Exploring Caramoan: Bicol's Kept Secret

Our trip to Caramoan is one of the highlights during our Bicol trip and were incredibly blessed to have been able to cross this one off of the list. Eric and I wanted to visit Caramoan ever since, but the plan have been shelved for the time being due to lack of time and rising airline prices. It took us 2 years to finally mapped out and include Caramoan in our travel plans for 2016. This half-hidden paradise located at the tip of Caramoan Peninsula , has made its name as one of the top destinations in the Philippines and on a par with Coron and El Nido. Not just that, Caramoan soared to fame even more when the popular reality show " Survivor" was filmed there.

Getting to Caramoan
It is quite challenging to visit because of the different transportation modes you need to use before you can reach the island but getting there is definitely worth it.You can check this post on how to get here.

What to see?

The main draw are its beautiful islands surrounded by crystal clear waters and populated by diverse rich marine corals making it in our top list as one of the best so far. So here is a quick list of islands and beaches we visited during our trip. Some of the islands are closed because of the ongoing filming of the Survivor franchise.By the way, we paid around Php 4,000 for a whole day private boat tour excluding lunch.

According to our guide and boatman, the Survivor franchise contract is 20 years

MINALAHOS ISLAND

Minalahos is known for the towering limestone cliffs  comparable to Coron in Palawan. It's quite unique because you can walk to the opposite side in under 5 minutes.Crystal clear water gently laps the white sandy shore of the island.

Beautiful photo of Minalahos Island Caramoan
Crystal clear waters of Minalahos
Powdery white sand of Minalahos
Just a short stroll to the opposite side of Minalahos

Beautiful waters of Minalahos
Such a Beautiful Island

MATUKAD ISLAND

Just a short boat ride from Minalahos is the most popular island in Caramoan " Matukad". Our guide and boatman had already informed us the day before that he's unsure if Matukad is already open because of the ongoing filming of Survivor. Luckily, the filming crew had already left before we arrived. We climbed up for about  10-15 meters without safety ropes or gears to see the lagoon and to get a good view of Matukad. The climb was definitely worth it as you get to see the amazing view at the top. On the opposite side  is a lagoon where a giant milk fish lives. The locals believed that the little creature protects the island and brings ill fortune to those who harm it.

Matukad Island Caramoan
Gorgeous view from the top

Matukad Island Caramoan
The hidden lagoon where a giant milk fish lives

Matukad Island Caramoan
Majestic view from the top
LAHUS ISLAND

Located just minutes away from Matukad is Lahus Island. It's closed for filming so we don't have the opportunity to visit the island.

COTIVAS SANDBAR

From Matukad we traveled for an hour to a sandbar near Cotivas Island. We docked and saw the dreaded box jelly fish. You can easily tell that it's a box because of its long tentacles and boxy umbrella shape body. Unlike most jellyfish, the box are fairly adept at navigating around obstacles and swimming swiftly to a desired location. The box jellyfish's venom is among the most deadly in the world, containing toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. You're in serious trouble if you get stung because the nearest hospital is in Tawog which is an hour away from Cotivas and another 20 min to the hospital by trike. Going back, we lose track of the jelly fish and our guide set up a beach umbrella for us while they head off to Cotivas Island to cook our lunch. About an hour later, our lunch is cooked and off we went to the most visited sandbar in Caramoan " Manlawi Sandbar". 
Calm and Blue Skies
Dangerous nox jellyfish
Box Jellyfish
long stretch  white sand of Cotivas sandbar

Idyllic place to doze off

MANLAWI SANDBAR

Manlawi Sandbar is situated east of Cotivas Island and on the shore of Lahuy Island. It only appears during lowtide and completely submerge during high tide. Entrance fee is Php 50.00 and Php 100.00 if you opt to rent a hut. We didn't rent but instead we set up our beach umbrella in the middle of the sandbar and put a table and chairs courtesy of our boatman. It was just an idea I shared to him the day before the island hopping but he did a good job in turning it into a reality. A fantastic experience and amazing place not to be missed when visiting Caramoan.







Our lunch at Manlawi sandbar
Mouth-Watering Lunch





SNORKELING NEAR CAGBALINAD ISLAND

Snorkeling in Cagbalinad is one of the best experienced we had during our Caramoan trip. The well intact and flourishing reefs is a good sign that Caramoan is not over exploited by unsustainable and excessive forms of tourism and fishing as their main livelihood on the island. I wonder how great it will be if the reefs in Boracay is as good as this.








SABITANG LAYA

The Sabitang Laya came from two words which means in English "to where fishing nets are hung." Local fishermen use this area as their staging ground in fixing their nets before they go on fishing along other parts of the seas of the Caramoan peninsula. This island is also in Survivor's top list and will be closed if they are filming.This piece of paradise is a must visit and the shallow emerald-green waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

These are the list of islands closed during filming of the reality series: Sabitang Laya, Lahos, Matukad, Catanhawan, Pitogo Bay, Tupan Lagoon, Inayun-ayunan, Tayak and Mantapas
Picturesque Sabitang Laya

Sabitang Laya have the longest shore line in Caramoan
Back to our inn, I was really glad and personally thank our boatman and guide for the amazing experienced. The journey is long, quite hard and worth it all. Caramoan is a complete package- jaw dropping limestone cliffs, delicious food, kind people, amazing reefs, beautiful islands and not that touristy. Seeing the box jellyfish in Cotivas prompts us to call out the local government to be proactive on this matter. Teaching basic first aid to tour operators is the first step and hopefully resonates to other prime destinations like El Nido and Coron.

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