After walking through a mangrove forest, our guide and boatman led us to another beach where our boat is docked. The boat is much smaller than I expected, but hey, there are only two of us.
There were still some dark clouds looming in the horizon when we started our Caramoan island hopping adventure. This meant no calm seas for us. I wish we had a bigger boat.
There are two clusters of islands that are part of the usual island hopping tour in Caramoan. The smaller, uninhabited Maralad islands that can be seen from Gota Village‘s beach; and the farther, bigger, partly populated Manlawi group of islands.
Although we stayed in Gota Village for four days and three nights, we were only able to do the Maralad island tour due to bad weather during our first two days in Caramoan. Well, it really wasn’t that bad of a weather. The other guests proceeded with their island hopping tours. You can’t blame us for being extra careful. After our traumatic, near death experience in Camiguin, the smallest of swells will prevent us from crossing any large body of water.
Caramoan Island Hopping
Maralad islands – Php 2,200*
Manlawi islands – Php 3,200*
*Maximum seven people
These are Gota Village rates. It shouldn’t be that far off from other tour operators in Caramoan as these are set and monitored by the Department of Tourism. Boat rental is good for one whole day. With Gota Village this means 8 am to 4 pm. According to our guide, this is because of the tide. Safety is paramount. Some islands may also not be accessible for the same reason.
This is bound to be one of the most scenic boat ride one will ever have. And I can’t blame you for wanting to document it to share to the world. Caramoan is such a beauty. But don’t whip out your cameras just yet. Trust me. You and your camera won’t be dry for long. Those little waves as seen from the shore aren’t so small when you’re in the middle of it. The fact that our boat has a maximum capacity of four people made the smallest swells a roller coaster ride.
Lahos island is basically two limestone rocks with a sandbar in between them. The fine, off-white sand has tiny pieces of corals near the shoreline. On one side of Lahos island you’ll see Matukad and, on the other, a view of the distal end of the Caramoan peninsula.
It is here, while docking at Lahos island, that our beloved EVIL camera got splashed with water. It won’t power on. Incredibly distraught and frustrated, we were not able to enjoy Lahos at all. We stayed less than ten minutes and proceeded to our next destination.
We were a bit hesitant going to Tayak beach since it is the farthest location in our itinerary. It is also towards the direction of those menacing, dark clouds. With a bit of reassurance from our guide, a good dose of irresponsible bahala na attitude, and life vests securely strapped around our bodies, we jumped on our boat and braced ourselves for a bumpy ride.
It turned out to be a rather enjoyable ride. Although the clouds cleared, it did nothing to the waves. With the sun above our heads, it felt safer. Silly correlation, really.
With the camera and all other gadgets safely tucked inside a water-proof bag, I was able to enjoy every splash of water that breaks into the boat. I have also come to terms that the beauty of Caramoan that is before me, will only be etched in my memories. I was counting my blessings…
Our guide tells us that the trail from the beach to the lake used to have a cemented path, but was removed since Survivor, much to my liking, wanted the place to have an “untouched by civilization” atmosphere.
Despite its raw beauty, Tayak beach and some of the islands in Caramoan are showing some signs of stress. Plastic wrappers, among many other trash, are being washed ashore. Our guide explained, with pride, that these garbage are from other provinces across the sea and are not from Caramoan. During the drive from Guijalo port to Gota Village, I noticed that Caramoan is exceptionally clean.
Matukad island’s powdery, almost-white sand is super fine. So fine, you’d hardly make footprints on it. The beach towards the main land has a breathtaking view of Caramoan and has less seaweeds; unlike the one facing Lahos island which is riddled with it.
Our guide tells us that there is a small lagoon on the island where a big, lone fish lives. There used to be two of them, he says, but someone killed the other and it brought that person some kind of misfortune. While he was sharing this tale, I can’t help but imagine an epic love story worthy of being adapted into the big screen. Hehe!
Unfortunately, we were not able to see this lagoon, as the only way to get to it is to climb the sharp, jagged edges of a limestone cliff.
With Gota Village located near Maralad islands, we had the option of having our lunch at the resort. For those staying at Caramoan’s centro (town center), packed lunch is the way to go. I saw a bangkero prepping lunch for his passengers at Matukad island.
While having our lunch, we decided to check the camera. Aired it out to dry, a bit of wiping here and there, and not expecting anything at all, took a chance and pressed the power button. And by some divine powers, it was working again! Hallelujah! Not wanting to stretch our luck, we placed it back inside its water-proof bag and hoped in our heart of hearts that it will be working still once we resume our Caramoan island hopping.
Hunongan cove is my favorite spot in our Caramoan island hopping itinerary. Thank the heavens! Our camera is still working!
Being the VIP area of Gota Village, the cove is exclusive only to resort guests. We had the entire cove to ourselves. We stayed here the longest. Though not as white nor as powdery as that of Matukad island, the beach at Hunongan cove will please even the most discriminating of tastes.
Right across Hunongan Cove is the island of Kagbanilad. Tourists visit this island in Caramoan not for its small beach, rather, for snorkelling, due to the abundance of plant life beneath its waters near the shore.
There is a sign posted on one of the limestone formations on the island that says, “This is a restricted area, no docking allowed”. Still, every boat we saw on a Caramoan island hopping tour, at one point, docked at Kagbanilad island.
There is a large piece of limestone in the middle of the little beach. When taken from an angle, it looks like Hollywood’s 1998 version of Godzilla. :)
The last stop in our Caramoan island hopping tour is Minalahos island. This island can be seen from Gota Village‘s beach.
Minalahos island’s small beach is bordered by imposing limestone formations. The break along this formation almost felt like a gate. Climb it and you’ll have a view of a cove on the other side of the island.
After many hours of bathing under the sun at Hunongan cove, we were ready to call it a day. I’ve experienced temple fatigue during our Angkor and Ayutthaya trip. I’m not so sure if the same can be had for island hopping… We just breezed through the last two islands.
Caramoan is indeed, what most people would call, a paradise. Without question. Hands down. It is a beautiful place. It wouldn’t have caught the attention of Survivor if it were otherwise.
New livelihoods were created due to the influx of tourists. It has also brought increased awareness, among the residents of Caramoan, of the beauty of this place and the measures that they need to take to protect it. The exceptionally clean surroundings is a step towards the right direction. A sense of pride among the residents of Caramoan is palpable.
Caramoan is a treasure. Something that all Filipinos can be proud of. The responsibility of keeping this paradise a paradise lies not only on the people living there. Whether you live across the sea on another island, or a tourist on vacation, we all have an obligation to help maintain the beauty of this amazing gift of nature.