It is our last destination before going home. It is about 30 minutes banca ride from Bikal Port.
You have to be prepared on this. Bring your ankle or leg support because you will climb about 523 big steps to see the panoramic view of the surrounding islands aside from the gigantic statue of Mary at the summit.
I was so tired but worth it.
The most recommended activity to do, while your in Caramoan is Island Hopping, you should not miss this, each island and islets boast its beauty, especially its pristine powder white sand beaches. This activity will consume your whole day. Just make sure to bring all the stuff you need Packed lunch, Water, Snacks, Snorkel Gear, Sunblock and most of all Camera.
Boat rental for a group of 3-5 heads would range from 1,500 to 1,800 always bargain if they charge you higher than this say no, there are two jump off points for island hopping in Caramoan either in Paniman or Bikal these are barangays situated in the coastlines.
One of the tourist attactions in Caramoan is Spelunking or Caving, the experience is very exciting, you will need to either hire a boat to get to the jump off point or tricycle to get there, from the jump off point you will need to hire locals to take you to the Omang Cave 100 fee would be decent enough. Going to the cave you will need to cross or walk right thru the muddy river stream coming from the mountains which are abount 2 to 5 feet deep for about 20-30 minutes then climb the cliffs for another 20 minutes. the entrance to the cave is actually about the solid rock mountain. Inside is like a large Church hall which you can compare to the Vatican, there are stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave, careful on you walk the rocks are slippery and make sure to have off lotion with you to keep the painful mosquito bites inside the cave.
These are the beaches we managed to see even on a bad weather. About 45 minutes travel from Bikal port.
These twin beaches are located on a single triangular island. One side is Sabitang-Laya( wide and long) and the other side is Bag-ing (with rock formations). The island is beautiful and also belongs to the top 10 islands of Caramoan.
visitors usually just do island hopping when they are visiting Caramoan. Try to explore the country side by walking. No heavy traffic and pollution so it's okay. We even went far off the road to get near a swamp and see hundreds of birds playing or Just simply enjoy the lush green surrounding, the river, Caramoan town hall, souvenir shops. market etc... a whole new different thing to do.
Very old church made of red brick located on a vast courtyard with trees, well maintained grass and Some religious monuments like St. Joseph . The church was put up by Franciscan Missionaries in 16th century.
For Catholic Church architecture lovers must not miss this church.
Here’s just a few of the things I’ve done so far:
- Island hopping/Sight seeing
- Day/Night Snorkeling: You gotta try night snorkeling! It's scary but the underwater creature is more beautiful when you literally have "the light in your hands".
- Climbing rocks to see the Lagoon at Matukad Beach: The rocks are very sharp and its a hard climb but you can reach the top in less than 10 minutes. There's one huge milkfish that swims around and its supposedly the "mystical guard" of the lagoon. Locals do not dare go down the lagoon for two reasons: (1) the rocks are sharp and it’s dangerous to climb down and (2) its been said that anybody who dares to go to the lagoon gets some incurable random sickness. However, when you reach the top, its quite the beauty and you can take gazillion pictures!
- Fishing: What's better than catching your own fish fresh off the ocean and them cooking it? Oh so delicioso!!!!
- Spear fishing: If you know what you're doing, it's safe and fun. You can either use a spear gun or use a home-made simple sharp, long and thin piece of metal and a strong thick rubber band (used by locals) and patiently spear your fish of choice. How fun is that!
- Climbing 500+ steps in the town of Tabgon to see the largest Virgin Mary statue or if you’re agnostic or an atheist, just hike up and challenge yourself to 500+ steps and see the most amazing view of the Caramoan islands on top of the highest mountain range and of course take gazillion pictures!
- Camping: Camp at La Playa or any of the islands especially during the full moon. It's not just romantic; it's simply great! Just make sure you bring all your necessary things or first aid kits. Unfortunately, there is no cellphone signals in the islands so if and when emergency occurs, rescue will be nearly impossible. So since La Playa is also a campground, I suggest you just camp there.
- Picnic with your friends
- An adventurous motorcycle ride, bicycle ride or walking experience in the town of Caramoan. But this is a most do if you should explore with a 2-wheel drive (or 2 legs...hehehe), you must visit the town of Hanopol to check out the beautiful and heaven-like view of the mountain and lake near the dam and have a picnic or go fishing for tilapia.
- Spelunking/Caving at Omang Cave.
There are countless activities to do! Try them all! I DARE YOU!
This is my favorite activity in Caramoan, what would be your vacation without swimming???. Remember Caramoan is a Peninsula therefore it is surrounded by water, they have islands which boast white sand beaches, the famous ones are Gota Beach, Bag-eng Beach and Matukad Beach
There are two types of Island Hopping tours: the short way (for nearby islands) @ P1,5000 and the long way (more islands included) @ P2,500. We wanted to have the long way tour, but bad weather on the day we were in Caramoan prevented us from proceeding to the farther islands.
We almost didn't push through with our island hopping tour. When we arrived at Paniman Beach, there was overcast sky, the waves were rough, and the wind was strong. Hubby and I couldn't decide if we will push through with our plans or not. The clouds were getting darker, foreboding rain. It could be risky proceeding with our island hopping, then get caught in the rain in the middle of the rough sea. On the other hand, it would be such a waste of time if we didn't see the islands while we were already there in Caramoan. The locals at the beach assured us there was no storm; that the rain would just pass by and stop in a while. Before we could even decide, the rain poured and we all scampered to a nearby stall with billiard pool. While waiting for the rain to stop, I interviewed some of the locals and took their pictures.
The rain stopped shortly, and the sky cleared up. We took a chance; we proceeded with the deal for a tour of nearby islands, with the understanding that we would decide later if we would go further to the other islands or not, depending on the weather, and depending on our mood. Myrna, wife of Ramil Cruel, the boat owner introduced us to our 2 boatmen, Mardy & Junior. We were given free lifevests, and provided with a motorized outrigger boat with tarpaulin roofing to be installed as needed. While hubby was inspecting our boat, I asked for the nearest restroom, and Myrna wa gracious enough to bring me to their home so I can use their comfort room. Afterwards, hubby and I boarded the boat with our dry gear, and brought packed breakfast and lunch for us and our boatmen.
One thing I appreciate is the boat owner's honesty that we couldn't set foot in all the islands because of ongoing production/shooting of Survivor Israel, but our boatmen would try their best to go near and sail around the said islands.
Note: I will write about the islands separately.
After getting settled in Centro, we visited the St. Michael Parish Church to thank God for our safe trip. I felt odd as I prayed inside the church. It was so hot outside, but it was strangely cool inside. As a whiff of breeze kissed my cheeks, I thought that perhaps the big windows and red clay bricks kept the interiors comfortably cool.
When I went outside to the courtyard, I saw a familiar face. It was a woman who rode the same van we took from Naga, and the same boat we rode from Sabang. She smiled and said she guessed that we were tourists. It turned out, she is a volunteer worker at the church, so I asked her a lot of questions, and I learned a lot from her.
Most of the people in Caramoan are Roman Catholics. They are proud and honored to have a historic old church in their town, built in the 15th century. The church's history goes as far back as when Franciscan Missionary Fray Francisco dela Cruz y Oropesa dared to penetrate the dense forests of Caramoan Peninsula in 1867. He then founded a Christian settlement in a place called Balwarte. Upon turnover of this settlement to the Sagrada Mitra for administration in 1696, a chapel was built out of indigenous materials like nipa, bamboos and wood. Thereafter, the chapel underwent several repairs/renovations and a permanent structure was finally constructed only after almost 200 years. The building was constructed by slave labor out of adobe, local stones and clay under the supervision of well-known artisans and masons. The same building still stands, having withstood natural calamities like typhoons and earthquakes, and also the ravages of World War II.
Matukad Island is among the south Caramoan islands where the province of Catanduanes can be seen. (The south islands are included in the short island hopping tour from Paniman.) Matukad is one of the most popular island destinations, and as a favorite island, it is usually first in the list for island hopping now that Gota 1 & 2 Islands are off limits to tourists due to ongoing production/shooting of Survivor Israel.
There were 2 guards of Survivor Israel camped at the island when we arrived. They were supposed to alert tourists if they could or could not proceed to the island when shooting or production work is being or going to be done. Fortunately, they allowed us to stay for a while to explore the island.
Matukad is said to have a circumference of 1,616 meters, 3 beaches stretched on 125 meters of pristine powdery white sand, and a small lagoon with intriguing legend. Wild plants bearing exotic fruits and orchids are a delight to see in its tropical forest. The bonsai-like trees and wild plants growing on the cracks of sharply eroded rock formations are also an interesting sight.
For you to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the island, I suggest that you go there very early in the morning so you can have the beach for yourself, have undisturbed photo shoot, go for an unhurried climb to the limestone ledge to see the lagoon and bask on the morning sun and breeze while having a breathtaking view of the sea and the other islands from the top of the cliff. Having done all that, you can then have your packed breakfast there,under the trees, but be sure to clean up everything before you leave.
I used to drop by the town's church wherever I go. I don't know why, but I make churches as one of my must see place when I am in a certain place, but I only consider old ones :). I find it as a landmark of a certain place and how old it must be. For me churches speaks more of the history of its own town.
We got our boat for island hopping at Paniman Beach, the jump-off point to the white beaches and exotic islands of Gota, Hunongan, Lahus, and Matukad.
I was surprised when I saw Paniman Beach. All the while, I thought it was something like Patar Beach of Bolinao, with very fine cream-colored sand. It turned out that the sand is very fine but looks like wet soil/mud because of its brownish black color when wet. However, a cursory look at the sea revealed to me clean and clear water that appears "murky" from afar only because of the brownish black sand that goes with the tide. When we returned to Paniman Beach from our island hopping tour, I noticed that the sand at the beach was lighter brown in color, perhaps because the sand had dried up already after the rain. I looked around and appreciated the beauty of Paniman Beach more. It had a unique natural beauty all its own.
We were told that many tourists go there for overnight stay (I saw directional signs of a few resorts in Paniman), camping or day trip, picnic and swimming. By the way, hubby and I would have wanted to stay at the Resthouse of Rex Tourist Inn in Paniman Beach, but we backed out not because it was more expensive than their rooms at Centro, but because we had to sign a waiver that if anything happened to us there, the Management wouldn't be responsible for us. The owner explained to us that they do not encourage overnight stay in their Resthouse, until such time that Paniman has ample electricity, safe water system, sufficient security and available medical service for guests.
We didn't have a chance to explore the expanse of Paniman Beach because of bad weather and time constraints, but based on my previous research, it is also by itself, an interesting destination. The next time we go there, I will find time to see the beautiful limestone rock formations, intriguing caves and snorkeling sites.
Gota Beach used to be the first destination for the island hopping tour, followed by Matukad or Lahos. However, since production activities of Survivor Israel are still ongoing, we didn't have a chance to drop by Gota Island and Beach. as well as Lahos Island.
When your boatman points to you a large rock called Explorer’s Rock by locals, that is your landmark for the Gota Beach. Gota Beach is the biggest attraction of Caramoan, being the main setting of “Koh Lanta Caramoan”, the French version of the reality show Survivor. The sands in the Gota beaches are said to be fine to medium brownish gray sand. Across the beach are three islets.
Gota Island is one of the major islands facing the Pacific Ocean. When our boat neared Gota and Lahos, the guards of Survivor motioned to us, signalling that the area was off limits. Since the guards are locals known to our boatmen, we got permission to just sail around the islands. Sailing near the coastline, we saw the steep limestone and marble mountains with caves on their slopes. A speedboat with Survivor staff passed by. Afraid that they might reprimand us, I smiled and waved at them, and they waved back, smiling at us. Hubby recognized them as the staff who ate at the restaurant of Caramoan Bed & Dine while we were having lunch the previous day.
The "Tower Rock" is that pointed islet one can visibly see from Paniman Beach. This unique rock formation jutting out of the ocean is probably one of the most photographed islets of Caramoan. It is a favorite of photo hobbyists snorkelers, divers, and adventurous swimmers. It is also a favorite nesting place of sea birds.