We overslept because we were all worn out from the 10 hour bus ride originating in Davao City. It was a tough ride, we left Davao City around 8:00 and later arrive in Butuan City around 5:30 pm. We have been on the road for almost 8 hours, but not just yet. We still have to endure another 2- hour bus ride to Surigao City. While on the bus we were in constant contact with the staff of VMO Tourist Inn. It's a blog worthy inn with amazing amenities such as clean rooms, good food and courteous staff. As we arrived, we alight from the bus and we're about to board a jeepney when I got a call from one of the staff of VMO Tourist Inn. We were told to remain in a certain area of the bus terminal to be easily spotted because their van service is going to fetch us for FREE. After a short while, the van arrives. We were easily spotted by the driver and ten minutes later we arrived at the tourist inn. Check in was a breeze, we were in our room in no time but we need to satisfy our tummies before hitting bed . We looked for eateries near the riverside but unfortunately there were none. Luckily the hotel restaurant was still opened. We had shrimps, pork and chicken teryaki rice toppings, noodles and fruit juices to go with it. Food was great and not that expensive. By the way, room starts at Php 1,500 with free breakfast and free shuttle service to and from the airport or bus terminal. You can check the room prices and amenities by clicking here.
The following morning, we were all fired up to see Bucas Grande Island. The shuttle van dropped us off at the van terminal which is just a few meters from the express bus terminal. They both share the same terminal so it's quite convenient for the passengers. The van fill up quickly with passengers and whisked off to Hayanggabon Port - the main jumping point to Bucas Grande Island. Travel time to Hayanggabon port is 2 hours. Fare is pegged at Php 90 / person ( $2.2) .
We cruise the rural countryside of Trinidad filled with greens and trees. I felt some kind of euphoric whenever I saw a body of water from the van window. The excitement even grew more when my friend Ruth told me that we're just an hour away from Hayanggabon port according to the map app installed in her phone. There's a slight problem though, the GPS of her Iphone is acting weird. According to her, our van was cruising in the ocean not in land. The beatific smile of Ruth makes our travel more lively and fun. I'm glad to have a friend like her tagging along with our trips.
Am I on Mars?
We were less than half way through our journey when I decided to take a nap. I awakened suddenly when the van hit a pothole near Placer. I gently open my eyes and I could see dust particles floating in the stream of sunlight hitting the van window. I looked outside and saw a mountain from afar in bright rust red color similar to Mars landscape. All I could see is dust and the absence of trees. Along the road, trucks and heavy equipment's are tainted with mud while the workers are dressed in white shirt, mud tainted jeans and boots. Placer is just one of the many mining towns in Surigao del norte. I felt wretched from what I saw.
We were less than half way through our journey when I decided to take a nap.I awakened suddenly when the van hit a pothole near Placer. I gently open my eyes and I could see dust particles floating in the stream of sunlight hitting the van window. I looked on my right and saw a mountain from afar in bright rust red color similar to Mars landscape. All I could see is dust and the absence of trees. Along the road, trucks and heavy equipment's are tainted with mud while the workers are dressed in white shirt, mud tainted jeans and boots. Placer is just one of the many mining towns in Surigao del norte. I felt wretched from what I saw. We arrived in Hayanggabon port past 12 and continue our way to Club Tara by hiring a private boat. Boat rates to and from Club Tara is around Php 750 per way. Quite expensive for a 30 min boat ride. For guest who are bringing their own car, you can either park your car in the port area or near the coastguard office. Sohoton tour from Hayanggabon port is roughly around Php 3,500 for a whole day tour regardless of head count and Php 2,500 for a half day tour.
Extremely disturbing sight.
Welcome to Club Tara
When we arrived, we were greeted well enough by the staff and shown to our room which is the second one from the right. We decided to wait till the tide goes up before exploring around. Marsi the owner and a facebook friend of mine is not around so we ask around some quick tidbits about the resort. They told us that majority of the resort visitors are foreigners and there's a beach at the opposite side of the resort that can be reach by hiking. According to them, rates vary from season to season and the cheapest rate is during low season which is from June to November. Jacuzzi water cottage rate starts from Php 4,000 to 6,000 ( $100 - $150) per night for two persons inclusive of breakfast. Amenities includes free use of Kayak, Paddle board and outdoor pool. The resort can arrange land and sea transfers to and from Surigao City or Hayanggabon. Superbly expensive for a shoestring traveler like us but it's all worth it.
The room is big enough to accommodate 3 persons or more but you have to pay extra if you want to bring more people in. Extra person rate is around Php 1,500 - 1,800. The Jacuzzi has outstanding view outside. The room is quite unique because the entrance to the bathroom has no door. The only thing that separates the bathroom are the curtain beads. I think a door to the bathroom would be better. The only issue I have about the room is the salt water in taps. The resort had difficulty of pumping fresh water. They need to provide jugs of fresh water to their guest for rinsing hair, brushing teeth etc. Air conditioning is a bit feeble but not an issue. Also available inside the cottages are coffee/tea maker, refrigerator, hair dryer and daily complimentary bottled water.
THE TIDE IS UP!
We're all set to explore the cove by means of Kayak and Paddle board. We were the only guest around so we basically own the place for a day. We paddled our way around enjoying a shoreline cruise along the mangrove edge surrounded by steep cliffs and limestone forest. Extremely breathtaking! I place dotted lines on the map to get the whole picture of our route.
WHITE CORAL SANDBAR
We paddled west to reach the Coral Sandbar . It's a bit of exercise but you will greatly be rewarded once you arrive. Clear turquoise water laps at the white sand of this secluded little islet. You don't even need a swim mask or goggles because the water is crystal clear that you can see all of its secrets laid bare from the sky. We brought some bread to feed the fishes but was later snatched by a hungry raven waiting nearby :-).
LITTLE PIECE OF PARADISE
After a swimming jaunt, we pack our things and head north to the white beach. The small beachfront is almost covered by vegetation and the coconut trees give more of a 'tropical feel!. The sand is not as fine as Boracay but it's white and coarse. Truly amazing!
Before we wrap up our paddling trip, we head to the open sea to get a clearer view of the islands. We took a few snapshots when our friend Ruth suddenly complained about a painful sting in her leg. From the looks of it, it's a jellyfish sting because of the welt and whip like mark. We treated the wound with vinegar and she's good to go the following morning.
DINNER UNDER THE STARS
We had a fancy dinner set for us in the jetty. A collective effort by the staff and to my hubby who requested the fancy setup a week prior to our arrival. We ordered Buttered Chicken, Beef Steak, 2 sets of fish dish, Some fresh mangoes and mango juice to go along with it. The food menu is quite limited and expensive but it was great and nearly close to perfect! The ambiance is charming and the staff was very accommodating. I was totally impressed! Food range from Php 250-500 per dish.
I was able to capture some wildlife residents in the resort. Several kinds of forest birds can be heard and seen including the Tartaric Horn bills. This would be a paradise for bird watchers, especially as there is forest on the hill behind Club Tara which is very easily accessible and featuring the above mentioned wildlife. Strenuous hike but again a rewarding experience.
We're ready to leave Bucas Grande but not just yet. We were scheduled for a Sohoton and cave tour before hitting the road. Our Sohoton experience will be on a different post. Some few thoughts about our stay and experience. Club Tara is a nice resort with awesome amenities but needs some minor renovation and upgrade (e.g Fresh water to rinse hair, brushing teeth..). Overall, our stay was great and personally thank the resort and Marsi for accommodating us.
- Bring Cash no ATM on the island
- Hayanggabon Port to Club Tara: 45 minutes, Php 1,500 / way can be haggled to 1400 for the boat. or Php 200/pax
- Globe and 4g connectivity is weak but strong LTE connection. Weak signal for Smart.
- You can book your stay using Agoda by clicking here or Club Tara website http://www.clubtara-surigao.com/.