Little is known about Caramoan Peninsula until the international show Survivor picked some of its islands as the location for different Survivor series. It has gained media attention and eventually more local and international tourists are drawn to this hidden paradise in Camarines Sur.
Caramoan Peninsula is composed of several islands and islets that are accessible by boat from Caramoan Island. There are two jump-off points, Paniman Beach and Bikal Port, where you can rent a motorized boat to take you to some of these islands. After our arrival and a quick lunch at the Caramoan town, we immediately headed to Paniman Beach for our island hopping adventure.
From Centro, it takes about 40 minutes to get to Paniman Beach. Kuya Ramil arranged a tricycle to take us to the site. There's no route transportation going there so you will need to rent a tricycle or habal-habal depending on the number of persons in your group. We paid PhP300 for a round trip fare.
The first few minutes was a smooth ride, after which the road became bumpy and rough as we got closer to Paniman Beach. Kuya Ramil said Survivor does not want to get the road paved for the show. They want the viewers to believe that Caramoan is located in isolation, without a touch of modernization. We also learned that Survivor rented the island for 25 years since 2008. So if you're planning to visit Caramoan, make sure that there's no filming on your chosen dates. You may be prohibited from visiting some of the islands that are being used by Survivor.
As soon as we arrived on the beach, Kuya Ramil and his godson immediately prepared the boat. They will accompany us for the island hopping tour. We learned that Kuya Ramil lives in Brgy. Paniman and he has several boats to be rented out for island hopping. He also has a house available for those interested with cheap homestay accommodation.
Some of the main reasons that attract visitors to Caramoan are its white sandy beaches, secluded islands and beautiful landscape. As beach lovers, we were excited to the see these beautiful beaches of Camarines Sur. I fell in love with the islands of El Nido when we went to Palawan just a month prior to this trip so I couldn't help but compare if Caramoan Peninsula deserves the same admiration.
There are two types of island hopping in Caramoan Peninsula: the short trip and the long trip. Short trip involves visiting the islands (normally five islands) in the southern part which are closer from Paniman Beach. We only have a half day left so the short trip just fit to our schedule. We reserved the long trip for the next day since we have the whole day to spend it.
The municipality of Caramoan has set a standard rate for island hopping: PhP1,500 for the short trip and PhP2,500 for the long trip. However, prior to coming to Caramoan, I was able to make a good deal with Kuya Ramil. He offered PhP3,000 for both tours. It was off season so it was not hard to negotiate, and there was only two of us. The boat can actually accommodate up to 8 persons. Well, one of the downsides of visiting in lean season is the limited number of tourists that you can invite for some activities to share expenses with.
1. Lahos Island
Lahos Island was our first stop. The crystal clear, turquoise-green water was very inviting and the beach was breathtaking because of its fine white sand. The island has two shores in between two limestone rocks. The name of the island was derived from the word “Lahos” or “Laho” which means “vanish” in English because the beach usually disappears during high tide. View my separate blog entry of Lahos Island here.
2. Cagbalinad Island
Cagbalinad is an islet with small white sand beach. There's nothing much to see here except for the limestone cliff that makes a scenic backdrop. The best thing about the island is it actually offers a magnificent view of the opposite island - the Gota Island which has lush green hills and limestone cliffs.
If there are no other visitors, you can enjoy the privacy and tranquility of the beach. You can also take a swim in its calm and clear water. View more photos of Cagbalinad Island here.
3. Minalahos Island
We moved on to our next destination which was just adjacent to Cagbalinad Island. Minalahos Island has a small white sand beach just like Cagbalinad. There's nothing so much to see and do in the island. It's not a good snorkeling spot either but its water is good for swimming. The water is shallow and refreshing but the abundance of seaweeds and sea grasses was quite annoying.
Nevertheless, the island boasts rugged natural beauty with its impressive limestone rock formation that is good for climbing.
4. Hunongan Cove
The famous Gota Beach is adjacent to Hunongan Cove where a private, upscale resort is located. The island is usually closed to public when the crew of Survivor occupy the whole place. It was open at that time but we did not set foot in the island because we thought the PhP300 entrance fee was not worth it. If you decide to go there, you can tour the area and get to see some structures used by Survivor.
5. Matukad Island
From Minalahos Island, we passed by Hunongan Cove and proceeded to our next destination which was Matukad Island. This was one of the islands I wanted to visit because of the Secret Lagoon and the breathtaking view of Matukad Island from the top of the cliff. Unfortunately, after taking a few shots of the beach, the battery of our camera went dead. :-(
After spending a few minutes at the beach, we decided to hike up the limestone cliff to see the lagoon. We saw the huge milk fish living in the Secret Lagoon. As the story goes, there were originally two milk fishes, one of which was captured by a fisherman who took it home for dinner. The fisherman and his whole family died the day after eating the fish. Nobody dared to capture the other one after that incident. The locals believe that the remaining milk fish serves as the mysterious guardian of the island.
They said that the milk fish doesn't want to get its picture taken or only a few people can take a photo of it. It's quite true because even before we climbed the cliff, the battery of our camera got drained. We have no pictures of the fish. :(
I do not own the pictures below but they're the reasons why I was excited to see Matukad Island. It was frustrating not to be able to get some shots of these wonderful views because our camera ran out of battery. :-(
Matukad Island was supposed to be our last destination for the day but since we did not visit Hunongan Cove, Kuya Ramil took us for a snorkeling treat just off the coast of Lahos Island. OMG. We were very lucky to witness a school of fish in a certain spot. We found ourselves swimming with literally thousands of fishes - the kind of scene you see in Discovery Channel where a diver swims with thousand of fishes swimming in sync. It was an exhilarating experience.
We finished the island hopping and returned to Paniman Beach at around 4:30 PM. Kuya Ramil suggested that we can do snorkeling near the Paniman Beach where there's an amazing view of the underwater. We decided to return to the hotel, we felt we've had enough of snorkeling at Lahos Island.
We arrived at Rex Tourist Inn with a good news that the power has been restored. Finally, we can recharge the battery of our camera for the next day's island hopping adventure.
Read more about my Caramoan series:
- Part 1 - The Journey to Caramoan Island
- Part 2 - Caramoan Island Hopping: The Short Trip
- Part 3 - Caramoan Island Hopping: The Long Trip
- Part 4 - St. Michael Archangel Church of Caramoan
- Part 5 - Quick Side Trip to Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC)