Green for Summer!


There is one destination that awakens one’s awareness for nature, this remote place has been my refuge for quite a number of times. It’s emerald green waters and green environs renew and restore my being in a deeper way, for me it is a sanctuary away from the stresses of modern living. A perfect solace…

Last year, I was fortunate to visit this home (away from home) twice and it was pure joy! Bucas Grande Group is my kind of haven. A water person will always seek its freshness and wonder – wide horizon, smell of salt water, gentle breeze and roaring waves that lulled me to sleep. Seaside emerald waters restlessly wash ashore, orange skies at the end of the day, and the cicadas in the night are quite balmy!

I long for summer in Bucas Grande where everything is crisp, green and ever refreshing. Its wonders even more enticing. Yes, Bucas Grande is for summer!

Snorkeling Wonders

Sea turtles are a common sight in Apo Island!

Indeed, the Philippine waters for me is the best snorkeling arena. It holds never ending possibilities for water adventures. As an archipelago, it has long list of remarkable destination for snorkeling not to mention diving, from coast to coast and from one island to another. Just like diving I can do it whole year round without waiting for specific season, the waters just waiting to be explored. The first half of the year gave me opportunities to discover and rediscover marvelous realms allowing my body to float, relax and wonder in nature’s wild in the depths. And yes, the great depths will never exhaust its mystery, infinite as ever and it could only stir up one’s curiosity. My snorkeling expedition in the past months had fanned my increasing love and passion for the blue world.

Donsol for Whalesharks
Location: Donsol, Sorsogon

The quest for Donsol was finally realized in March, the long wait was compensated with wonderful sightings. It is however, an advance open water snorkeling – that’s how I described the rigidity of finding these gentle giants. It requires agility and speed, sharp eyes is also a must. I think the slow and inattentive would never see one, in a blink of an eye they were gone. Again, only the focus mind will experience the magic.

The first whaleshark we encountered in Donsol was this big. Such adrenaline rush!

Donsol indeed is gifted by nature with rich waters that it maintained its breeding grounds for the largest fish. This once sleepy town suddenly become a flourishing destination and sought out by many, local or foreign.

Jellyfish Lagoon
Location: Bucas Grande Group, Surigao Norte

I went for a quick visit in Bucas Grande group in April to savor its homey environs and I was blessed to catch up the stingless jellyfish in Tojoman Lagoon. Although not yet in full season, their presence have warmed my heart, and added joy in my homecoming. I swam with them again silently, just floating side by side and watch them pulsating. I was wondering if ever they saw me, because they were never disturbed of my presence. My jelly friends were always there to welcome and swim with me. P1050180 Snorkeling in the emerald waters in the lagoon always highlighted my trip to the islands.

Apo Island
Location: Dauin, Negros Oriental

Perhaps, there is no other richer marine sanctuary I visited than Apo island, its shallow waters was teeming with marine life I can only find in the depths of other sites. We were lackadaisical in our dive plans in Dumaguete, we just trusted the diveshop so we left everything to them, our June dive trip was pure bliss! And it was a blessing again our dives were in Apo island, I remembered the rich encounters we had five years ago! So I had the opportunity to snorkel and explore its shores during our surface interval. It was much longer as we expected, our lunch break was more relishing after my wonderful sightings.

The lovable sea turtle never cease to amaze me!

I got down from our dive boat, wade in the waters and swam in the sanctuary, allowing my body to float freely in the shallows.  It wasn’t long before I found many sea cucumbers scattered around in different species, size and color. Then beyond were two turtles, rummaging the corals around, eating moss and occasionally swam up for air. Such a beautiful sight! Perhaps I don’t look threatening, they were never disturbed of my presence as I watched them silently. I sighted banded sea snake also.  I can’t get enough of gliding through the waters and marveling at the corals, colorful fish and plants. There are over 650 species of fish and 400 different species of coral in the protected waters around Apo Island, which is why the island is such a popular dive spot – even included in the 100 best diving sites in the world.

Yes, it happened from north to south through the islands – in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao! Have you gone to these sites? If you do, bring your mask & snorkel next time and discover how rich the waters right here in the Philippines arena!

NB.  Photo of whale shark in Donsol is courtesy of Angel 🙂

Snorkeling at its Best

Jellyfish Lagoon

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.

Wreck as reefs

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.

Rich fish life in marine sanctuary

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.

Blue river!

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!

Rich fish life in Shimizu!

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!

Stingless jellyfish!

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!

Sohoton Again!

Entrance to another world…

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.

Deep blue waters, green islets, blue skies!

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.

Afternoon Adventures

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.

White beach all to ourselves!

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…

New Adventures!

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.

Waiting boat…

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.

The placid Tiktikan lake…

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!  🙂

Noon fishers on our way…

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…