If you enjoy rowing a banca (small outrigger boat) on still blue-green waters, passing by interesting rock\coral formations, going through cave mouths at low tide, exiting a cave from a diving board, then this island hopping in Sohoton Cove is going to be worth all the planning and the travelling.
We had heard a few people say it was worth checking out the Sohoton Caves on Bucas Grande Island. So we decided to hire a boat from Siargao, and check it out.
First mistake: We took advice from a local habal-habal driver, who arranged a boat for 5000p. It was cheaper than some of the other hotel quotes we saw (6000p), but we had also heard of other people getting a boat for 4000p. Anyway, our boat was supposedly at twin engine boat, so we thought it would get us there quickly. It turned out to be a fishing boat, and the one engine was a small trolling engine. So it took us at least 2.5 hours to get there, in perfectly calm waters. We didn't notice at first, but our boat also didn't have lifejackets. Not wise.
When we got there, we had to go to the tourist office to pay the entrance fees. I'm ok with fees, if they are reasonable, and if they are transparent. This was not.
Our guide (the Habal-habal guy), who said he had been there 15 time before, told us that the park fees would be 100-200p.. not so..
The guy running the tourist shop is very shady (and I hope somebody from the tourism industry checks in on him). He scrawls down a list of charges on paper, then arbitrarily gives a discount to make you feel like he is doing you a favour. Charges include docking fee for your original boat (this is new apparently), lifejacket rental, helmet rental, guide fee, small boat rental fees, entrance fees, environmental fees...
Some of these are legitimate, but he can't add, and when I tried to question him about his addition, he started getting flustered and gave me more change. But it still didn't add up properly, and we paid 900p for the two of us. The whole situation made me wonder how much was going into his pockets vs going to the government for the legitimate fees.
Now for the attractions. The lakes are beautiful, and the scenery is lush. The helmets are required due to a cave that the boat has to travel through in the beginning.
The first attraction is a cave that we had to enter by swimming underwater. Kinda cool, especially when looking from the interior as it is cast with a bluish glow from the light passing through the water.
The second attraction was another cave entered through an underwater passageway, and then from that to another small cavern, which we climbed up from to emerge about 20ft up on a cliff overlooking the lake. About 10ft higher than the lake they have built a platform from which you can dive from. Fun!
Our boat ran out of gas, and we were towed by the other boat back to the tourist center.
After lunch, I was expecting to see more attractions... but that was it!! We stopped quickly at Club Tara, but that wasn't much of an attraction. Apparently you can pay more money if you want to see a "Hidden Island" resort, but then it wouldn't be hidden, would it?
Anyway, we had another long trip back, and we felt we weren't treated honestly by our guide as well as by the guy running the tourist center. Not good value for money in my opinion.