June 26, 2011
Due to insistent public demand (well, more like from friends haha) I’ll skip the first day of my trip to Surigao in favor of this entry. Friends want to know the details as soon as possible so here it is! Read away guys ;)
Destination: Bucas Grande Island, Surigao del Norte
We got up early because our next stop wasn’t exactly near. My friend Sam wanted to come along for this trip for the sole purpose of being able to swim alongside stingless jellyfish. I’ve heard of them but don’t really know much. It turns out that they’re found only in few places in this world, the most famous of which is in Palau. I only know of one person who has been there and i know a lot of people who travel!
Bucas Grande Island is part of the much larger Sohoton National Park. To get there, we rode a tricycle and told the driver to drop us off at the city’s integrated terminal. There, buses, shuttle vans and jeepneys plying to different destinations can be found. We got on a shuttle bound for Claver, Surigao del Norte (100php) and waited for few more passengers. We left after 20minutes eventhough it was yet to be filled with passengers (14pax maximum). We bought some water and snacks first. After an hour and a half of land travel, we reached the small town of Claver. I told them that from what I’ve read, there would be no eateries in our destination so I was quite adamant that we have something heavy for breakfast coz we don’t know when our next meal would be. There were some eateries in Claver’s terminal so we had our breakfast there. Next, we got on a tricycle (25php) and told the driver to bring us to Baranggay Hayangabon where we’ll hire a pumpboat (lantsa) to take us to Bucas Grande Island.
It’s the first time that I saw a mining town and a sad sight it was indeed. Everywhere in Mindanao, lush forests abound. I was enjoying the view of the sea on my left whenI first noticed the red dust on the road. On some parts, they had to put water so that it wouldn’t be as dusty but i became a bit muddy. As I looked at the mountains on my right, it’s bare and red. And there were huge machines digging up the mountain. :(
Our driver dropped us off at the port (pantalan). The men offered their boat for 2000php roundtrip. I saw a tourism center building by the main road so I told my companions that I want to check it out. They might have some useful infos for us. Inside though, it was more like a small store and the information they gave me, I already know. They did let us change our clothes and use the toilet for free. ;) I asked them why they let a mining company mine their land (the town has huge deposit of nickel, one of the largest in the world), the elderly man answered me by simply saying, we have nothing else to live by. I wanted to contradict, tell him of the harmful effects of it but would it change the way things are? This is why I think tourism is vital to our country. *sigh*
We went back to port and agreed with the said amount. but we weren’t too keen on going back to Claver nor Surigao City. We’d rather spend it in Bucas Grande or Siargao Island, surf’s up! :D It took less than an hour (probably 40minutes) for us to reach Bucas Grande. Along the way, we even saw a huge yellowfin tuna jump out of the water. Totally woke me up! Then, it was the islands in front of me that got my attention. More like islets clumped together. El Nido’s lagoons came to mind. And then we saw one orange jellyfish! Got us all going again! :D Before we went there, there’s a wooden structure built, the reception area, wherein guests would have to register and pay the necessary fees before being allowed to explore the area. I told the lady manning it if it’s possible to swim with the jellies first, she said yes but gently reminded me that Sohoton Cove is accessible only during low tide so we have to check it out first before the other.
- Mandatory Fees
- Entrance Fee – 25php/pax
- Environmental Fee – 25php/pax
- Docking Fee – 100php
- Boat – 500php
- Tourguide /s- 330php
You can also rent out a life jacket (30php) and snorkel gear (100php).
Once that was done, we transferred on another, definitely smaller, boat. The one we arrived in won’t get through the cove’s only entrance, a cave which is accessible only on low tides. I liked the place! Islets abound! And we wove through them. It wasn’t lacking in beauty though. Colorful corals and its waters were crystal clear you can see almost all the way down! Our guide pointed out some ironwood trees, the hardest tree you can find. Cool! hehe We went to some caves filled with stalactites (Snoring Cave) and then we made another stop at Diving Cave. Diving coz inside the cave is an upward path that leads you outside the islet to a man made platform wherein you can dive. Cliff diving anyone? ;) I was so excited to have another go at it that I actually volunteered to go first! Did I say that the place was beautiful? :D Green mountains all around and the water was so clear I can see all the way down, down, down. Uh oh! I couldn’t make myself do it! I have no problem submerging myself there but to initiate the jump! *gulps* Safety wise, our three guides were waiting for me and I even told them I want one life jacket in the water! haha But still… I told Abby if she could please jump first. hehehe No, she said. After what seemed like ages, but was technically just 5minutes from the time our guide jumped to when we decided who should go first to me volunteering, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and (with great trepidation and shaking knees, they told me I was turning white and I’m so tanned lately at that! haha) I jumped off! It was several seconds before I was in the water (or so it felt) and I was on my way up when I felt our guide’s strong grip trying to help me out of the water. I needed more help convincing myself to jump. ;) It felt sooo good afterwards! Yay! I heard Abby shout from above. “Cathy, are you alright?” I told her I was good and I’m alright. It was her first time to cliff dive and I wanted to reassure her. And she was in the water in a snap. Great job! When it was Sam’s turn (she did some cliff dive before too), she also hesitated. Whew! It wasn’t just me then! :D We would have stayed longer but our guide reminded us of the jellyfish and that we have to get back before the tide gets high or we’ll be stuck there. The only problem we encountered was the lack of snorkel gear being rented out. There were only 2 groups ahead of us and they ran out of snorkels for rent for us. We made do with only 2. I should have brought mine. We went back to the reception area to wait for our turn with the jellies. :D
To get to the jellies, we had to ride a paddle boat. Manned by one paddler and can sit up to two visitors. BUT as I’ve said, they’re not used to visitors so when it was our turn, no paddle boat was available. They solved this by making us use the boat we were on in the cove. Headed towards the cove’s opposite direction it was less than 10minutes and we’re there, Tojomon Lagoon, home of the Philippine’s own non sting jellyfish! It is easy to imagine why there was no need for their sting. The place looked so calm and as we were told, there were no predators out to get the jellies so there was no need for them to develop sting/venom unlike their counterparts out in the open. From further readings, it can be gathered that these jellies have a life span of about four months and as such, their population peaks during summer months (March-June). They’re descibed as having brown color but looked more like orange to me. hehe Aside from the “orange” jellies that can be smaller than your closed fist or as big as a plate, there are also bigger white jellies in the area (blue according to our guide but to be more accurate, it’s transparent with some blue markings on them). They are fewer though and are more likely to be found deeper in the waters. The sight above water was eye catching but our eyes were glued to the water, on the look out for them, orange and white jellies. Upon the lagoon’s entrance, we saw a few and then there were more and more of them until suddenly, you’re in the middle of a lagoon surrounded by orange jellies! It’s understandable how we were hesitant to touch them. So many past encounters of swimming by the beach/sea and getting stung taught us as much. To give us courage, our guide scooped one out of the water for us to touch. Waaah! haha I was sitting on the boat’s floor just staring at the view below me. Enthralled. I decided to put my hand in the water. I wanted to touch their head. Just a very light touch at first. It was sooo soft! It didn’t hurt. Non sting, yes! I had to check it out first before jumping in the water. ;) Unfortunately, I have no underwater cam but a friend of mine brought hers so I hope she took lots of shots underwater. I think I’d be too busy enjoying myself to take one even if I have one. hehe Above water, we were surrounded but it didn’t look THAT much but looking below the surface, I was blown away! Imagine crystal clear waters filled with these gentle, lovely creatures everywhere you turn! I had to remind myself to not move too suddenly as they seemed fragile, I saw tentacles floating around. Did I cause it??? Oh no!!! Or was it from the boat’s propellers? I got a lot of teasing from my companions when I told them about it. That’s probably the reason why they paddle to get to the lagoon. The only other experience that gave the same feeling was when I swam alongside whalesharks (butandings). But with the whalesharks, it was very quick & fast with the jellies, it was chill. I was in the water until my fingertips were getting wrinkly. I didn’t want to get out of there. hehe
As I’m writing this, I can’t help but feel excited again! It was such a wonderful find! I only hope that to those who read this and is planning on going there themselves too, guys, please please practice responsible tourism. Do not throw your trash just anywhere especially in the sea. Some marine creatures mistake them for food, eat them and choke on it. No to vandalism. Avoid stepping on corals as it takes a year for it to grow just 1mm! Basically, just remember this:
TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES. LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS. KILL NOTHING BUT TIME.
That being said, hope you can all visit this wonderful place. :D
PS: If you’ll read from other sites, the other visitors usually took the Siargao route. That would be feasible but as we only have three days, I do not want to backtrack on any of our route to maximize our time. If you’re already in Dapa, Siargao, it’s best to start there but if you’re coming from Surigao City, just like us, it would be wiser to take the route we took. Siargao is 3hours by RoRo from Surigao and it’s another 3hours of travel to get to Bucas Grande’s Sohoton Cove. While you can travel by 2hours to Claver and 40minutes by boat to get to Sohoton. :)
Some high resolution pictures from my travel companion, Chockie. :)