“Bumabagyo tas pupunta kayo dun?!! (It’s storming and you guys are going there?)” a grumpy old man blurted while we’re warming ourselves with soup and coffee in a roadside eatery in Hinatuan. Yes the weather looked dreary and occasional rain showers threatened to dampen our excitement to visit the much talked about Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. We trusted our instincts and continued with our plans, Typhoon Zenaida can’t rain in our parade and it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made in this trip.
Transit Cantilan to Bislig
The day before, we made the decision to leave Cantilan earlier to avoid the incoming Typhoon Zenaida. After attending to our errands in Cantilan town, we hailed a van to Tandag (Php 100). From Tandag, we had a quick-lunch and transferred another van to Bislig this time (Php 200). It was a long 6-hour journey and we end up arriving in Bislig in the evening. Good thing, Paper Country Inn has a dorm room (Php 1500) available good for 6 so we just added an extra bed for the night. Dinner was hosted by Gail’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop (R. B. Castillo, Mangagoy), owned by Doi’s college friend. We were treated to probably the best “Mutya ng Bislig” in town, a delicious seafood chowder dish.
We hired a van going to Hinatuan which we thought would be much more convenient for the group. Despite the downpour during breakfast, sunny bright sky with passing clouds greeted us in Hinatuan town. While we were on a look-see of the town’s doppler station, gawking at the relatively clean streets and got interested on the “Tsunami Warning and direction” signages, we were approached by some local tourism staff mistaking us as media-men. They entertained us still at their office and told us of the efficient contingency plan the this coastal town has in case of emergencies. That’s also where we met a guest joiner of the group, Ching of ChingTheViewfinder, whom Doi met in Cambodia and lives in Surigao del Sur.
The Enchanted River
Weather was getting better, much to our delight, when we reached the Enchanted River in Talisay, Hinatuan. We were the first group that arrived in the area so we have the place to ourselves. I was so disappointed with the crowd during my first visit that I really didn’t appreciate the place much. I guess with the storm looming over, people were hesitant to visit the place. We spent hours swimming on this ridiculously clear azure waters of the Enchanted River. I had my camera with underwater case with me and thanks to Doi for many of the outstanding takes underwater. It also gave us an opportunity to explore its depths through freediving. The underwater world was much more surreal than I thought. I only got to at least 20-30 feet in depth but was amazed with Doi’s freediving skills as she got to somewhere at least 40 feet near the crevice. We’re surmising the river bed is somewhere 80-100 feet deep. We also caught the fish-feeding time every noon, I was expecting a huge school of fish fighting their way over the food thrown, but it was just the same group we saw underwater. It’s something people can do without seeing really.
En Route Davao
From the Enchanted River, we stopped for another quick-lunch and made our way to Tinuy-an Falls where a squall welcomed our arrival. Nothing much has changed which is good. I was glad the planned hotel atop the falls didn’t push through. I didn’t bother to take much photos here because of the rain. We didn’t stay long as well. Going back to Bislig we said good-bye to Ching at that time and we took a van heading to Davao. A sleepy 6-hour ride.
The best entry point for exploring Hinatuan Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig is Butuan. Take a bus bound for Mangagoy (non-aircon Bachelor Bus for Php 243.50) with a travel time of 5-6 hours. Davao – Mangagoy is alternative rout taking about 6-7 hours.
Hinatuan Enchanted River has an entrance fee of Php 35 pesos per pax. Life-vest can be rented for Php 15 for an hour and an extra Php 10 every hour. Tinuy-an Falls has an entrance fee of Php 50 per pax.
Vehicles can be hired for visiting both sites. Haggle smartly.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.