I must admit, I haven’t heard of Caramoan until it was made famous by the reality TV show Survivor. Shame. Caramoan is not as remote as I initially thought it would be, though getting there is a bit of a challenge. A challenge that include long hours of travel.

In our case, it was even longer. We only booked a seat-sale flight back to Manila. The original plan is to reach Naga, Camarines Sur by train. We are romantics. Unfortunately, despite our fervent prayers and ludicrous confidence in the Philippine National Railways, the scheduled resume of service to Naga was again delayed for the nth time. How incredibly frustrating!

With plane ticket prices over the roof, we opted to take the discernibly arduous 10-hour bus ride to Naga…

Manila to Naga

Do note that the last ferry from Sabang port to Guijalo port, Caramoan leaves at 11 am.

Two bus lines with routes to Naga stood out during my research, Cagsawa and Bicol Isarog/RSL/Penafrancia. I contacted both and was only able to get consistent response from the latter through their facebook page. Both lines have their own version of regular (over 50 seats) and deluxe (less than 40 seats) buses.

We took Bicol Isarog’s 8:00 pm Junior Extreme bus. The overnight, 10-hour ride was mostly comfortable thanks to the lazy-boy seats. The bus also have two led TVs, a toilet, an extremely cold air-conditioning system and two alternating drivers.

I spotted two Raymond Transportation buses while boarding our boat at Sabang port. I’m not certain if they still have direct routes from Manila to Sabang though.

Bicol Isarog Transport System Inc.
Rates:
Regular – Php 600 (final stop at Lagonoy, 30 mins from Sabang by jeepney)
Junior Extreme, Extreme, Sleeper – Php 1,000 and up

Schedule:
Regular – 8:30 pm (daily)
Junior Extreme – 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm (daily)
Extreme, Sleeper – 9:00 pm (daily)
Day trips are also available.

Contact details:
(02) 727-8194, (02) 381-0840, (02) 482-1600
(917) 520-4893, (917) 908-851-2643
[email protected]twitter / facebook

Boarding area:
Araneta Center Shopwise Terminal or EDSA Cubao Terminal
Depends on your schedule and bus type.

Naga to Caramoan

We arrived at Naga’s Central Terminal, right beside SM Naga, at exactly six in the morning, where we had a quick breakfast. From Naga, it is a 2-hour van ride to Sabang port. The UV Express van terminal is walking distance from the Central Terminal. Just take the road behind the Central Terminal. Fare is Php 100.

Sabang port is a nice, long stretch of beach with one movable floating pier. There are no specific schedule according to one of the officers there, though they try to have a boat leave every hour. Earliest trip is at 6 am and the last one at 11 am. Fare is Php 120 and is collected mid-way through the trip.

Porters will offer to carry your bags to the boat for you and reserve you a seat. Unnecessary but convenient. A Php 20 tip is greatly appreciated. It is really quite a sight to watch all the porters position the movable pier. A Php 10 fee is collected for this service.

It is a picturesque 2-hour boat ride. Undulating mountains to the north, the Pacific to the east and, if the sky is clear, a view of Mayon to the south.

Caramoan and Back

Upon arriving at Guijalo port, Caramoan, you will need to pay a Php 30 environmental fee. A large chunk of Caramoan after all is a National Park. From the pier, you can rent out a tricycle to the Centro (center of town) for Php 50/person. You may also want to check with your accommodations, as pick up from the pier is usually a complimentary service.

One thing you’ll notice when you set foot in Caramoan is that the place is clean. Really clean. The water at the pier is crystal clear and not a single piece of trash can be found. This is also the case during our ride across the peninsula to Gota Village.

Boat trips from Caramoan back to Sabang are better regulated, in my opinion. There are fixed schedules, 7 am, 8 am, 9 am and 11 am. Although the boat we boarded left at 10:30 am, with only half of its capacity. The boats are also much larger and has life vests, a complete opposite to the one we boarded getting to Caramoan.

While paying for the Php 5 port fee, I asked about the RoRo service. The lady told me that it is temporarily unavailable as the other port is under construction. No word on when the service will resume.

Arriving at Sabang port at half past noon, the last van to Naga is already full. We were told to ride a jeepney to Goa (Php 20) and then take another van (Php 80) or bus back to Naga. I didn’t mind this slight hiccup in our trip. The smell of fresh air blowing across my face is a welcome change from the stifling city air I breathe everyday. And the breeze coming from those Jasmine rice fields…

Final Thoughts

According to most of the blogs I read during my research, roads to Caramoan are dangerous or not passable at all. I was able to see a lot of ongoing construction from our boat during our trip. This will definitely make for a more convenient journey to Caramoan. Hopefully, though, this will not reduce this little piece of paradise to a dirty, noisy, commercial, touristy spot filled with endless bars, generic souvenir shops and preposterously expensive resorts.

Travel, in my humble opinion, is not just about the destination. The “getting there” part is also an enjoyable affair. Despite having to spend ten hours barely able to sleep in a bus, sharing a seat with a rooster for two hours at the back of a cramped van, and enduring the smell of gasoline on a 2-hour boat ride, it was still a great experience that made the destination a more delightful conquest. And Caramoan is indeed a delightful conquest!

Updates

19 August 2017 – You can now drive from Manila to Caramoan

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