Three years. Since I last came in this group of islands I called my second home. Not really long, but I have promised to be back again. I have missed its tranquility and stillness. There are so many issues at the back of my mind that needs to be soothed by pure serenity, as if to disconnect. I randomly decided to be home once more.
Coming here is always a wet pursuit but I love the waters, its turquoise and emerald surroundings always gave me a warm welcome! Again, the hop was just brief but it was some kind of a retreat.
Towards the inner jellyfish lagoon
Floating on emerald waters…
So soft, so gentle…
This is my favorite spot and I always come here to visit my jelly friends. Last time there was none, it was fortunate they were around, although it was not yet in full season, but its good to see them again. Swimming, floating, pulsating on the emerald waters. 🙂 I can’t help being with them, but you need to be careful not to disturb them. Just float and swim without flinging one’s limbs – the proper way to interact with this invertebrate. So soft, so gentle – I simply love them! I scampered up the boat when Brandon (my boatman) begged me to come up when he noticed other guests are coming. Swimming with the jellyfish is not allowed anymore!
Caving in Sohoton
The two caves inside the cove are worth coming again but you must need to be comfortable in the waters. It was new moon when I got there, so the waters movement was quite slow and even if it was low tide, the waters are still up but the good thing is, current was almost non-existent. 🙂 If you have entered Hagukan before, you knew about the rock in the middle of the lagoon, where you could stand to rest from swimming. Well, it was too deep to stand on, it was floating and swimming all the way!
The entrance was to the brim! Above my head are fossilized sea shells.
Can you see the fruit bats?
Clear water inside the cave. Like a mirror?
Magkakakaub Cave is another challenging – rock climbing and that big splash to the Water! I came in here more than five times, in those instances I can walk inside without soaking my body but this time I was swimming inside. It was amazing how it could change with the moon’s movement!
Time was too short but I still managed to hop in Marka A Island, it was swimming and lazing in its small patch of white beach under the noon sun, in the end I took refuge under a cavern from the scorching heat while watching the horizon. Lastly, I went to Cinnamon Island (my home in my last visit) for my sumptuous lunch with Raffy and Director Bulabong (of DILG). I enjoyed the seafoods, the buko and the home-made biko! Dining al fresco watching the blue horizons was just perfect. 🙂
Nothing much has changed since I knew Bucas Grande in terms of Structures. Well, there are new Lodging Cottages and Huts, but still of indigenous materials. The park and its waters have maintained its cleanliness, mainly because the community manage it and everyone takes part in its preservation and protection! 🙂
Home It Is
The community always welcome me even how short the notice was – DA always arrange everything with no fuss. My boat has been waiting several hours before I arrive at Port Hayanggabon. Roldan, Raffy, Renan, Jun-jun, Brandon, Chelyn were just few who would be willing to sit for some leisure talk and dine with me even if they have other chores to do. Most importantly, I can laze around to all my heart’s content. The wide horizons, the orange sky, the cicadas, the roaring waves and the dark nights. Just immersing myself with simple things that give pure joy.
It was another drenching visit in my home, which was purely cathartic to me. And I will be back again, it’s a promise.
1. Vans going to Port Hayanggabon, Claver is available at Bad-as, Placer. Multi-cab/jeep also can be found at Surigao City bus terminal.
2. Last trip boat (public utility) from Port Hayanggabon to Socorro town is 4pm.
3. Consider the Moon cycle when visiting the islands, tide and current movements should not be taken for granted.
4. Lodgings with generator have electricity 6:00pm to 12:00 midnight only.
5. Cellphone signal which is not necessary actually, is almost non-existent!
6. When you visit Bucas Grande, please patronize the community-managed lodgings in Cinnamon Island, SIFAI, Green Cove and Titktikan Lagoon. Always arrange your visit to the island through the local tourism unit.
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!
One of those few things that I never grow tired of doing during summer is to be in Bucas Grande group, this secluded place is like home to me. The peaceful environment with its natural attractions has captured my heart and nagged me to savor its beauty even just once in a year.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to my paradise unexpectedly, it was unplanned although I knew I must go. So I seized the opportunity when my trip up north was postponed due to unfavorable weather. The adage was true that while the city is in typhoon, it doesn’t mean that in the distant islands it’s pouring rain, the sun was perfectly shining like summer!
My sister dropped everything back home when I invited her, although at short notice she simply gave in to my whim. Leaving Butuan almost 2pm, we arrived almost 4pm in Bad-as junction and was grateful that van for Port Hayanggabon was stationed leaving any minute. The afternoon sun gives a warm glow as we drove along the coastal towns of Placer, Bacuag, Gigaquit and Claver. We arrived at the port almost sundown, our boat waiting. Rushing to buy for needs, we left almost getting dark. The stars started to appear in the skies and some fireflies welcomed as we cruised for our night’s lodge. The boatman with trained eyes managed our boat single handedly until we reached at Tiktikan Lake almost 7pm. Somehow I still have gotten energy to climb up to the reception area even in dark with only a small torch to illumine our way.
Just as it is, everything so natural and unspoiled. There’s no electricity, but they got used to it already, the small kerosene lamp served as our light. The cicadas singing in the darkness, cutting the stillness of the night. We woke up the following morning watching the placid lake before us and the sunrise breaking behind the limestone cliffs.
Sohoton in a Day
We rushed to the information center for a courtesy hi with DH, somehow I’m grateful with all the necessary arrangements he made for my trip, even how short the notice was. So we started early taking advantage of the low tide, I wanted to revisit the hidden charms of my paradise. I always feel that familiar rush of blood flow when entering the cove, so mysterious it felt like I’m transported into another world. We went around and got first into Hagukan Cave, swam inside, stayed for awhile and mingle with other guests. We then proceed to the challenging Magkakaub Cave, walk inside, view the formations and the fruit bats up, then went rock climbing for the exit. Well, we got at the ramp ready for the plunge but alas I still have to gather much courage for the jump 😛 It’s my fourth time and yet my spirit needed some urging. It felt so free having the big leap, the big splash and the water rush felt so good! 🙂 Navigating around the cove watching limestone cliffs covered with greens, clear waters and blue skies is like paradise to me.
My most favorite spot here is the Jellyfish Lagoon (Tojoman Lake), I was ecstatic when DH told me it’s peak season of the jellies! When we entered the lagoon, all others were coming out so it was comforting it won’t be too crowded. And there I watched in awe, of my brown friends starting to float up in view. I swam around getting up close with them. My sister can’t believe it’s stingless. All of them in varied sizes, pulsating like talking to me, and swimming right there all around me. I stayed in the waters long to my heart’s content, swimming with my jelly friends. I still have wanted to linger more but my companions seemed tired already, so I finally went up the boat feeling sorry I have to leave.
After our late lunch and brief rest back at Tiktikan Lake, we cruised to La Fortuna to explore another inland lake there and hoping to get some fresh buko. We walked on a trail to the lake and have some swim there. When we got back, we swam on the white beach while waiting for our boat. I missed Spirit, it should have been fun playing with him in the waters. We cruised to another spot to buy some buko, it was a white beach too and while waiting I swam again with the waves pushing me ashore. 😛 We got back to the info center, catching up DH with some visitors. We savor the fresh buko lamaw while discussing latest updates in the park and the PO. We hastily finished up to see the spot where the new cottage owned by SAVE Sohoton was built. Actually, it’s a good improvement – a new economic activity of the PO. It sat in a cove with turquoise waters and white sands, a simple cottage of indigenous materials still with works on-going. It promises a wonderful spot for swimming, snorkeling or just lounging on the small patch of white beach. We rushed back at the info center and finally sailed to the guest house for night’s refuge, when it began to get dark.
Promise to be Back
The next morning, we woke up watching the placid waters from our window. How serene and beautiful, so peaceful and divine. I knew I never grow tired of coming to this place. I was too glad that it has maintained its unspoiled beauty, its people have well-preserved its environment. I was glad I didn’t see any litters, except few when we got to the lake which our guide defended coming from open waters brought by the tide. Sohoton folks have done great job in preserving this paradise.
Our boat left riding on the morning waves – my favorite haven getting obscure as we got farther. Still I promise myself to be back again, hoping its beauty will be same as I knew her. It’s about its serenity, the vast sea, limestone cliffs, crystal waters, elusive marine life, orange skies, starry nights, singing cicadas, placid lakes and my jelly friends. My place, my refuge, my paradise…
My sister and I planned for a summer trip to Sohoton Cove, we promised ourselves to once again relish the hidden splendor of this favorite spot alone. We shall be exploring a new route via Claver to get away with the long trip through General Luna to maximize our time. We wanted to see more of Sohoton’s other pride – the caves, lagoon, white beaches and islands. And we carefully scheduled it after the Holy Week, as we will spend the holy days at the farm – coming home – ou r tradition every year . But surprisingly, Angel asked to join us. I thought he would be joining the group tour we’re planning for our travel friends. I can’t find any valid reason to say no, I just thought it wont be too bad to have someone with me and Cherry in our private get-away trip.
So after a quiet and relaxing sojourn at the farm, I rushed back to M. Calo on Easter Sunday to prepare for the trip – few chores to do for the rest of the day. At lunchtime I called up Angel to check if he arrived already and gave him directions for M. Calo. We talked about our trip and left him in the sanctuary of his room for awhile for a good rest – he just came from his Jomalig voyage. Kay and I hastily went to the supermarket for our needs, then did the backyard garden until Susan called up. I joined them at Razon’s after I dropped at Gaisano Mall for Odessa’s request. It was kind of treat after Karin’s (my inaanak) high school graduation. They dropped me home a little past 7pm so I could catch up for the last evening mass (in English). Kay and Angel joined me to attend the mass.
We got back home by foot and run for few things and suggested to Angel to further explore Butuan by night. We went to my fave café – Margie’s Kitchen – one of city’s pride. 🙂 I was thrilled to let him try our much loved cookie monster and food for the gods! It wasn’t a mistake we went there – he love Margie’s and was sorry we have to leave before it closed at 1am.
We woke up early as agreed as we need to leave at 5am, we need to catch up an early bus for Surigao City. The bus finally left at 6am and it went smooth until we got our breakfast stop at Kitcharao. We dropped off upon reaching Bad-as to get another transpo for Claver. It would be something new as I haven’t tried this route, we waited for awhile for a bus to Tandag until the man I talked to suggested we took the jeepney bound for Carmen, Surigao Sur. Our contact kept on texting and finally reached me when we were in Gigaquit. We had a stop though at Parang where there were fresh melons on sale. We finally arrived at the stop for Hayanggabon Port, Dodo waiting for us.
We took the boat for the Sohoton cruise which was about thirty minutes, fortunately we were blessed with a very good weather. We were transported to our lodgings in the lagoon to deposit our stuff, it was about lunch time. We took our baon and leisurely had our lunch at the dining hall overlooking the calm waters – so beautiful! Angel, Cherry and I enjoyed our lunch talking amidst the serenity of the lagoon – and I was lost in thoughts on our adventures for the rest of the day.
We didn’t want to waste our time so after putting things in order, we got to the boat and left for the Sohoton cove to start off. It was sure on low tide and again as we got into the entrance and maneuvered through it, I had that familiar feeling of being transported into another place – so mysterious. We toured around and swam into Hagukan Cave to view the rock formations and swam in its clear waters. We waded inside the Magkakaub Cave, viewed its unique stalactites & stalagmites, rock climbed on it’s wall towards the exit for the big jump. We lined up, Angel first but he wanted me to go ahead, but in the end he jumped! 🙂 Then Cherry with wobbling legs came next, then finally me but again I gathered enough courage to do so (after having done twice)… We lingered for a moment snorkeling in the clear waters, there wasn’t much fish life though.
We went next to La Fortuna Beach – a secluded white beach north of Sohoton with beach huts. It was such a great spot to just laze around, we played with Spirit – a lovable spitz who stayed and put up with our antics. We throw him into the waters and impressed by his swimming prowess! 🙂 Angel and I snorkeled viewing the wonderful and beautiful corals – the area was filled with colorful hard corals in all sizes. We lingered longer at the spot and while waiting for the boat, we took our baon (bread, bananas) when we got famished a bit. And when it almost got dark, we got into the boat and sailed back into the park’s reception area. We talked with Dodo about the park, their needs and the PO’s activities. We discussed about sustainability, preservation and protection of the coastal resources – while waiting for our dinner. And it finally came, we were so famished already but it was such romantic because they don’t have electricity – so we’re having dinner in kerosene lamp! 🙂
I was asking Dodo if we could go to the posh Club Tara – to inquire about their diving (there’s no other available diveshop in the area) and of course to see the place. The boat took us – we ended up boating in the dark night. What about boating with the fireflies around? It was simply majestic! We were ushered when we got to the resort, they have security protocols – we need to have IDs before getting into the premises. It was an exclusive and luxurious place. And we were aghast that it will cost $80 per site to dive with them, and the DM warned us that there isn’t much fish life – only corals, wonderful as it is. He was asking about our previous destinations, feeling sorry that we would only be disappointed as the fishes around the area are juveniles. After some pleasantries we bid our byes with them. We sailed back to the park with the moon shining – glorious! 🙂 Finally we were brought to the guest house – it has been a long day… We took turns at the bath, Angel inside the room while Cherry and I went upstairs for another room. We finally got unto our bed. You can hear the cicadas in the silence of the night. It was dark…
I was up early and after my prayers got out side to take early morning photos in the lagoon, it was down cast and started to rain. We packed our things as it was getting late already with our schedule, the rain wasn’t stopping after all. We took our boat and went to the reception area for our breakfast. We discussed again with Dodo about Sohoton’s needs. I told him the spots we have planned for the day.
Our first adventure is exploring the Tojoman Lake – lagoon filled with friendly stingless jellyfish. We were early so the lake was all to ourselves. We got down to swim and snorkel, playing with the brownish jelly fish – in different sizes – thousands & thousands of them! Angel was just too excited swimming with them. I swim with them looking at them closely – they’re pulsating as if breathing or maybe shouting! 🙂 The boatman motioned for our return but I still wanted to stay, Angel gave me another 15 minutes… Swimming with the jellyfish is my favorite in Sohoton!
When we returned at the reception area, we got into the pumpboat with Dodo for Tiktikan Lake. Fortunately the rain had stopped, and we enjoyed our boating at the lake viewing the old mangroves and the elusive resident mother bangus. They have huts and a coop store maintained by the PO. We trekked the trail up and down and get back into our boat, we need to get away with the low tide or we will get stuck in the lagoon. We got next to Bolitas Cave and Crystal Cave – I have been wanting to explore these caves long before. We got first to Crystal – viewing the white rock formations that sparkles, with lighted candles it’s even more sparkling. Now getting into Bolitas is more challenging, it had a small entrance and so you got to lie flat and maneuver your body to get through. I need to be careful or I could get scratches and bruises from the sharp stones, it was bit difficult but we all made it. We lighted our candles again, and went through – white round pebbles abound inside – it’s a wonder how it got there. Then a balinsasayaw keeps on flying darting back and again, our guide tried to catch one and Angel took some photos of the illustrious bird that emits saliva for their nest for a very expensive bird’s nest soup at Chinese restos. The guide told us that the other end of the cave is another barangay with the mangrove plantation – it will take about 2 hours to go through the whole stretch – maybe next time we can do it, I thought. We went out and going through again the small entrance was a test of patience, agility and strength. All of us were laughing as we tried our way out – I felt so dirty when I finally got out. I quickly washed myself in the lake waters.
We got into the boat again and Dodo led us to Lim-ao Island where another secluded white beach welcomed us. I needed to swim to wash off all the dirt. The waters were bit choppy but we went to snorkel again and viewed the colorful corals in different sizes. We lazed in the white beach, swam and snorkeled, and finally got into the boat when we felt pangs of hunger. We took our leisure lunch at the reception area and got back into the guest house for a quick bath. Again, we were at the reception area to bid byes to the staff and of course to settle our bills! 🙂
We cruised for Hayanggabon Port with Dodo and Reggie beaming and grateful for the wonderful time at the cove. When we got to the port, we waited almost an hour for the bus to Surigao. We decided to go down the city so Angel could catch glimpse around. I called up Gay who promised to pick us up at the terminal. As Gay didn’t know of any coffee shop in town, we went to the Tavern Hotel instead, to have our dinner there. We talked and talked – you know Gay! 🙂 We had a leisure walk at the Boulevard to get the Surigao City by night experience, before we finally left for the bus terminal. We boarded the 10pm last trip bus for Butuan feeling so tired.
We arrived home past 1am already, thankful for a safe trip. It was good to have Angel with us, he wasn’t an intrusion after all – he put up with Kay’s & my chatter, shrieks, loud laughter and silence as well. We have shared much during the two-day trip, we had a great time and promised to be back again. There’s still so much to explore at Sohoton…