Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Camiguin, The Island of Fire (Part I)

 The famous serpentine White Island with Camiguin’s Mt. Hibok-Hibok (its only active volcano) in the background
To officially welcome summer, I’d like to do a feature on Camiguin, a quaint little island north of Mindanao, which I’m very fond of. The very  first time I’ve been there was when I was six years old.  My grandmother and I used to visit the place when she was still serving as the Dep.Ed. Superintendent of the region. It didn’t really change that much over the years. The air is still fresh, the people are still as friendly and the sites are still as breathtaking as I remember them to be. 
L: Riding a bus from CDO to Balingoan Port; R: Arrival at Benoni Port in Camiguin
The island is said to be born of fire because of its seven (seven!) volcanoes. Had I not seen hardened  lava rocks all over the island, I would not have believed it to be so. How freakishly awesome, right?
CAMIGUIN almost defies description, I should say. It is a tiny island of lush forests, volcanic splendor, eternal hot and cold natural springs, pristine patches of black and white beaches, majestic waterfalls, exotic marine life, blue-ridge mountains, serene surroundings, idyllic lifestyle; it has a glorious past, and is inhabited with jovial people. The truth is, CAMIGUIN is best experienced than described as one gets enchanted by her mystical charm. It really has amazing natural resources and peaceful atmosphere that stir and baffle the minds of everyone.  — HON. PEDRO P. ROMUALDO, Governor, Province of Camiguin
This is why when I got married, it was one of those places that I eventually showed my husband so he could get to know me a little bit better (like where did all this love for nature and the beach came from?) I already showed Peter the land of my ancestors, Surigao. I also planned to bring him to Cagayan de Oro(where I spent high school) and Bukidnon (where my grandfather owns a modestly sized farm). But for now, let me share with you this captivating piece of island with its lush forests and pristine blue waters. Camiguin, my hot summer pick #1!
With my Mom & Dad
Did you know that this rustic island has a total land area of only 238 sq.km. with a circumferential road only 64 kilometers long?! This means that you can actually tour the whole island in one day! So how do we do that, you might ask. Well, first, if you’re coming from Manila, you have to take a flight going to Cagayan de Oro City. From Cagayan de Oro airport, take a cab going to  the bus station near Ororama in Lapasan. Board a bus going to Balingoan port which is a a 1 1/2 hours ride. From the port, take any of the ferries that follow an hourly schedule going to either ports of Guinsiliban or Benoni in Camiguin. Once you reach either of them, you will see vans and other modes of transportation that will be more than willing to take you wherever you want to go. Regular rates are around P2-3k for an entire day’s worth of going around the different tourist spots of the island. Good haggling skills can lower the price even further.

That’s our cottage at Caves Dive Resort.
 Dining with my folks
First stop: Resort. You can check-in at any of the numerous resorts available in the island. Make sure you’ve done your research and bookings especially if you’re planning to go during peak season. As for us, we stayed at Caves Dive Resort. They have air-conditioned cottages that I really like. I was interested in its simple old fashioned design coz I was planning to build my parents a similar small vacation cottage on one of our ancestral lands in Surigao. We enjoyed the scenery at the resort and shared a delectable meal with my parents (Yup, they came with us!). 
Waking up early the next morning to catch our boat…
 That’s the view of the resort from the boat.
One good thing about Camiguin is that anywhere you book a hotel room, there will always be bancas to take you to the famous White Island. However, out of all the resorts in the area, Caves Dive Resort is the one closest to it. So when we rented a boat to bring us there early the next morning, it only cost us P500.Yipee!

It’s always nice to catch the sunrise…
Please note that it is very important to leave the main island early in the morning, like before sunrise if possible. Why? Because White Island gets submerged underwater due to high tide as the day progresses. You wouldn’t wanna be caught in the middle of the sea surrounded by sharks do you? So depart by 6 a.m. at the latest and go back to the main island by 12 noon, as long as the island is still  above the surface of the water and as long as you can stand the heat.
After a mere 30 minutes, we arrived at White Island.
Time to explore the famous sandbar!

Thank God for the little cottages built on the island with tables and chairs where you can have your picnic (bring your own food & water! You’d be lucky to find vendors on the island and from experience, they only offer junk food.) . Back in the day, there was nothing there but just you, the island and the sea. You’d pretty much get toasted if you stay long enough.  How exciting, huh?

Is it a dugong?! No, it’s a whale! No wait, it’s a Peter! ^_^
So we pretty much enjoyed the whole morning walking the winding stretch of the sandbar, snorkeling in its turquoise waters and just simply basking in the sun, wishing that the morning will never end…
See all my posts about this trip here:  Vis-Min Tour 

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