gave me a sense of being in a city somewhere in another dimension.
The blue waters seems to beacon one – to just jump into the river, but how mysterious! I watched in awe – so pure, so natural, hidden in this remote corner in Mindanao. It was heard there were groups who tried to dive its depths. Indeed, they posted on the info board a report of technical and cave specialty divers who went down to explore the depths of the river. How magnificent, but unfortunately there were no details but merely brief introduction of the expedition. 😦 It looked so creepy at the river head, the dark corner mysteriously hiding is a cave underneath!
I was still cracking my head why it is blue, when my companions were waving at me to come into the waters. Descending from the concrete steps into the shallow waters, it seemed I was overwhelmed of the wonderful sight before me. And once in the cold waters, there was that familiar urge to see what’s beyond, the rush to just dive in to the depths. Yes, lo and behold! A white pavement-like on its side down to the bed on a slope, with a depth of about 30 feet – that’s what made the water so blue! 🙂 The slope is formed like a cone with about two feet wide clearing on its bottom.
With visibility of about 50-60 feet, the waters was so clear and with those oversized sweetlips and rabbitfish swimming coyly, it was a wonderful sight! Sea species claimed its abode in the river, yet the waters is brackish – such another mystery! The waters is connected in the deep blue sea underneath, it is part of the sea camouflaging as river. I stayed longer just floating and swam nearer into that mysterious dark corner at the river head. Someday, somehow I wish I could penetrate its mysterious depths….
One day, I promise a return in this baffling, enchanted river in Hinatuan.
Hinatuan is about 1.5 hours from San Agustin and 1.5 hours from Bislig City, this coastal town in Surigao del Sur can be reached by bus from San Francisco, Agusan del Sur.
My route: Cagayan de Oro – Butuan (by aircon bus – 4 hours)
Butuan to San Agustin via Los Arcos, Bayugan (by private vehicle – 2.5 hours)
San Agustin to Hinatuan (by private vehicle – 1.5 hours)