Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Exploring CARAGA Region Part 1 : Island Hopping in Bucas Grande

I'd say this trip was the most spontaneous trip I've ever had. Most of my trips have detailed itinerary and expenses prior to going to a destination. This was totally different, I did not do any research or care about the itinerary, what I want was just to go with the flow with people I barely know. Yes, I traveled with people I never met yet. They were kinda strangers to me. I never talked to them prior to the trip except one, Jefferson, whom I have been talking online for the past year and Anne who I had a chance to talk with days before the trip to know what to expect. I was hesitant at first because as I said I don't know their personality and the fact that they already knew each other gave me a little worry that I might not be able to get along with them. I was wrong, after I met them at our rendezvous, I immediately felt the warm welcome. I knew right there I will have fun with them.

Stingless Jellyfish | Photo by: Jefferson Balon aka Donde Si Jep
Meeting at Hayanggabon Port
I left Davao at around 2AM on June 12, 2014. I was already at the terminal at around 11:30PM but the last last trip to Tandag City has already departed so I just had to cut trips. Instead of taking the non-air Bachelor bus to Butuan, I decided to wait for the airconditioned Philtranco bus which was supposed to leave at 1AM but for some reasons departed an hour later. I arrived at San Francisco Bus Terminal at around 6AM and waited for a bus or van going to Tandag. After about an hour of waiting, a van going to Tandag has arrived at the terminal. I left San Franz at past 7AM and arrived in Tandag City at around 10AM. Luckily, the bus going to Surigao City was already at the terminal and was scheduled to depart 10:30AM so I took a quick breakfast at the terminal and then hopped on the bus. The bus had so many stops to drop and pick up passengers so the travel time was longer than expected. It also stopped for lunch somewhere in the town of Carrascal so I was a little worried about my arrival in Hayanggabon. It will be the first time I am going to meet my travel buddies and I don't want to give them a bad impression about me by arriving late. When I met them, I was feeling sorry, I had to let them wait for me but there's really nothing I can do. I think they understand the fact that I traveled about 14 hours before arriving at the meeting place.
At Hayanggabon Port after the Bucas Grande Tour
EscapeManila with the Instagang : Anne (@traveladik), Scher (@scherzelle), Aleks (@urbrataleks),
Jefferson (@jepepips), Jay-R (@jayrezzy_gimpao),  Alde (@aldeready) & Van (@artisticavan)
Hello Bucas Grande!
We left Hayanggabon port at around 2:30PM. Anne has already arranged a boatman to pick us up from Hayanggabon Port going to Bucas Grande. After around 45 minutes, we arrived at Cinnamon Island, one of the Islands of Bucas Grande which is a part of the town of Socorro. We met Kuya Dodo, the Operations Manager of Sohoton Cove whom Anne talked to and discussed our plans while in Bucas Grande. We already agreed with the price of the tour package (P690 each) so what we did after was to find a place to stay for the night. We first went to SIFAI Cottage which is managed by Sohoton Integrated  Farmers Association Incorporated. The room was good and the rate was very cheap but there's no beach so we decided to hunt for another place. We went to La Fortuna Beach Resort and we thought we will be staying there but the caretaker has informed us that we need to rent the whole resort for P10,000. It was too big for the eight of us so we asked him to let us rent at least the middle portion (it has 3 portions). He was hesitant, so we called his boss and to our dismay she did not agree with our counter offer. I think it was a bad decision from the caretaker, if I were the owner I would allow guest to rent in portions not unless it is already being rented by someone else. Anyway, we had to scout for another place and luckily we found Canlunes Beach Resort. To be honest, it was a better option as the beach is cleaner compared with the one in La Fortuna. We rented an open-air cottage (P1000) and enjoyed the night with some booze, stories and laughters.





We were supposed to do our island hopping in the afternoon but it was already too late so we decided to do it the next day. Instead, some of us went to the nearest market to buy some food. The market was about 20 minutes by boat from Canlunes. The price of the goods are quite high so it is wise buy food from the mainland to save some money.



First Meal in the Island
We were lucky enough to be accompanied with awesome guide and boatmen.They volunteered to cook the fish that we bought from the market for our dinner. The staff at Canlunes Resort prepared the table for us to enjoy our dinner.


We had some drink after dinner, went to the beach for a night swimming and went to bed at around 1AM. It was a memorable first night with the group.

Day 2 in Bucas Grande
We woke up early, around 5AM as we have to start our island hopping as early as we could. Rene, our guide and the boatmen cooked corned beef and meat loaf for our breakfast. We were really lucky to have them. We had the simplest breakfast but it felt like we have the best one. We ate the food with gusto. 


As much as we want to stay in the resort longer, we had to leave the place and start our island hopping. We left Canlunes Resort around 7:30AM.


Stingless Jellyfish Sanctuary
We first visited the Stingless Jelly Fish Sanctuary. We were all awed by what we have witnessed. The place looked amazing and the moment we saw the stingless jellyfish it felt surreal. Swimming with the stingless jellyfish has always been on my bucket list and finally it has been realized.

Stingless Jellyfish | Photo by Jefferson Balon
Stingless Jellyfish | Photo by Jefferson Balon
Everyone was very excited to jump into the water and interact with the stingless jellyfish. I'd say it's one of the highlights of our Bucas Grande trip.

Photo by Van Navarro
Markaa Island
Second stop of our Island Hopping escapade was at Markaa Island. It was a picture-perfect place so a lot of my travel buddies were busy with their monopods for their selfies. 

Group Photo at Markaa Island | By Jefferson Balon
Parang Pag-ibig Shot with Scher and Alde | Photo by Jeffereson Balon
The rise of the "selfie" pods (L-R: Je, Alde, Anne, Jefferson) 
Sohoton Cove Tour
Another highlight of our Bucas Grande Island Tour is our visit to Sohoton Cove. It was something we really look forward to and it did not disappoint us. We had so much fun exploring the cove. As we entered the only way in and out of Sohoton Cove, we immediately felt the pleasurable vibe of finally seeing it up close. 
Entrance to Sohoton Cove | Photo by Scher Padilla of Scher Goes Places
We first visited the Hagukan Cave where we enjoyed swimming in the cold and refreshing water. 

Group Photo  inside Hagukan Cave | Photo by Jeffereson Balon
The second stop was at Magkukuob Cave where we had to go inside the cave and then climb up to get through the exit and jump. It is also known as the diving cave as you have to jump off a platform to exit. This is not for the faint-hearted. The slippery trail of the cave is much more difficult to traverse than to just jump off the platform. It's about 15-foot high from the sea water.

The diving platform at Magkukuob Cave | Photo by Jeffereson Balon
After visiting the two caves, we went back to the Visitor's center and transferred to the bigger boat that we have chartered. We were supposed to visit other attractions in Bucas Grande but due to a very limited time we had to skip it.

Group Shot at Sohoton Cove Visitor's Center with Kuya Dodo | Photo by Scher Padilla of Scher Goes Places
We went back to Cinnamon Resort and settled our bill then we head back to Hayanggabon Port on our way to the City of Tandag for our Surigao del Sur adventure.

How to go to Bucas Grande:

From Surigao
From Surigao City, take a Hayanggabon-bound van or Tandag-bound bus and alight at Hayanggapon Port. You can take a boat from the port or pre-arrange it with Kuya Jojie at 0946 377 2770. The rate is P3500 for drop-off, pick-up and island hopping tour excluding Sohoton Cove. For the Sohoton Cove Tour, you may contact the Operations Manager, Kuya Rolando "Dodo" Henson at 0939 904 7019.

From Butuan
From Butuan City Bus Terminal, take a van or bus to Surigao City and alight at the junction in the town of Placer, Surigao del Norte. Travel time is a little over two hours and fare is around P200. From the junction take a van going to Hayanggabon Port, travel time is roughly 2 hours and fare is P90. Alternatively, you may take the bus going to Tandag and alight at Hayanggabon Port.

From Davao
From Davao City, you may take a Tandag-bound bus, travel time is around 7-8 hours and fare is approximately P500. Alternatively, you may cut trips and take a Butuan-bound bus, alight at San Franz terminal and transfer a van/bus to Tandag. Travel time from Davao to San Franz is about 5 hours and fare for the A/C bus is P380. Travel time from San Franz to Tanda is about 2-3 hours and van fare is P150.

From Bislig/Hinatuan
There is no direct bus or van from Bislig or Hinatuan to Tandag City. The best option is to take a bus to the town of Barobo and from there take a bus/van going to Tandag.

From Tandag City
From Tandag City, the only option to go to Hayanggabon Port is to take a non-A/C Surigao City bound bus. Travel time is 3-4 hours and the fare is P150. Just inform the driver to drop you off at Hayanggabon Port. The port is a walking distance from the highway.


Read more from CARAGA Series...
Exploring CARAGA Region Part 2 : Discovering the Wonders of Surigao del Sur
Exploring CARAGA Region Part 3 : Itinerary & Expenses
Exploring CARAGA Region Part 4 : Bucas Grande Travel Guide
Travel Mindanao : Bislig and Hinatuan Travel Guide


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