Caramoan Chronicles – Matukad Island’s Enigmatic Lagoon

Matukad island boosts one adrenaline pumping activity that other islands in Caramoan do not – discovering the enigmatic lagoon! Soon as we arrived in Matukad the third island on our island hopping itinerary, Kuya Sonny, our guide said that we should go and explore the hidden lagoon. Teloy is left with his companion because he think that my son won’t be able to carry on with the climb (though I think Teloy could have done it easily).

Our guide headed the way and lead us to a rock wall. (My thoughts was: “What? hey that’s a rock wall! Are we going to pass through there and magically come out in another place?”) Then he pointed that we are going up – yep we are going to climb the rocks with jagged edges with all our sweaty palms and soles. The sun was already up and blazing so some of the rocks that we held on to were hot. Thankfully there are sandy spots to cushion our soles as we huffed and puffed our way up then down these jagged edges.

The lagoon is enclosed and kept hidden behind walls of sharp and pointed rocks. We needed to climb a few steps finding stable footing to see the enchanted Milkfish living in the lagoon. According to Kuya Sonny, no body knows how these fishes came to the area and how they grew so big – approximately six kilos at the moment. Also according to our guide, there used to be two Milkfishes in the lagoon, but a local speared one of them and fed it to his family, then they all died the following day. And because of this event, the Milkfish was considered to be enchanted and no one else dared harm the remaining fish in the lagoon.

Aside from this enchanted tale, this lagoon also boasts some of the most breathtaking views of Matukad beach and the surrounding Caramoan islands. We would have stayed longer on the top of the lagoon but we soon worried about Teloyskie who might be throwing fits for being left out of the adventure. So we hurriedly climbed down and enjoyed our time at Matukad Beach.

Finding the Hidden Gems of Caramoan

The name “Caramoan” has surely made it’s mark in the lists of best international destinations especially for traveler who want to explore the outdoors – no thanks to the Survivor series. This area has hosted several seasons and versions of the hit-reality show and it seems that they will be staying for several years more.

 But what is it really in this area that makes Survivor want to stay and lures more and more travelers, tourists – both local and foreign to take the high road visit Caramoan?

Island Hopping in the many islands of Caramoan is more than just moving from one island to another. There are two island hopping tour offers in this area – A. Php 1500 and B. Php 2500 The three of us traveling on a tight budget, choose the cheaper option and it covers 4-7 nearer islands in a day. 
We contacted Kuya Ramil, a tour operator recommended to us by some friends. A jeepney with blasting sound picked us up from our hotel on the day of our scheduled island hopping tour. What we didn’t know was this pick-up service is not included in our island hopping fee! Kuya Ramil asked us for additional Php 300 for it which then sabotaged our food budget!

Anyway, we started quite early. It wasn’t 7 in the morning yet when we set sail and headed to our first island. Our boatman, pointed Gota Beach, Hunungan and Tugawe Cove as we passed by them from afar.

TINAGO ISLAND/COVE

I’m not really sure if this is an island or just a beach but this is where we stopped first. The water is calm and cool and it has an eerie emerald shade. It is surrounded with limestone karsts and it is accessible through a narrow entrance which one might not easily notice. My boys started playing around though the sand wasn’t really fine and there were insects jumping around. Baba told me about the “bantay” in the beach and told me to look up. We saw a Tiki face protruding from the sharp edges of the rock wall. Maybe that’s why it felt a little eerie. 🙂

LAHUS ISLAND

We approached Lahos island from the side and saw only a bunch of jagged limestone rock formation over the water. As our vessel moved over, a bright strip of sandy beach was slowly revealed what came to be our favorite island among those we’ve visited! “Lahus” means “through” and that is what this island really have – a strip of white sand double beach nestled between two sets of jagged limestone formation.

One side of this island has calm and shallow waters while the other have slightly rougher waves coming in. Baba even conceded and claimed that Caramoan is indeed worth all the hassle of long travel. The sand is fine, powdery white and the water is iridescently blue. We lingered on this island a little for our breakfast. I also took work related calls while I marvel at the beauty surrounding us.

MATUKAD ISLAND

A few distance away from Lahus is probably the most popular island among the Caramoan group of islets.  It can be seen from Lahus island because of it’s bright white strip of beach. Although we’ve already declared that Lahus island is our favorite, Matukad island has the finest sand among those we’ve visited and probably the most beautiful too. The beach is wide and the clear blue shallow waters is great for swimming.  There is also a lagoon that you can explore — read about it here!

Most of the islands in Caramoan have limestone rock formations so most of the beaches have sparse vegetation. It is best to start your island hopping adventure early so you won’t have to deal with extreme midday heat and enjoy your picture taking at the islands to the fullest!

MINALAHOS ISLAND

The last island we have visited is a quiet nook compared with the compared with the more popular islands. The beach has dark colored sand, but some fine white powdery sand, probably carried over from the other islands, gives the beach a lighter brush. It was still high tide when we arrived in the island and we settled beyond the rocks where it is more shady for our lunch.

While resting, the tide started to turn and it revealed a wider more shallow beach. Despite having a small stretch of beach, you will appreciate Minalahos differently. Rock formations in this island are quite imposing and they make up most of the island. It is nearer Hunungan cove and a great spot for afternoon swim because of the shade and the cool, calm waters.

Our boatman/guide asked us if we still want to check out other islands after lunch, but we declined. I think we already had our fill and it’s time for us to rest our swim-weary bodies. Not to mention that our little adventurer is now several shades darker!  

The Rough Ride to the Paradise called Caramoan

We have all heard about raves about the hidden paradise of Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur. We also heard about the hassle associated with travelling to this place, but of really, some of the loveliest places are indeed hidden well away from bustling metros and are accessible only via the hardest routes to dissuade the curious onlookers.

After several months of laying-low, my boys had become even more restless at the onset of summer. Little did they know, I’ve been secretly planning a trip to these islands for several weeks already. I disclosed my plans to them 2 days before our scheduled trip. Baba was adamant and was very much concerned with our budget. Still we pushed through despite Baba’s worries and unyeilding self.

The six-hour rough ride to Caramoan from our home base in Daraga, Albay did not do much to appease Baba’s attitude. We took the van plying the Daraga – Naga (vv) and alighted at Anayan, Pili. There we waited for the Naga – Sabang jeepney that will take us directly to Sabang port. I noticed Baba’s hesitations start to vanish. We are enjoying the wonderful vista offered by Mt Isarog as our jeepney traversed the road to Partido area onwards to San Jose.

Arriving at the port, we hurriedly got inside a canteen (forgot the name) located just beside the passenger’s waiting area. We ordered some brekkie and took our time with it seeing the long queue of passengers waiting to board the boat. After breakfast, we went down to check the boat schedule and alas – the next boat is already full and we have to wait for the following one which they don’t know what time will arrive. We should have our names listed on the manifesto soon as we arrived, but our tummies directed us to the delicious smell coming from the canteen first!

Luckily two boats arrived instead of one and we were accommodated soon enough. Many “bangkero” will tell you to reserve seats by taking your bags to boat and you have to pay them P20 or P50, but we declined them. Also, since there is no “port,” bangkeros have made a “make-shift” port and asks P10 for each passenger. The boat ride took about two hours, traversing along the coast of Presentacion, Camarines Sur.  We arrived at Guijalo port at around 1pm and took a tricyle to sentro. I asked the driver to take us to Villa Juliana for our accommodations.

After resting a bit, we went out to look for a place to eat and found ourselves at a small native restaurant along the highway for our late lunch. We went back to our inn and slept a bit. It was already four in the afternoon when we decided to check out Paniman Beach.

Paniman Beach is the pick up point for island hopping activities in Caramoan. It is well away from the town proper Tawog so we took a motorcycle to get there. The beach is lined with resorts and restaurants as well as souvenir shops. The water is very calm and the beach itself has fine brown sand. It was very soothing to sit and watch my boys play at this beach. We walked to explore the resorts at the far end and back. I think a lot of foreigners have already settled here and have opened their own resorts too.

I wondered how marvelous the sunrise would be in this beach. I faces some enchanting limestone karsts. Baba though still irritable from the lengthy trip, gave me unsolicited advise and said that if I only discussed this trip with him, we could have prepared a better itinerary. And maybe we could have booked our first night in Paniman and watched the sunrise from there too!

Off to the Islands: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

The five islands – Palau Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, Sulug and Gaya make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a favorite activity by tourists and vacationers who come to visit the vibrant City of Kota Kinabalu.

The island’s proximity to the city makes it easily accessible via speed boats from the Jesselton Point Ferry terminal. After a hearty breakfast at Fook Yuen in Gaya Street, Baba and I prepared for our day trip to the islands. We left our packs in our hotel and just told the staff that we will pay for any extension if we come back late after visiting the islands.

We walked the length of Jalan Fuad Stephens in search for the elusive port. Some guys offered us a ride to the islands for a lesser fee while we walked but we declined and preferred to take the ones from the port. After a long and hot walk, we finally reached our destination. I was impressed with the place and how organized they were.

We bought a ticket for 3 islands and waited for the speedboat to take us island-hopping. One good thing about being in Kota Kinabalu is that many people here speak Filipino. Its proximity to Mindanao and Palawan also makes crossing easy for some Filipinos and Malays or Sabahans.

Tunku Adbul Rahman Marine Park

The islands nearness to the city center makes it a favorite activity of both locals and tourist with a few days or a weekend to spare. It was another first time for us to ride a speedboat, and we thought that the Philippines would benefit greatly if we have this kind of service especially for island hopping.

Everything looks lush as the islands kept their vegetation healthy. The water is clear and you can see fishes even while you walk on the planks. he boat dropped off passengers who only opted for the island of Manukan first before bringing us to Palau Mamutik.

I love the wooden docks in the island and Palau Mamutik have clear waters with plenty of fishes that are tame and swims with the tourist.

Baba can’t stop snickering and teasing for leaving the goggles in pack and in the hotel because now we can’t enjoy looking at the fishes under the water. So we simply relaxed at the beach and contented ourselves with people-watching, taking pictures and dipping into the cool crystal clear waters every now and then.

After a while, our designated guide picked us up from Palau Mamutik and took us to Palau Manukan where we will have our lunch.

There are several options for different types of tastes. An island cooperative serves cheap meals and snacks a few feet from the dock.

Further down is the barbeque buffet being hosted by Sutera Harbor. You can ask for this from the boat operator from Jesselton Point and that is quite cheaper than getting it when you are already in the island. Since we don’t know this, Baba and I decided to try the ala carte meals from the Sutera restaurant.

We order Rendang and some Nasi, I’m not sure but they good enough. Baba find the spices and herbs a bit weird-tasting but we don’t have much choice.

We explored more of the islands after lunch and admired cabins under the Sutera management. We want to try staying in one of those but they’re probably rip off our budget anyway. 

 

Our guide informed us that he still can’t find a boat that will take us to Sapi, the last island on our list, but that was okay. We are enjoying the views and the seascape in Palau Manukan.

We walked the sandy beach, took pictures from the wooden dock, the beach and  whatever else took our interests. The place is so picturesque that it’s perfect for any photo shoots!

The islands also allow campers to stay and there are even tents for rent at RM30 per night.  Soon it started to drizzle, Baba and I are now feeling tired so we decided to call off the visit to Palau Sapi and head back home.