Posts Tagged ‘ Island hopping ’

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

Advertisements

El Nido Escapade (day 4)

February 25, 2011

It’s decided, another day for island hopping! Happy and excited to be back at sea! Yay! haha :D

We took Tour C. Actually, I was supposed to organize our own trip. I have already talked to someone who’s friend with a boat owner. I’ve got people joining me. Places to go to had been chosen. We’re gonna wake up early to go to the market. The works. And then, other people had to complicate stuff. I was starting to get a headache (it’s so hard to please everyone, it’s just impossible!). My friends were telling me that it’s not worth the hassle it’s causing me and urged me to just scrap it. I did though with a heavy heart coz I enjoy DIYs so much! hehe

Island hopping, day 2! :D

First stop is a hidden beach. We have to swim to get there. I used a pair of fins since I’m certain I would lag way behind the others if I don’t. The spot where our boat was docked was a place good enough for snorkeling. Lots of corals and fishes. Charlie stayed behind and snorkeled around the area. While the others and I swam ahead. In the hidden beach, the fishes were kinda territorial. You can translate that to us being bit every now and then by a few of them. Ack! hehehe

Our guide, Kuya Leo was very funny. He loves to crack jokes while sharing some infos about the places where we’re at. Though his jokes works best if said in Filipino. That was why I was usually laughing out loud while the others just looked on. Hehe He offered to be my guide for my next trip and I would love to take him up on his offer. I told him that I wanted to organize my own island hopping trip but had to cancel because the person I was talking with would always up the price or bring up another concern after a prior price had been agreed upon or after a previous problem had been solved. He told me I should have talked directly to the owner/ boatman, things would have been so much easier. I know that but… what’s done is done. ;)

Kuya Leo, cool guide!

We went next to Matinloc Shrine,  an island owned by the Fernandez clan. The place where it was built is just naturally beautiful: jagged limestone cliffs, crystal clear waters, picturesque view. We had our lunch here. The place took my breath away and is by far, my fave island there! Some pictures of the island I fell in love with. :)

Matinloc Shrine

This time around, there were 8 of us (not counting our 3 guides) and almost all were CSers, except for Emilien that is. We met the others a day or so before.

We took our time here. But soon, it was time to move on to the next island. Make that a secret beach. ;) It’s called a secret beach since you’ll have to swim in between a crack beneath a limestone cliff. The water surrounding it was very clear and you can see all the way down, around 15-20feet down. Once you made it through the crack, you’ll find yourself on a secret beach indeed.

And then off to this rugged beauty of an isle. When we got here, only few got off the boat. The rest took a quick nap or took pictures of the area.

Last stop, Helicopter Island! So named coz the shape of the whole island supposedly resembles that of a helicopter. This was a nice place to just chill. Sit/ lie down on the sand; eat snacks while chatting with friends; take a dip if you feel like doing so; take a nap by the beach if you’re tired.

rugged beauty!

For dinner, Emilien recommended a bistro named Balay Tubay, a cozy hangout place for local artists that’s quite popular because they  have local bands playing there every night. Food is good here. They have free wi-fi too. :D

dinner at Balay Tubay

Mmmm! :D

The famed El Nido soup

Last night in El Nido. *sigh* Think happy thoughts: I will go back! :D

PS: Unfortunately, I lost my phone on my last trip. That is why I can’t post Kuya’s contact number. I’ll update this as soon as I have it again.

Related posts:

Getting to El Nido

1st day of island hopping

Lazy day in El Nido

El Nido Escapade (day2)

February 23, 2011

A lot of friends have said that the beauty of El Nido would be best appreciated if you go island hopping. We heeded their advice so that’s what we did!

The view from El Nido town

We checked out of Marikit so that we can stay in Entalula, they had 2 vacant rooms that morning. We (my cousin and I) really like the place and the fact that we’re being treated as family members helped sway us! Our fan room costs 1200php, if you’ll opt to use the air-conditioning unit, be ready to shell out another 600php. The boys were more practical. They decided to stay inland and shared a 700php room at El Nido Inn and Restaurant which included a breakfast  for two, not sure if they have wifi though as the 2 guys weren’t keen on it, good deal! However, do take note that there are a lot more options, just be patient and you’ll find one that will suit your taste.  After our breakfast, we quickly headed back to the beach to join other people for tour A. We booked with Entalula since theirs is 100php cheaper than the rest. It was supposed to start at 9am but they were waiting for us. It was already past 9, oops!

Tapsilog for breakfast at El Nido Inn & Restaurant

There are 2 options when doing island hoping. First is to join a tour, fixed price, then you’ll get to meet people and make new friends (hopefully) plus you won’t have to worry about anything like food, where to go, etc because they’ll take care of it but you might not like the people you end up traveling with and you’ll have to adjust to them. They have tours A, B, C and D, a mix of caves, hidden beaches, snorkel sites, etc. OR you can hire your own private boat then you’ll be your own boss, you go wherever you want, you won’t have to adjust to anyone but you have to haggle (boat rental prices start at 3500php)/ make lots of decisions, worry about food. It could be cheaper though if you know what you’re doing. Also, there’s an eco-tourism development fee (ETDF) of 200php that everyone has to pay. The money the municipality collected is meant to  maintain and protect the environment. You only have to pay it once and it’s valid for 10days. Local residents are exempted from it though. ;)

Cruisin' the whole day :)

I ‘m not exactly in a chatty mood during boat rides because 1. it’s too loud to start a conversation and 2. since I’m really interested at the sights, 3. I just want to absorb it all in. After a while though, it doesn’t matter that it’s loud so I start talking. Can’t keep quiet for so long. hehe

...and we're off for the islands!

Nick taking beautiful pictures :)

There were 9 of us (not counting our guides):  2 Pinoys, me & Charlie, 1 American, 1 British, 1 French, 1 Brazilian and 3 Estonian. They were all so nice!

us :)

Note: No pictures were taken when in “hidden/secret” beaches/ lagoons since my camera isn’t waterproof and I have no intention of getting it wet. ;)

Tour A, according to the tour operators, is the most popular choice. The small and big lagoons are a favorite amongst many visitors. I have several postcards of those places and it’s just so beautiful!

1st stop- Secret beach. :)

2nd stop- Shimizu Island. Very good for snorkeling. It’s just that the waves were a bit strong when we were there so I had a really hard time swimming, seriously thought I was going to drown and no one would have noticed it since they were all busy (sleeping by the beach, swimming, snorkeling, etc). I should have gotten a pair of fins and wore a life jacket! It would have helped a lot since I’m not exactly a good swimmer. Decided to stay on land after this. :)) Got busy taking pictures of the place and of my companions. Lunch was served here. :)

Our camera-shy Frenchie at Shimizu Island

Enjoying the island

Sleeping under the shade

Lunch was prepared by our guides

With my dear cousin :)

3rd stop- Small and big lagoon, Miniloc Island. Wanted to kayak (800php for a day’s rent) here with my cousin. But then we forgot to tell THAT to our guide so we missed our chance! Ugh! We were just too busy admiring the place and taking shots/videos. :D Even bought a rash guard so I won’t get any darker but then couldn’t find it when I was packing my stuff!

Everyone got taken in by the view at the big lagoon ;)

I couldn't capture the beauty of this place

Pic courtesy of Nick :)

4th stop- Secret lagoon. Had to get off the boat and swim to get inside the secret lagoon. After several minutes, I was just about to follow the others, when Charlie swam back and told me that he thought he saw a sea snake so the coward me didn’t follow the rest. :( Tried to enjoy swimming at the water before the secret lagoon but ended up scraping my foot. It wasn’t just me though. Another also got a wound, on his leg this time, when he was swimming back to the boat. Stones were sharp, be careful!

Sweet couple before the Secret Lagoon

:)

5th stop- Seven commando. Our last stop for the day. The rest enjoyed their buko juice while relaxing by the beach. My cousin and I kayaked ourselves all over. We had to do it somewhere, we’re paying for the kayak! :D

Next stop: Seven commando beach

We let the guys borrow our kayak in exchange for their buko drinks hehe

It felt that it ended all too soon. We’re back in town. Went our separate ways to freshen up and planned to meet by our place after to grab some food and hang out. As we’re walking about town, we (Leandro and I) spotted a fruit shake stand so we zeroed in on it! We’re thirsty and we wanted to drink something refreshing. As we were waiting for our drinks, other visitors passed us by. One of them, Ricardo,  started talking to us. He’s so friendly! He was happy to have met Leandro since he now has someone to talk Portuguese with (he’s  a Peruvian exchange student in Singapore). He got our numbers and he’d join us later.

Fruit shake stand

We can’t get enough of the water and it’s what we went there for so we hung out by the shore. Relaxation time after swimming all day. Watching the sun set wasn’t bad either. We then had dinner at Blue Azul. It’s located inland, they serve delicious foods plus they have wifi! haha My cousin and I were looking for wifi most of the time. The chicken we ordered was very good, yum! Afterwhich, we went back by the beach and hang out with the (tons of) people we met that day til it was time to go to bed. Good day. :)

El Nido buddies :)

El Nido Tour Package Infos (Standard rate):

  • Tour A/ Lagoon Tour: Lagoons, Beaches, Snorkeling – 700php/pax
  • Tour B/ Cave Tour: Snake Island, Caves, Snorkeling – 800php/pax
  • Tour C/ Secret Beach: Matinloc Island, Snorkeling – 900php/pax

*Tours usually start around 9-10am and lasts the whole day. Lunch are included in tours. Do bring plenty of water especially if you get thirsty easily. Besides, you don’t want to get dehydrated.  You have to bring your own mask, snorkel and fins, others are rented out for 100php a piece (snorkel set and fins) but try to bargain for 100php for the two. Don’t forget your sunblock and shades.

*There’s no need to book tours way in advance. You can do it once you’re in town so you can compare. We booked with Entalula coz theirs is 100php cheaper than the others. :)

Related posts:

Getting to El Nido

Lazy day in El Nido

2nd day of Island Hopping

Lagoon Tour
Advertisements