One by one, I conquer my dream destinations in the Philippines. Those on the list include Batanes (yes, still haven't been there), the Bukas Grande Islands and Siargao, the islands of Jolo and Tawi-Tawi and this one, the Caramoan Peninsula in Camarines Sur in wonderful Bicol.
From Naga, we drove all the way to Sabang Port in San Jose and took a ferry to Caramoan before lunch. One must leave as early in the morning as possible to avoid the strong waves. You could also take an FX or van or even a jeep from Naga to San Jose. The ferry ride was one of the worst I have experienced as the boat was small and cramped. I just meditated for 1.5 hours and forced myself to sleep. We arrived at the port safe and was picked up by a van we arranged earlier.
We then headed on to the Caramoan Town, where we stayed for 2 nights at the Rex Tourist Inn after surveying the other hotels. Villa Juliana was a good affordable choice, but the house was under renovation when we came. The popular La Casa Roa was expensive by standards as it charged 2k for a room in a hostel type accommodation. Rex was 1k, after asking for a discount. Compare those to the beautiful trailers in CWC for also 1k.
(inside Casa Roa)
(Villa Juliana, good and affordable, http://villajuliana.multiply.com)
(the lobby of Rex Tourist Inn, the first in the town of Caramoan)
It's best to arrange your transportation, whether it's a trike or a multicab. I think you can rent a motorbike from any of the locals. The trick here is just to ask. The people are very friendly and are open to tourists. So, saying that, we had our multicab pick us up at 3PM after settling in, and then headed to the Gota Beaches (Little and Big) and spent the remainder of the day there. We had to stop at the river, since the bridge was under construction. The walk was supposedly long, so it's a good thing that a tricycle came to rescue us. Here are some scenes of the Caramoan landscape:
The Gota beaches were littered with natural debris like seaweed and fallen leaves, but since there was a lot of construction going in the area (a cluster of villas and a hotel by the CamSur Government), boxes and trash messed up the edges of the beaches. That was really disappointing. It seems that Filipinos really don't care about nature or their surroundings. You wouldn't find anything like this in other countries. I just don't get how Filipinos can just litter and leave their trash behind the most beautiful of places.
The sun has set and so we took the same tricycle to go back where our van would meet us. We were a bit early, so we took a dip in the river where we waited. We then ate dinner at a turo-turo place since Caramoan had no restaurants. We called it an early night as we would explore the islands the next day.
We got up early to explore the islands around Gota Beach. We were picked up by our driver at 6AM, prepared food for lunch and snacks, and headed off to Paniman Beach, a fishing village where our rented boat docked. We got our boat from the driver. You could also get a boat from Gota, where most of the tourists go.
We found paradise on 3 islands, one of which had secret beaches and nearby smaller islands that we just walked to during the low tide. I wasn't able to jot down the names of the islands, but these islands were the ones just facing Gota Beach. One island had two beaches on a narrow strip of sand. One side had powerful waves while the other was perfect for swimming. Island after island, we had new things to discover. We climbed rocks to get to the other side of islands. We even crossed the sea as it was low tide, to reach smaller islands.
Honongan Island is one of the biggest islands we visited. We had a delicious barbeque at the beach for lunch. It also had a hidden lagoon that was accessible by climbing the rocks about 25 to 30 feet high. I saw a huge blue colored fish in the lagoon. They said that the fish was an enkantada. Of course, that was folklore, but the lagoon in itself had an eerie and peaceful atmosphere that made me feel it was mystical.
It actually rained hard that afternoon and we were stuck in one island to wait for the rain to stop. We were supposed to explore further, but the waves were too strong. So we went back to Paminan Beach to be picked up. That night, we had drinks at a Singko-Oke Bar (P5 slot videoke machine) and sang the night away. We continued on the revelry at the Rex where we danced all morning.
We were waiting for the sun to shine and the waves to calm but the weather was naughty. So, disappointed, we took the last ferry back to Sabang. Everyone told us to go back during Summer. A lot of the locals offered their services for free just for us to go back. With so many more to explore, we may do so soon. Caramoan is like no other place in the country, and with the right tourism strategy, it can become one of the top destinations. It actually is comparable to the majestic landscapes of the Krabi region in Thailand and Halong Bay in Hanoi. It is like Palawan but more mysterious, mesmerizing and enchanting. We hope and pray that Caramoan will share the spotlight someday soon with the best of what our country has to offer.
CONTACT NUMBERS FOR HOSTELS. All these are of close distance to each other, so if one is fully booked, it's easy to walk and inquire in the other. I don't know if the cottages at Gota Beach are already open. They were supposed to be completed this Summer, so ask for that when you arrive at the port or when you go to Caramoan town.
Rex Tourist Inn +639198821879 (mobile)
La Casa Roa +63(54)8115789 (landline)
Villa Juliana +639212261395 (mobile)