Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Finding Caramoan, Part 1

definitely worth the trip

Jean, my fellow wanderlust-wanna-be, and I first heard about last August. Described in glowing terms as an "untouched paradise" by someone who had never seen it himself, the hype whetted our curiosity - and we've been planning to take a trip there ever since. After discovering beauty of Bicolandia during our weather-cursed trip last February, we've been even more eager to realize its promise.

With a resident's schedule, easier said than done. (This is no longer really my problem, but with my travel buddies all tied to the hospital, I don't have much of a choice.) But sure enough when there's a will there's a way, and last weekend we finally managed to get away.

travel buddies wide awake at 630AM

The Caramoan Peninsula is found in the Bicol province of . It is three and a half hours away from - itself already an eight to ten hour drive from Manila. Caramoan town proper is an hour and a half by land to Sabang Port then two hours by boat to Guijalo Port. That's a total of twelve hours travel for people who can barely get a weekend away.

We got started on our journey to Caramoan on Friday night, leaving Manila at around 8pm. We drove to Naga City straight through the night, sleeping fitfully in turns to make sure someone was awake to keep the driver up. We had contracted the services of a guide to coordinate our trip so that we could make the most of the day we were spending at there, and we were set to meet her with the transport our group would take to Sabang.

We arrived at Naga City at 4:30 AM of Saturday morning, about half an hour earlier than scheduled. Our FX to Sabang picked us at our meeting point up along the highway. It was long drive and a tight fit, so it was too difficult to fall asleep on the way... but it was worth it because I got to see dawn break over majestic and the bucolic agricultural landscape en route to Sabang Port.

a view from Sabang Port

Boats leave from Sabang Port to Caramoan town at 7AM, 9AM, and 11AM. We were early for the first trip out and were first to board the boat, which can carry around 30 people plus baggage. While we waited for the boat to fill, I had my first glimpse of how far removed Caramoan is from the bustle and noise of the city. From across the port, we were treated to other side of Mount Isarog, dressed in lush green forest garb.

After a half hour wait, we were finally off on the two hour boat ride. The sea was moderately choppy but the sun was out, and the stunning beauty of the Caramoan Peninsula and the vivid colors of sea and sky more than made up for the butt-numbing trip. We docked at Guijalo Port after a two-hour boat ride. From there, our guide arranged for a jeepney to take us to the town center - another 15 minute rough road ride.

more amazing rock formations in turquoise waters

More than twelve hours from the time we left Manila, we checked into our accommodation, the Rex Inn, one of two motels in a town center so small that most of the business establishments can be found along one main street. The rooms were clean and air conditioned, and it felt great to fresh up after the long trip. And finally eat our packed breakfast.

Unfortunately, there was no rest for the wicked! Because of our tight schedule, our guide was knocking on our doors after only thirty minutes - just enough time for us to change into our swim wear and slop on lots of sunblock. Then we were piled back into our jeepney for another bumpy ride to Bikal port from where our island hopping adventure would commence.

boarding the boat at Bikal

The islands are roughly 30 to 45 minutes away from each other by boat, scattered off the coast. Given the short time we had, we would only have time to visit three at best. As usual, foreigners had discovered this untouched paradise before we did, and three of the most famous islands were closed to the public because of the filming of the European version of the TV series Survivor. But our guide assured us that the less known islands were just as lovely as the famous ones... a fact that we whole-heartedly agreed with as we approached the turquoise waters and cream-colored sand of Sabitang Laya island.

creamy sand on deserted beaches - what more to ask for?

Oblivious to the fact that it was near high noon, we hurriedly jumped off the boat to soak in the sight and enjoy the near-deserted beach. Not to mention all the photo ops! People who are interested in camping on the beach are usually advised to camp here because of its more secure loaction and its proximity to the town proper. There are some really nice places to camp, and anywhere you pitch your tent is just a few steps from the beautiful beach.

Word of warning: the experience is as back to nature as it can get because there is no toilet or running water here - and no other inhabitants. But the unspoiled beauty of the beach makes it worth the trip. Frankly, I could have spent the whole day - and night - here, being a bonafide beach bum, but I was outvoted by my more adventurous travel buddies. Such a shame - the stargazing would have been wonderful here.

a place to sit and dream

I'll have the rest of this post up tomorrow, so watch out for it. In the meantime, I'll leave you with one more Caramoan eye candy to tempt you into planning your trip before the summer's end!

pristine and untouched

(Note: All pictures were taken by Sony Cybershot point-and-shoot cameras. No special effects! Amazing, huh? :))

This post is continued in Finding Caramoan, Part 2.


pinaywife said...

hi! your post reminded me so much of my sister..she's so enamored by Caramoan that she made it her subject for her thesis.

do check out her blog for more about caramoan.


Jenna said...

beautiful photographs! i would love to be there right now! : ]

dr_clairebear said...

@pinaywife: i will go back to have a look at that site in its entirety when i have time. :) so much to see!

@jenna: so would i. :)

yatot said...

wow! i like the rock formations! i went to vigan and some spots in ilocos norte last week with some offiecmates for a seminar tour!

i will post the stories and photos when I have the chance... so busy at work that were left in the office... hehheheh.. and oh, thanks for dropping by!

Vannie said...

wah! ang ganda ng beach. no editing needed.

wow philippines talaga.

dr_clairebear said...

@yatot: was in ilocos a few years back - it was also really great. my favorite stop was burgos lighthouse.

@vannie: wow Philippines talaga. :) this is what i was missing all these years na nagbabakasyon ako kung saan saan!

Walking on Water said...

claire, just a disclaimer: we heard about caramoan way before august last year.=) til the next journey mother...

dr_clairebear said...

@walking on water: first time for me, then! :)) mother, excited na ako for our lakwatsa this weekend - wherever it may be!

Ness said...

oh my goodness. that place is so beautiful!! worth the trip!! wala kaming ganyang white creamy beaches dito sa negros. brown sand sa amin, like brown sugar.

kaya nga I *heart* the Philippines, eh.

what's your email address, dr_clairebear?

Panaderos said...

Beautiful place and pictures!

Jeff said...

The last time I've been to this place was when I was still in High School at Ateneo de Naga during on of our outings.Back then only the locals know about the place. Im planning to go back there this December vacation..hehe

spanx said...

i heart caramoan!

going back there this february.

Anonymous said...

ahahaha... been there with my partner and friends.... its really VERY far but worth the wait.... Very serene.... I found peace and bliss there!... there's another 'untouched' island that we want to visit... its somewhere in Quezon...

Joan So said...

hi, you said you drove yourselves to camsur for the trip...i was wondering where you left your car before riding the FX to sabang...my family and i are planning to go there but we have no idea on how to leave our car somewhere before taking the caramoan tour. thanks!

dr_clairebear said...

my friend's family was based in daet, so we used one of their cars to take us to the meeting point. i'm not sure where you can leave your car in Naga safely there for a few days, as most of the people i know went by bus then took the FX connection after.

gina@NL said...

i know that caramoan exist, being a bicolano myself (from camarines sur). but i've first heard about the beauty of it (shame on me) from a jesuit friend who came here (to the Netherlands) last january (2009). aside from the Feast of our Lady of Penafrancia and our food (mahanghang at ginataan)ay nadagdagan pa ng caramoan. can't wait to see caramoan.