Part 1: The Best Memories and Island Escapades
Part 2: The Island Hopping You Must Have in Your Lifetime

Part 3: THERE AND BACK AGAIN
The Hobbit Sets on a “Long Trip”

If the islands were food, the hobbits would be drooling. Indeed. There’s so much to love about Caramoan. Day 1 closed with a short tour to the nearby Lahos, Matukad, Cagbanilad, and Minalagos islands, each of which has a unique view and adventure to offer. While still in awe of the beauty they’ve seen, the hobbits started the day early for another sunrise to sundown adventure. By the giant rockwall where the ocean and the river meet, they marveled at the green mountains and had the best of fun in the cold water.

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And then before the sun burned fiercely in the sky, the boat raced with the waves in the wide blue ocean, to more breathtaking sights in the islands of Cotivas, Manlawi, and Sabitang Laya.

COTIVAS ISLAND

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WORD OF MOUTH
“There was no need for names, only what part of the islands held our breath.”

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PENELOPE
These days, it’s hard to believe that Caramoan still hosts the “Survivor” series—a show that depicts contestants as castaways as though displaced on the far ends of the world—when tourists were actually everywhere in the peninsula when we got there over the long weekend.

This irony of being “remote” vs. “accessible” cannot escape us as observers. That while we want a taste of being in an unchartered territory as what the reality TV presents, it is also the same show that turned the remote and little-known group of islands into a world destination, effectively turning the showbiz-crazy Filipino into a travelling curioso to come visit and see why the producers chose this place. In fact, we were not spared from this. The 14-hour travel made us question what have we signed up for. But the first sight of the big blue sea into Camarines Sur’s southernmost tip offered us a rewarding reprieve: Yes, it was worth it!

Sabitang Laya. Lahuy. Cotivas. Gota. Lahus. Matukad. Minalahos. Hunongan. Tinazo. Basod. Haponan. Manlawi sandbar. There is indeed much to see but the names of all the islands are admittedly too hard to remember, thus a challenge on its own. The good thing, however, is that no island is the same here in Caramoan. There was no need for names, only what part of the island held our breaths. There was no need to label our multisyllabic confusion when we could describe each island according to the rock formations we saw. There was no challenge in which island has the clearest waters, when the real task was to name as many shades of blue that we could muster.

In the end, this trip has proven to us that we were more like weekend warriors than the “survivors” we thought ourselves to be. Island after island, we revisited a familiar sense of awe just hours apart, one that perhaps only Caramoan’s islands could bring out of us. Here, every island is different. The happiness it brings, however, is thankfully more familiar.

So much so, that I want to visit it again.

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MANLAWI SANDBAR

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WORD OF MOUTH
“And then, of course, there’s everybody’s favorite–Matukad Island.”


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What I like most about Caramoan is that you have so many islands to choose from! If you want a long stretch of shoreline then there’s Sabitang Laya. If one beach isn’t enough for you, go to Lahos for a double beach (yep, rear and front). If you want to see something new and extraordinary then head to Pitogo where instead of having sand on the beach, you will find yourself stepping on smooth stones of almost identical shapes and sizes. And then of course, there’s everybody’s favorite (including myself)–Matukad Island, where everything is just perfect–crystal clear waters, powdery white sand that can beat that of Boracay’s or even Palawan, and the beautiful landscape and rock formations which can bring out the adventurous side in you.

What to do? Cliff diving, paddle boarding, kayaking, rock climbing, spelunking, swimming, snorkeling, and island hopping of course!

Helpful Tips: I think there are only two resorts with beachfronts–Tugawe Cove Resort and Gota Village Resort. For those with private cars, you can only bring your ride up to Sabang Port. Park your car at the port or a residential house (some owners allow long stay parking for just P150 per night) and take a boat going to Guijalo Port. Food is quite expensive and there’s not much choices. Better bring food if you can!

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WORD OF MOUTH
“Remote as it is, it makes you feel “at home” with nature and your loved ones.”

A2CHRYSSCaramoan is a must-see, not only because it’s a well-known location of the famous reality TV show Survivor, but because, remote as it is, it makes you feel “at home” with nature and your loved ones. The locals are very accommodating and hospitable, too. For those who want to explore this southern area of Luzon, travelling by land is perfect. You will pass by the different towns of Quezon and enjoy the scenic view of the countryside. Before taking the almost two-hour ride to Sabang, you can stay overnight in Naga and get a taste of Bicol’s surprises in this peaceful city. The travel to Caramoan will somehow test your patience and energy, but the moment you set foot in this place and see the surprises of the islands, all the effort to get there is paid off!

SABITANG LAYA

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WORD OF MOUTH
“The scene underwater was surreal.”

A1RYANI’m a non-swimmer, so I don’t really take much interest in snorkeling. But when I finally tried it in Caramoan, I had fun! I was amazed by the scene underwater. It was surreal. The corals and the brightly colored fishes, that was one sight I’m glad I have seen in my life. Besides the breathtaking view, hospitality is also at its finest in Caramoan. The locals and the tour guides are very friendly. You also won’t miss great food—lutong bahay is great—especially fresh seafood.

PANIMAN BEACH
At the end of the long tour, the kayak pushed to the river into the thick mountain lined with mangroves and palms. When they reached the end, their guide dog was waiting, joyfully wagging his tail.

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WORD OF MOUTH
“Caramoan will surely exceed your expectations of an island getaway.”


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If you want the comfort and luxury of Boracay, don’t think of going to Caramoan. This remote destination in Bicol may disappoint you on the lack of jet skis, banana boats, bars, and night life. But, if you’re adventurous and a nature lover at heart, you will definitely not get enough of what these islands have got for you. I even think it’s like getting to two places, Boracay and Palawan combined. From mountains to rock formations to caves and white sand beaches, Caramoan will surely exceed your expectations of an island getaway. P.S. Avail of a travel package with meals for more convenience, since food can be a little expensive and difficult.


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 This story was published on Choose Philippines. To see Aris’ page, click here: http://www.choosephilippines.com/user/aristotle.mape/

ArisMape

ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.