Sohoton Cove and Non Sting Jellyfish!

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.

Buying some snacks

Van bound for Hayangabon

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. :(

The mined mountains seen from afar

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*

Our ride at Claver's Brgy. Hayangabon port

The water polluted by the mining operation

Fishing :)

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
  1. Entrance Fee – 25php/pax
  2. Environmental Fee – 25php/pax
  3. Docking Fee – 100php
  • Boat – 500php
  • Tourguide /s- 330php

You can also rent out a life jacket (30php) and snorkel gear (100php).

Welcome to Enchanted Sohoton! :D

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

On our way to the cove :D

Ironwood trees, hardest trees!

In the cove. :)

Who's gonna jump first???

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

Non sting jellyfish abound in Tojomon Lagoon!

So gentle!

A white non sting jellyfish! Cool!

Swimming with the non sting jellies! :D

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. :)

Up ahead, Bucas Grande Island!

They don't sting. They even attract small fishes! :D

In the water with hundreds and hundreds of them!

 

Related Post:

Rushing Surigao

  1. Great post, Catherine! I love it! :)

  2. Envious! Always wanted to swim with em Siargao jellies. Awesome post =)

    • Thanks Ed! Technically, they’re Surigao jellies as Siargao and Bucas Grande are two different island in the province of Surigao del Norte. ;)

  3. Very lovely, Cat. But the boat going there is 2000? I usually travel alone. That’s too much for me :((

    • It’s 1500php one way. We wanted to wait for other tourists to share the burden of the cost but that would be extending our luck since hardly anyone goes there. It’d probably best to look for joiners first before heading there.

  4. So uhm, scary and exciting! Oh would love to do this… but another Mindanao visit seems far-fetched for now :(

    • Scary, yes. But that’s understandable. Exciting, for sure! Awww. As soon as you’re back, make a beeline for Bucas Grande then ;)

  5. hi catherine! thanks for sharing your story complete with instructions on how to get there! so many places to explore in our country! I should make the most of my trips! really happy you posted this! :D

    • Hi Ed! I’m happy that lots are finding this post helpful. As few blogs are out there (I was able to read just 3) discussing this, thought it necessary to write one asap for this. Friends want to know the D-E-T-A-I-L-S! Yes, our country is plain gorgeous! ;)

  6. I am far, far away from this place, but it looks outstanding… and I do like the spirit of your quest, and the way you share it :)

    Many thanks for teasing future travelers such as me, and sharing all this!!

  7. Hey Catherine, I did not know that non sting jellyfish existed. It seems very scary at first but look at that lovely color. They are like little aliens. Nakaka-aliw!

  8. Hi Catherine. Thanks for sharing this very comprehensive post about one of the attractions of our island town. Nice to hear that Bucas Grande Island has been incorporated into the travel wish list of my fellow travel bloggers. We have been dreaming that our island can be recognized as an ecotourism destination separate and distinct from that of the surfing area in Siargao Island.

    • I liked Bucas Grande more than Siargao. ;)

        • Seraphim
        • May 23rd, 2014

        Hi! This was a helpful post. Now I’m really excited! At first I felt down when the Surigao plan doesn’t involve Siargao but this. Now I’m very much excited for the overnight there!

      • Let me know how you’re trip goes! Have fun!!!

  9. Hey Cath!
    I’m glad you had a great time in Surigao… :)
    I agree with you about the mining in Hinatuan…so depressing. :(

    • nick
    • June 29th, 2011

    pheeew managed to get to the end of another long post. good writing Cat.

  10. WoW! Great post and we can see that you really did enjoy your time swimming with the jellies. I’m so inggit. Hope I can swim with the jellies too *crossing fingers*. Thanks for sharing

    • Salamat! Better visit during summer months to make sure you’ll swim with millions (?) of them! :D

  11. Thanks for sharing such useful and enthralling travelogue. My hubby and I are scheduled to go there in 5 hours. I was having my doubts but after I read your post, I finally decided to really do it.:-)

    • Hi! Really? Great! I was there just last weekend so I’m sure there would still be non sting jellies for you and your hubby. Have a great trip ahead! Keep safe!

  12. that was indeed an exciting experience! i’d love to try this too! sayang i missed my surigao trip. i was supposed to be there on the 25th like you guys. hopefully next year tuloy na! thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi Catherine, those are some nice non-sting jellyfish photographs :D We have that kind of jellyfish in Indonesia, in Kalimantan area. Anyway I haven’t got any chance to go to Kalimantan. But I’ll be there at Phlis on September. How is the weather in Mindanao island? Is it rainy/good enough to swim along with these jellyfishes? Love them!!

    • Mindanao Island is rarely visited by typhoon though it doesn’t mean it’s always bright and sunny there. Check the weather. ;)

  14. I would love to visit soon at sana may time talaga. thank u for sharing this information. il be needing it over the weekend. bookmarked it!

    • pirnandu piris
    • August 15th, 2011

    great place

    • elle86
    • September 28th, 2011

    hi there :) loved reading your posts, me and my family are going to SUrigao this weekend :) I was searching for some posts online about Bucas Grande and found only few. Good thing I bumped into your blog it is very informative ( Thanks so much for this ) and made me changed my mind from taking the Surigao- Siargao- Hinatuan route, I never knew Bucas Grande is more accessible in Surigao and a way cheaper i think if you have a private car.

    By the way, is there a parking area around Hayangabon port where we can leave our car? Or should we take the van, like you guys did? I am a bit confused on this since it’s our first time to visit the place.

    • Hi! Thank you for reading my blog! :D

      Will you guys be going on a daytrip? I’m not sure if other people left behind their cars by the port. It’s probably safe to do so (leave the car). Also, since I’m not sure as to what time the vans will be plying the road. Aside from the port, I think you can park the car by the “tourism center” just by the road. :)

    • elle86
    • September 28th, 2011

    We’re planning to go on a daytrip. What’s the best time to tour around Bucas Grande? Is it safe to park the car in the tourism center? Your answers will really be a great help :)

    • We left Surigao City around 4:30ish in the morning. At least that way, we’d have plenty of time to go back. I’m not 100% sure if it’s safe to do but probably. Sorry about that last one, I’m not certain coz we didn’t take a car with us. hehe

    • elle86
    • September 28th, 2011

    Maybe we’ll just commute on the way to claver :) by the way, is Bucas Grande open everyday? I mean the reception area and the availability of guides/ pump boat?

  15. Thanks for this post! Im planning a trip to Bucas Grande on December. Now its clear to me that from Hayangabon, need to ride a boat then another small boat for island hopping. Do you have any contact number of your boatman? Also, do you know if there are a lot of boats available in the area? Thanks a lot! :)

    • ma. erenita bahian
    • January 21st, 2012

    thanks cat for the info! We’ll be going this 14th of feb.

    • CT Leung
    • March 23rd, 2012

    We are a group of 10 persons from HK planning to visit Siargao in early Sept 2012, May I request you to give me your personal email so that I can attach my draft travel plan in excel format for your comment and further discussion.
    Thanks and regards
    CT Leung

  16. Very informative! Nalito lang ako konti, ibig bah sabihin, from Hayangabon kayo kumuha ng boat? Di na pala sa Socorro mismo where you had spent the night? 2k is roundtrip na bah iyon from Hayangabon to Socorro then back to Hayangabon? Wala po public transpo from Hayangabon? :)

    • Hi! We didn’t spend the night in Socorro. Yung boat, hinire namin sa Hayangabon pier. Tapos yung rate na 2k, return trip na. Pero nung andun na kami sa Sohoton, nagdecide kami na dumiretso ng Siargao kaya kumuha kami ng iba pang bangka uli. hehe

    • jhobee
    • May 9th, 2012

    hi nice post… we planned of going there for only a day trip sa bucas grande.. and 20 persons kami lahat… can we make it there at 7am? and leave by 4pm? and ang boat kasya ba kami doon?

    • Hi Jhobee! I’m not really certain about the answers to your questions, sorry about that. But if you have private transpo plus you guys would leave early for Bucas Grande, I don’t see any reason as to you guys can’t be there early in the morning. I don’t know about 7am. It seems too early. hehe

    • Maxine
    • July 26th, 2012

    hi there. do you still have the contact information of your guide? we will be in Surigao this August and we don’t have a contact for the sea transfer to Club Tara and island hopping. Hope you can help me out. thanks in advance! =)

    • Merjohn
    • January 27th, 2013

    Hi maam, from Hayangabon 40mins boat ride to Socorro ba yan? o diretso na sa jump off ng Sohoton (yung may welcome to enchanted Sohoton na sign)? tnx

  17. Lucky you, you got to swim with the jellyfish! Swimming in the lagoon is now prohibited :(

    • Really??? It’s prohibited now? Oh no! Were there many people in the lagoon when you visited? I think the place is becoming popular that’s probably why they’re implementing such measures. Maybe. We, along with another small boat of another group, were the only ones in the area when we went.

  18. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say superb blog!

  1. July 19th, 2011
  2. October 26th, 2014

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