Enjoy island hopping at Caramoan this summer

By KC Santos

CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR—If there’s one thing that makes island-hopping in Caramoan unique and interesting, it would be the lesson or two you learn at every stop.

Caramoan is famous for its countless islands and white sand bars enveloped by the clearest turquoise waters and protected by towering limestone formations.

No wonder different productions of Survivor from Europe have been coming back to Caramoan, which is at the heart of the Caramoan Peninsula.

It is also for its remoteness and untouched beauty that Caramoan islands gained the title “Secret Paradise.” Thanks to tour packages offered by local operators, guests can now enjoy the island at cheaper rates.

The town can be reached via a two-hour ride on a local outrigger boat (or banca) from either Sabang or San Jose port from the mainland. Most of these boats are so small you have to yank yourself to get out.

So look out for M/V Harry trips as these are the biggest and thus, offer more comfort and a smoother ride for seasick travelers.

As the common route of typhoons, patrolling coast guards would occasionally cancel trips and when they do lift their travel alerts, the boat ride usually extends to at least three to four hours more, depending on the strength of the currents and the number of passengers aboard.

Porters anxiously await arriving guests at the Guijalo Port, the gateway to central Caramoan. To avoid delay, have your tour guide arrange a tricycle ride to take you to your hotel. To better appreciate local culture, we opted for home stay accommodation.

Typically, island tours in Caramoan start as early as 7a.m. Our tour guide Genaro Galang laid out for us a day tour to five islands: Matukad, Lahus, Cagbalinad, Minalahus and Sabitang-Laya.

From the town’s center, we took a ten-minute tricycle ride to the port of the seaweed-rich Barangay Bical. It took another 20-minute boat ride from the port to our first stop but the waters were calm and the view we saw after that was worth the long trip.

So what can you expect to see on these islands? Here's a quick summary of the tour.

Matukad Island. Pray that your visit to this island does not coincide with Survivor tapings (there was word that Survivor will be back for tapings in 2012). During tapings, swimming will be prohibited and your stay will be cut short. This would be unfortunate given you are there to experience the powdery white sand, the clearest and bluest water in its beautiful lagoon.

Lahus Island. This one is the most unique for its natural structure. Lahus means “passing through,” which exactly describes how the body of sand is sandwiched by two giant rock formations. This allows swimming in both sides of the island. Props made by locals and used for Survivor challenges are also added attractions.

Cagbalinad Island. This is a favorite among researchers and geologists for its biodiversity. It is also rich in corals and has the most intricate limestone formations of the five islands. Look out for the huge limestone boulder perched right at its middle.

Minalahus Island. Again, referring to local meaning of its root word lahus, this island has a direct access point to neighboring islands without having to ride a boat. It has clear waters but due to frequent aya-ay (low tide), visits to this island are limited.

Sabitang-Laya. It is common for island hopping tours to end here. It is a V-shaped island with wide stretches of sand of both sides that offer a scenic place where visitors can eat lunch before heading home. Unfortunately, due to Survivor tapings when we visited, we were unable  to check out the other side of the island.

With or without restrictions, it is simply impossible not to make another visit to Caramoan. It is best to visit the islands sooner since its starting to attract more tourists and property developers.

Hopefully, the local government and visitors can help keep Caramoan and its islands as beautiful and as enchanting as they are now.

***

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