There are two island hopping tours in Caramoan: short (Php 1500) and long (Php 2000). The four islands to be visited for the short tour are just a few minutes from Paniman Beach (the jump off point for tours) and the tour can be done in just half a day. The destinations for the long tour are an hour from Paniman Beach but this tour can still be accomplished in just half a day. Maybe the tours should be renamed as near and far. Caramoan has many islands and both tours cover just seven of the many.
I was supposed to take the short tour when I arrived in Paniman Beach...but it was already late. Kuya Ramil suggested to take both tours the next day. So it is possible. I initially thought one should spend one day for each tour.
For the combo tour (Php 3000), we went to the far destinations first (the spots included in the long tour) then moved closer to Paniman Beach (the spots included in the short tour) after lunch.
In the morning, it was the far islands first:
Sabitang Laya Island
According to Kuya Sonny, Kuya Ramil's cousin who was also the guide, when there's a Survivor shoot on Sabitang Laya, the island is kept very clean, but tourists can't step foot on the island. At the time of my visit, there were trash (empty bottles, junk food wrappers, etc.) scattered about. Tsk tsk.
An entrance fee of Php 25 is collected on Cotivas island. Need shelter from the sun? Open cottages are available for rent. The caretaker, who lives on the island, collects the money.
Overnight stay at Bugtong Beach on the northern tip of Lahuy island is possible. There are cottages for rent for about Php 1000/cottage. Generators run at night to provide electricity. Day trippers can spend some time at this beach but must pay an entrance fee of Php 25.
One can hike just a short way up on the right side of Bugtong Beach for a view of the sandbar and the sea. Photo was taken during high tide, so no sandbar for you. Can you guess where the sandbar is?
The sandbar is under these floating cottages :-) That rock outcrop is where I stood to take the previous photo. It doesn't look too high, but believe me, it is.
A little farther from Bugtong Beach, on the eastern side of Lahuy island, is Caramoan's largest sandbar: Manlawi. There's really nothing much to do but walk on the sandbar. Walking on Manlawi sandbar doesn't feel like you're going anywhere, it's just sand everywhere! The cottages in Manlawi (as seen on the photo below) are also for rent.
After having lunch on the boat (too stingy to rent a cottage), we were off again. We spent an hour tracing our way back to get closer to the next group of islands. But before the islands, we stopped just off the mainland for a bit of snorkeling.
Kuya Sonny explained that matukad means to go up or climb up.
What's to climb on this island? A vertical limestone formation where arm and leg stretching is required and finding a good foothold is a must. This probably won't be a problem for people with long legs and long arms.
Why go through all the trouble to climb this sharp limestone formation? To see the lagoon hidden on the other side where one lone bangus (milkfish) swims. They say there used to be two milkfish. A fisherman speared one of the bangus, took it home, cooked it, and he and his son ate the fish. For unknown reasons his son died, then him. True or not, no one has attempted to take the last bangus.
A lonely bangus in a lagoon is not enough reason to climb the sharp limestone? Maybe this view is reason enough.
Two jagged limestone formations connected by white sand equals two beaches. Lahos in Visayan means to pass through and through. Get the connection?
Cagbalinad Island gives you a small and serene white sand beach and a little cave.
A small island with large rock formations and a small beach. This island is named Minalahos because in the past this island was not given any importance. Remember the root word "lahos"?
Was taking four years and a day to see all this worth it? I wish I had gone sooner. Before Survivor. Before the milkfish in Matukad's lagoon was killed. Back when the only way to get to Caramoan was by land. But then, it would probably have taken me longer than 10.5 hours to get there.
Caramoan, Camarines Sur:
The Road to Caramoan Took Four Years and a Day
Caramoan Island Hopping (you're here!)