It was a loooong and wearing 10-hour bus, 2-hour boat & 15-minute tricycle ride to the Caramoan peninsula - home to alabaster and powdery white sand beaches.
We jumpstarted our trip by booking our tickets at the Peñafrancia Travel & Tours office in Cubao (Php780/each). We actually booked the bus bound for Sabang for Php780 (To Naga = Php700). This way, we need not travel by jeep/van to Sabang Pier from Naga City.
The Cubao Bus Terminal (near Ali Mall) houses a lot of bus bound for Naga but most of them travel at night (earliest is around 5 or 6pm) so choose the one that would fit your budget (AC or non-AC). Our bus left around 8pm. The bus was so cold and my sarong was not enough to keep us warm. My fingers actually turned pinkish violet at one point, i thought I was dead. :) But then i got comfortable and just slept throughout the trip. There were 3 stopovers, which was a good thing because I have a small bladder and can only take so much liquid.
3rd stop, Lahuy/Lahos Island!
We were at Naga by 4am.
We didn’t alight at Naga because our bus was bound for Sabang (which is the jump off point to Guijalo port). I reminded the bus conductor to drop us off at Sabang pier. Initially, the bus conductor said that they won’t ply that route, but after a few minutes he retracted his statement. After almost 2 hours, we got off the bus as advised by the bus conductor. HOWEVER, to our surprise, we were dropped off at the wrong pier! A guy in a bicycle told us that the pier we’re at is for Gota resort pick-up (that’s not where we’re staying, actually, we don’t have a place to stay yet). Onyok (bicycle guy) told us that the “functional” pier is about 10 minutes away. So, we waited for a jeepney (local transportation in the Philippines) or a tricycle so we can head off to the pier. We waited… and waited… and waited. Not a single tricycle nor jeep passed by! Finally, I saw a van and decided to hitch-hike. The driver rolled down his window, and guess who it was?! It was Onyok, the bicycle guy! He saved our trip! If not for him, we would’ve missed our boat. He dropped us off at the CORRECT pier and we got there by 630am.
Our windy ride... literally!
Onyok was our angel that day. His name and what he did deserves a great spot in this blog. Cheers to good-hearted people! Cheers to you Onyok! The boatman told us that the next boat will leave at 8am. Since we had time to kill, we chatted with a few locals there, one of which was Mang Manuel. Mang Manuel happened to own a tricycle so we decided to take his service. The boat took off 10 minutes past 8am. The scenery was so breathtaking! I have never seen such vivid colors - green hills, blue sea, white clouds and gray silhouette of the perfect cone-shaped Mt. Mayon… amazing. I did not bother listen to the songs in my iPod. It was the perfect moment of silence... well, almost, if it weren’t for that annoying buzz coming from the motor.
This is where we stayed
As we got closer to the port, I saw a few boatmen paddling so fast towards our boat.
They reminded me of a few cartoon episodes I saw when I was a kid. Hah! As it turns out, the tide was low when we arrived so the boat was unable to drop us off directly. We had to take a small boat to drop us off at the port. Mang Manuel got off the boat to get his tricycle. He actually has a “cool” tricycle, literally. His tricycle’s window doesn’t have a sheet of plastic to shield us from the wind. It took around 15 minutes to get to Villa Juliana’s Lodge. It’s warm yellow paint and home-like atmosphere definitely made us comfortable. We got a nice air-conditioned twin-bed room for only 600Php/night. At this point, I realized something was wrong… thanks to my boyfriend’s grumbling stomach, I realized that we have not eaten! So we dropped our bags and went out to hunt food! The town proper (aka Centro) is such a small town, I guarantee you will not get lost. Everything is just a stone’s throw away. We walked along the Main Street and found 2 lovely restaurants - Kamalig and Lutong Bahay. Kamalig looked lovelier though. They have a decent menu and the price is somewhat affordable.
I can’t really say it’s cheap because it’s close to the regular price of food in Manila. We tried the Bicol express although it wasn’t as hot as I expected it to be (well, we are in Bicol, everything should be HOT). After lunch, we decided to check out one of the resorts, Gota, where Survivor France was shot. Our ever reliable tricycle service took us there and it’s about 20-30 minutes away from Centro. When Survivor France was over, air-conditioned cabanas were left to accommodate travelers. These cabanas though are costly. It ranges from 2,400Php to almost 5,000Php. Now, if you want to just hang out at their beach, you have to pay 300Php. As we strolled along the shore, I realized why France shot Survivor there. The view was majestic! Imagine towering limestone cliffs covered in green lush, turquoise blue waters and white sand. *Sigh* I knew it was just the beginning. We had the whole day next day to tour the Caramoan waters.
So we did.
The Kamalig Gril Menu
We got up really early. We were so prepared to experience the islands! Mang Manuel arrived at the lodge around 8am. We were at Bikal by 830am, gateway to the rest of the islands. We rented a boat for 1500Php. Michael, our boatman, agreed to accommodate us the whole day. So we started our island hopping expedition - first stop, Baging. Baging has a long stretch of white sand. A really longggg stretch of white sand. We even walked from one end to the other and back, it was quite tiring. J Our next stop was Sabitang Laya.
This was, I think, 5-10 mins away from Baging. The sand is similar to Baging, however, it was quite rock-strewn we weren’t able to swim much. We then went to Lahuy/Lahos. Here, the sand was much better although the island is smaller. The place is ideal for snorkeling! Finally, our last stop was Matukad. Matukad, Matukad, Matukad… I can live here! The sand is so perfect, so white, sooooo fine and soft and the view was sooo great! Stepping on the sand is like stepping on clay. It’s crazy!!! The super fine white sand and view of towering limestone cliffs, I’d say this is Boracay and Palawan in one! And if you are brave enough, climb the limestone cliffs to see the lagoon. Matukad freaked me out (in a very positive but crazy way)! You have to experience this place. It is paradise. I did not want to leave (but I might die of hunger and dehydration if I stayed *teehee*). This was, thus far, the best island I’ve ever been to! If you visit this island, MAKE SURE TO LEAVE NO TRACE, not even your name.
The sand is becoming whiter... finer.
How to get there:
Manila to Naga City
Transportation: Bus (Cubao Bus Terminal - Peñafrancia Travel & Tours, check for the trip schedules, they have a few in the morning but it's mostly at night)
of hours: 8
See it to believe it!
Fare: Php700 (around US$15) as of September 2008
Naga City to Sabang Pier
Transportation: Bus/Van/Jeep (Trip schedules: 4am-7am)
No. of hours: 2
Fare: Php50 (around US$1) as of September 2008
Sabang Pier to Guijalo Port, Caramoan
Transportation: Motorized boat (Trip schedules: 6am, 8am, 11am)
No. of hours: 2
Fare: Php120 (around US$2-3) as of September 2008
Tip: During low tide, boats are unable to drop off the passengers directly at the port. You need to hire a small boat to bring you to the port and pay around Php20-50 (it will take less than 5 minutes). So don't panic if you see boatmen excitedly moving towards your boat... it's lowtide and that becomes an opportunity for them to earn extra money.
Guijalo Port, Caramoan to Town proper (aka Centro)
No. of hours: 15-20 minutes
Fare: Php10-50 (around US$1) as of September 2008 (try to haggle)
Tricycle is the main transportation in Caramoan. You may stick to one tricycle driver for the rest of your trip and just negotiate for all your travel fares.
By the way, it's the same route going to Manila (in reverse, of course). :)
Enjoying the site at Gota Two