I had fond memories of Caramoan Peninsula early in my years of travel. Low limestone islands, captivating azure waters, a few caves and pristine white beach on several islands of the peninsula. That was more than a decade ago. Before the popular reality show Survivor decided shoot here and placed the islands on the world wide spotlight. It was only recent that I had a chance to go back and see how popularity have changed the place. I may have not visited all the places I had been before but this day tour sojourn was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
I hear the heavy clacking sound of the engines as it starts and the loud honk of the train signalling any living beings to move away from its path. There’s a low grumbling noise under my feet as if something just woke up from a long time slumber. Yes, the Philippine National Railways has revived the Bicol Express and just last night, it started its first commercial run in years. Like a dragon that just woke up, the train howled as it cuts through urban Manila as it heads to Naga City in Bicol.
Scenic limestone formations at Gota Beach
We’re still in Caramoan and if you still haven’t bagged your shades, swim wear, sun tan or sun block lotion, it’s time to do so, because it’s the beach all the way from here and the peninsula has a lot of them!
360 view of Caramoan on top of Mt. Caglago
This will be the first in the series about Caramoan. Since there are some people asking how to get there, this would serve as a simple guide.
Dutch travelers in the 1600s call this island as Guta de Leche, a name that used t describe the milk-drop stalagmites found at the Gota Beach port. Later, the Spaniards arrived and called the place Carahan, due to the nuerous sea turtles found at the beach at that time. It was later renamed to what is called today as Caramoan in 1687 by Spanish friar Francisco De la Cruz Y Oropesa.
To get to Caramoan which is around 501km from Manila, you have to get to Naga first. Cubao has buses going to Naga even straight to Sabang port. If you decide to stop first in Naga, you have to ride a Van to Sabang which is around 2 hours. Then from Sabang port, you’ll be riding a boat to Caramoan port, Guihilao which is about 2 hours. From Guihilao you’ll have to ride a jeep to the Centro which is about 30 minutes more. From there you can ask for lodgings available at the area. The Centro will be your Hub while at the area.
First interesting stop would be climbing Mt. Caglago in Barangay Tabgon. It is one of the tallest mountains in Caramoan and one of the easiest to climb as well. They said it has about 527 steps, which I didn’t manage to count, but once you get on top, the large statue of Our Lady of Peace will greet you. It has an amazing 360 degrees view of the whole Caramoan and it will serve as a preview of the islands you’ll be visiting. Oh yeah, going up you have to bring one sack which contains very few rocks (about ¼ filled) when going up the steps. It’s a tradition.
Sabitan Laiya stretch of beach at Balibagan Island
Caramoan Peninsula has numerous stretches of beaches that would satisfy even the most discerning beach bum. With a number of islands each with unique features, you could just point to any stretch of beach you see and just enjoy the solitude with your friends. And to start it off, one of my favorite beaches in the peninsula located at the island of Balibagan, called Sabitan Laiya.
Matukad Island’s pink-white powder fine beach, Caramoan Peninsula, Camarines Sur
It’s been one long journey to and fro, but to be able to see this gem of place was worthy enough for a holy week adventure. Caramoan Peninsula has the qualities of El Nido, my friend who was able to visit the place says, but on a smaller scale. It has numerous stretches of white sand beaches and a couple of them that can rival that of Boracay’s, less the annoying crowd and establishments, and it has caves and an underground river that can compare to Cagayan but on a smaller scale as well. Combined though this is one eco-adventure destination worth a visit.
Still there are some concerns I noticed within the place that could easily destroy it’s hidden charm, like the rampant dynamite fishing that we ourselves witnessed and a “Tourist Trap” lodging that I would go into detail later.
Lastly, I think I won’t travel that long a distance for now. Or better yet I won’t travel by land during holy week because of the traffic! On what should have been a 12 hours journey by land and sea was stretched to 15 hours! Arggh!