Our Caroman Dream Tour – Part One

Caramoan of Camarines Sur in Bicol Region is now becoming famous for two reasons.  First, it is blessed with islands with pristine white sand, caves, lagoons, islets and limestone karts formations.  Second, it has been the site of the global reality game show Survivor by several countries, including USA in 2012.

Our Caramoan dream tour with my former office mates had finally come to reality after two years of planning.  Ana will lead for she had been there last year.  She took the same contact person Dra. Pua, owner of Florevics Tourist Inn in Solnopan, Caramaon. We were so thankful because the ten-person package rate of P2,000/per head was given to us though we were seven only.  This includes boat transfer from Sabang to Guijalo (vise versa), land transfer, one breakfast, one packed lunch, one meryenda, one dinner and one night stay.

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the awesome limestone cliffs in Sabitang Laya

Our first day was a sojourn in my hometown in Albay because Sir Alex and Alma haven’t been there yet. By 5 pm, we were fetched by Kuya Rodel, Ana’s older brother in our last stop in Ligao through their van.  He will accompany us and their mother Mama Gloria in Caramoan. We headed to Iriga in Camarines Norte for our dinner.  We didn’t stroll anymore for everyone was tired already.

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Mama Gloria graciously welcomed us when we arrived in Jenilyn’s Resort in Goa, few distance away from Iriga. Our one night stay in the resort was discounted because the owner was their family friend.  Alma, Rose and me stayed in twin room (P1,200 regular rate).  Sir Alex stayed in standard room.  Ana shared a room with her family.

We woke up at 4 a.m, packed-up our stuff and off we went to Sabang Port by 4:30 am.

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We were met by Ate Alice, personal assistant of Dra. Pua at the port.  It was still dark but the port had busy people now.  While Ate Alice was busy buying ticket we bought 3-in-1 coffee in a bakery and ate fried siopao which Mama Gloria bought in Iriga. Beside the bakery was a “talipapa” where I was amused seeing fresh Yellow fin tuna in a very affordable price of P50/kilo.  How I wish I could bring two kilos back home.  Mama will surely love it for a pasalubong.

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Yellow fin was so affordable

We took the first trip at 5:30 am.  There was no entrance in front of Boat Harry. To get inside, passenger will walk in a narrow walkway and will clamber on window side.  My bag pack was heavy so I slid slowly so my head would not hit the edge of the roof.  But as soon as I got my seat, I smiled happily because I was at the window.

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i just love sunrise photo

Adrenalin rush hit me as soon as the boat moved swiftly.  Hint of morning rays of the sun slowly streamed into the calm blue sea. I had an unobstructed view of the sea and the verdant mountainous landscape. It was a cool morning and the sea breeze was just so invigorating.

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the fascinating verdant landscape

It was a two-hour safe and calm water ride.  We reached Guijalo Port around 7:20 am.  We were fetched by our tour guide Ryan through Dr. Pua’s service van.  In our way to the town, we were  greeted by a laid-back and unhurried life of Caramoan.  The picturesque countryside view was ecstatic.  I was craving for a more longer travel time but Florevisc Tourist Inn was a twenty-minute ride only.

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so excited!

Ate Alice accompanied us in our rooms.  Ana, Rose and I shared in one room with one double bed and private bath room (P1,200).  Ana shared with her mother and Kuya Rodel (same with our room).  Sir Alex stayed in a single room (P600) with no private bath room.

 

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our jump of joy!

We put our bags in our room and explored the house. We stayed a bit longer in the balcony and later I was left alone savoring the scent of fresh air. Oh I just love watching nearby houses and the locals in a peaceful place like this. Soon after we were called by the caretakers for our breakfast.  What was served were plain rice, sunny side-up egg, fried soft dried fish, and again, coffee (one cup a day should be enough).

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It seemed everyone was recharged after a heavy breakfast.  We now prepared our itchy foot, our cameras and our spirits for our CARAMOAN DREAM tour!

Finally it is for real.

 

In Getting There:

1)  There are buses in Pasay City, Alabang and Cubao bound to Naga City.  Bus fare ranges from P800 to P1,000.  From Naga Terminal ride a shuttle van (P90) going to Sabang Port.  Then ride a boat going to Guijalo Port (P120) with environmental fee of P5.  From Guijalo Port take a tricycle going to Caramoan town. (P25).

Note:  There are no luxurious hotels in Caramoan Town, only homestay or tourist inn with affordable rate starting at P600 to P2,000.

Florevics Tourist Inn Rate:

Single Room – P600

Twin Room – P1,200 (3 to 4 persons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part Two of our Caramoan Dream Tour

I stepped out of bed early to savor the cool breeze and the fresh morning scent of Caramoan. There was no sunshine photo because the sky was gloomy. A bit dismayed, I took a quiet walk on the peaceful road, amused to see early riser locals and pleased to smell the sweet wafting fragrance of flowers. Oh I just can’t sustain my excitement and happiness looking at the pleasing sights.

Good morning lovely Caramoan!

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the long stretch of creamy white sand of Sabitang Laya

I thank the Lord for giving me another wonderful opportunity to explore the hidden beauty of Camarines Sur through a package tour.  I will be sharing happy memories with my former colleagues, Sir Alex, Alma, Ana and Rose.

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another day in paradise… at Lahus Island

Breakfast was served early with fried rice, dried fish with tomatoes, sunny side up egg and coffee.

With Ryan wearing the official uniform as tour guide, we were fetched by our service van by 7 a.m. and headed to the jump off point at Paniman Beach. Along the way, we were mesmerized by the picturesque countryside view, from the lush green rice fields, farm lands and coconut trees. It felt so good to see the unhurried life and simple living of Caramoan.

We were so excited as we reached Paniman Beach which is a beach itself.  Though it was not a white sand, it fascinated us seeing scattered islets from afar.  

The clear blue sky was so lovely to behold. 

And so, here we come for the much-awaited Caramoan island hopping adventure!  Yehey!

Caramoan Island Hopping

There are two island hopping tours in Caramoan, the short tour (P1,500 to P1,800) which includes Our Lady of Peace Grotto, Matukad Island, Lahus Island and Gota Beach. The long trip (P2,500 to P3,000) includes Sabitang Laya, Cotivas Island and Manlawi Sandbar. Since we only have one day, we go for the short tour and begged Ryan to include Sabitang Laya, to which he favored our request.Yeeey!
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Our Lady of Peace Grotto (Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary)

Travel time – 35 minutes.  We started our adventure, not on a beach escapade yet, but a trek to 524 steps starting from the foot of Mount Caglago in Barangay Tabnon.  Two locals approached us and knowing that they will guide us along the way, we let them walked with us and later they shared interesting stories about the islands of Caramoan.

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the breathtaking view taken from our Lady of Peace Grotto

It wore me out the climb but seeing a fascinating view of several islets, islands and the Tagbon Bay whisked off everything.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary which was said to be the largest Marian in the country looked like it was overlooking and protecting the whole Caramoan Peninsula.  Walking around in this peaceful place is worthy of doing so.  When we went down, we bought souvenir items in a little store and gave P200 each to the two guides.

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savor the view and the serenity

It was flickering hot and everyone was sweating. There were nipa huts near the docking area. We decided to have an early lunch inside the hut and feasted on rice, laing, fried yellow fin tuna, adobong port, banana and cold soft-drinks.

 

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Travel time-35 minutes.  I was too excited as we were approaching the glistening white sand of Sabitang Laya. It is composed of a long shoreline in Lucsuhin group of island.

We docked on the shore bringing our cams. In a sweltering summer heat like this, walking along the long-stretch under the blistering sun was so strenuous. Hooh!  

But the stunning views of the sand and sea stretching into the brilliant sunshine with several colored beige star fish on a very clear water made us forget the muddy weather.  In fact, I don’t mind anymore if my skin gets dark.  

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one of the beautiful picture-perfect views of Sabitang-Laya

We went to the other side of the island and was amazed to see unique rock and limestone kart formations.  It reminded me of Coron in Palawan, only that this was smaller. It was so inviting to do rappelling and rock climbing activities. There were lots of big rock boulders scattered near the shore.  At last I saw the most photographed part of Sabitang Laya which was the big and only rock standing few distance away from the shore.

Here’s the picture.

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the most photographed spot in this island

The place is a heaven especially if you could own it for few minutes and much better in an hour, like we did.

We didn’t swim for we were so excited exploring around and took an endless picture taking.  The island was so beautiful and again, almost comparable to Coron in terms of cleanliness and tranquility. Looked like Caramoan is the next Palawan.

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scattered star fish on shallow clear water

Isn’t it wonderful to see an island with no garbage on water and on the sand?

Once you clamber atop a big boulder you could see that the whole island is shaped like a triangle or a big kite.  The island is perfect for camping but sad to say, camping is not allowed.  What to do, is to swim, snorkel, walk on the shoreline, enjoy the sunset, feel the serenity and take lots and lots of pictures.

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Lahus Island

Travel time-25 minutes.  Every island has its own irresistible charm.  Lahus Island was a stunning sandbar with creamy powdery-sugar sand in between two huge jagged limestones.

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the captivating sand bar

Water was very clear and again, we didn’t swim. We were overwhelmed taking pictures and more pictures of all the beautiful things perceived by our eyes.  Ryan told us that during high tide the island was covered with water leaving only those rock formations visible to one’s eyes.  This is where it got its name, ”lahos” or “laho” which is “vanish” in English word.

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having the great time of our lives… the coconut ball and our jump of joy

We dipped on the clear water and later stayed on the sand for our wonderful jump shot with a coconut ball as our backdrop. Lahus Island is a beautiful island, unexploited, stunning… huh! Beyond compare indeed.

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 Matukad Island

Travel time-35 minutes.  Matukad Island is the most popular and favorite island in Caramoan Peninsula. It is always included on the top list for island hopping.  What made this favorite is its fine powdery white sand and the exciting trek going up the lagoon which has an intriguing legend about the milk fish.

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the stunning view from the top… another hidden paradise… my favorite island

The story – long ago, there were two milk fish roaming freely on the lagoon, until one of this was speared by a fisherman, took it home for his family and cooked it.  But after eating the fish, they all died, apparently from food poisoning.  It became so mysterious to the locals, so from then on, no one has attempted to catch anymore the milk fish left. Afraid that they will experience the same fate happened to the poor fisherman and his family.

Today, the enchanting milk fish remains a mystery.  And I guess, will always be.

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the intriguing lagoon of Matukad Island

Like Sabitang Laya and Lahus, Matukad Island has no cottages, no nipa huts, no electricity, no entrance fee. Everything is basic.  The visitors were scattered on the sand beside those impressive limestone rock formations.  This island is the most crowded with a combination of foreign and Pinoy travelers.  

I enjoyed walking on barefoot because the sand was so soft, almost comparable to the sand of Boracay. I headed curiously to the long queue of eager souls waiting for their turns to climb the lagoon. I was so excited to try it but no one from my buddies brave the activity.  Ryan was willing to assist me but I let go of the experience because I want to do it with a group. Ika nga, the more, the merrier.

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the climb to the lagoon of Matukad Island

Instead Ryan volunteered to take pictures of the lagoon especially the big enchanting milk fish.  I was amazed how fast Ryan did his turn. In few minutes, he went back  with his magnificent shots.  But he wasn’t able to take photo of the fish because he can’t come close to the lagoon for there were several people hanging around.  Only 16 persons are allowed near the lagoon. So that’s the reason why there was a long waiting because of this people not minding for the others’ turn.

Matukad by the way means to climb or go up.

This time we all immersed on the water and basked on sunshine.

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Gota Village Resort

Gota Village Resort is the only island in Caramoan that has the best accommodation for travelers.  Though it was above the average budget, your stay in this island will worth the experience.

There are three types of air-conditioned cabanas to choose from. The small – P2,500, Medium – P3,000 and Large – P3,500.00.  All of which are made up of our very own Bakay Kubo.

 

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the docking area of Gota Beach

 

Our contact person had a connection with the owner of Gota, so instead of paying P300 for the entrance fee, we were given a privilege to explore the island for free.

As Ryan told us, there’s no trace of materials or signboards used in filming the Survivor in selected islands. It was being cleaned  up thoroughly to regain its unspoiled beauty.  Even Gota which was rented exclusively by the cast and crews of Survivor series, has nothing to store for any souvenirs.  But we were thankful that we were able to set foot in this island for no one can visit here if there is an on-going shooting.

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at the cave

We headed to the beach front and strolled around.  Gota Beach was a small cove with a short stretch of creamy white sand.

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the torch used at night

After a day’s sightseeing and relaxation, finally, we decided to have some rest. We sat on benches and feel the serenity and the beauty of this island.  There were few people swimming on the water.  It was so wonderful to stay still and watch the gentle waves.

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at the event center of Gota Beach

A moment later we headed to the small cave just beneath the beach front.  This was the end of our island hopping.

Gota is connected to the mainland. We were fetched by our service van around 4 pm. On our way back to the town, I didn’t bother anymore taking my cam for picture taking.  I savored the moment looking at the cabanas and to the panoramic scenery as the afternoon sunlight casts a vibrant rays to the vast rice-fields and several nipa huts.

Caramoan is indeed an unforgettable picture of serenity.  I was so thankful to see its charm, seclusion and its bewitching beauty.

Now I know why Survivor keeps coming back to this hidden paradise.  Just like them, certainly, I will go back with my family.

And when that time comes, I hope this dazzling paradise is still free from monster modernization… for my kids to appreciate and love the nature more…  like I did.

 

 In getting there:

Through Bus – Manila to Naga City:

1)  Take a bus ride either in Pasay City, Cubao or Alabang bound to Naga City, approximately 8 to 9 hours travel time, bus fare-P700 to P900  depending on bus lines. (Penafrancia Travel and Tours Bus, Philtranco, Amihan Bus, Isarog Bus Lines).

2) From Naga City bus terminal head to Van terminal located between SM Naga and Naga City Bus Terminal and ride an air-conditioned van bound to Sabang Port, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes travel time with fare of P100.

3) Boat ride from Sabang Port to Guijalo Port started at 5:30 am until 11 am only. Travel time is 1 hour and forty five minutes or 2 hours depending on climate condition-fare-P120 with environmental fee of P5.

Be sure to catch a morning ride to Sabang Port or else you will rent a boat exclusively for around P2,00o to P3,000.