I woke up for the nth time to the heat, the sweat and stickiness of the atmosphere.
I looked around and stretched my head out. It looked like we were still pretty far out. I frowned. My ass was in pain. How much longer did we have to experience this boat? I complained in my head.
I checked the time. It was only 9.30am. We still had about 30 minutes to go if it was correct that this boat ride was only 1 hour long. It wasn’t.
Coming from a 9 hour bus ride and a one hour van ride, and a long day at the office before that, I could definitely say that I was tired. Yep, very tired. I even raced from my Makati office to the Cubao bus stop in 40 minutes just to make the 9pm scheduled ETD only to wait still for about 30 minutes before actually leaving.
But I’m an optimist. I love beaches and there’s just something about this trip that seemed very familiar, but kind of…vague. It might be because the last personal trip that I took was in February. And the last time that I had done something this different was, well, kind of a while now. It’s true when they say that the best are those the hardest to get to. If you’ve been on a butt-numbing boat ride under the heat of the sun and the stickiness of the atmosphere, then, yes, it was a pretty hard way to get to the famed group of islands of Caramoan.
It was worth it.
We docked at the Guijalo Port, and I couldn’t wait to get out. I practically scrambled out of there, despite the numbing pain crawling over my upper legs and butt. The wooden benches were definitely not nice to me.
As I climbed up the wooden bridge to get to the port, I scanned the place. The beach was small, the port smelled of gas and it wasn’t as particularly breathtaking as El Nido had been when I first got there. I immediately looked around, elsewhere, 360 degrees for a saving grace, because I refuse to acknowledge that my beach standards had definitely gone up after seeing Palawan.
Behind the port was a small river that had a short entrance into the sea, but was gleaming green. It was kinda pretty.
But the ride to Caramoan was not yet over. From the port, we were escorted out by our tour guides, Kuya Junjun in two big tricycles. It was still a 10 – 15 minute ride to the Caramoan center. I heaved a sigh of relief as we parked along what looked like a rich mansion from the outside.
After 12 hours, we were here!
But I could tell, we were nowhere near the beach. I’m a beach person, and I guess that’s what makes Palawan, Boracay and Siquijor so special – they were right by the beach! I can smell, taste, hear, breathe the sound of waves and it was already relaxing.
We dressed for the island hopping and ate lunch prepared by our hosts. I was tired from the long drive and my back was slowly killing me. But I was excited. I wanted to see a new place. The tour guide called us at 1pm and we boarded the tricycle again to head to the port. Originally, I thought we’d be leaving for island hopping at Guijalo, but apparently, the island hopping took place elsewhere.
The ride was about an easy 30 minutes or less. We passed by green fields with cows that looked healthier than in any other place I had seen. The beach where we took off for island hopping did not have white sand.
However, the stretch of beach was long and the sand was soft. The group rented some snorkels (Php 150/each) that turned out to be broken. We left for island hopping, finally at 2pm. Good thing the islands weren’t that far and they were just around each other.
In my experience, taking off at this late of an hour would not be recommended as the waves are higher. The boat in Caramoan was different than the boat in El Nido or in any other island hopping I’ve done. Instead of above the boat’s main area, we were inside it, a bigger advantage for the waves to come crashing in, should they be too big for the boat. Good thing, that was never the case.
Although the skies were dark gray in the mountains already, the sea was pretty calm.
The first island that we went to was Lajos Island. The short strip of sand had two beaches, separated by a small hill of white, almost-Boracay fine sand. It was only then that I noticed that practically everything around us seemed very familiar.
Familiar, because they were all limestone. Limestone rocks, limestone cliffs, limestone everything – very similar to El Nido.
While Lajos island didn’t have the signature clear, bluegreen waters, it had clear shallow waters that surrounded the tiny beach of Lajos Island. We stayed awhile on the short strip, along with dozens of other people, many were probably locals looking to enjoy the beach one last time.
We took some jumpshots against the two backdrops: one of the bright blue skies and the white sand beach, and the other of the dark gray skies and the white sand beach. Refreshing, because it’s been awhile since I traveled with a group that I didn’t have to lead.
To be honest, I was fighting the notion that Caramoan may be better than El Nido. But why choose, when I could experience both right?
The next island that we went to was Matukad Island. This island was also just a short stretch of white sand and limestone cliffs surrounding the beach.
While the white sand was notably beautiful and the blue waters were inviting, it wasn’t the highlight of the island.
The highlight of Matukad Island was its legend of the Yin and Yang Milk Fish. Okay, so maybe I made that up. But anyway, in this Enchanted Lagoon that we had to climb over limestone rocks and dangerous cliffs, there used to be two bangus (milk fish). Once upon a time, a fisherman took one of the fish and his entire family died. Now, everyone considers the lone fish inside the Enchanted Lagoon to be an Enchanted Milk Fish.
Creepy, but very, very interesting.
After about 30 minutes of climbing limestone rocks, in an attempt to come out unscathed, we reached the other side of the wall, where the Enchanted Lagoon was.
We could see it from above, crystal clear, green waters, right smack, in the middle of gorgeous limestone. And right there, was definitely a lone fish, a huge Milk Fish that I would probably have mistaken for as a baby shark for its huge size, had the boatman not mention it was a milk fish.
But then again, what do I know?
After being enchanted by the milk fish, we had to climb to some higher limestone rocks where we could see Matukad Island’s beach.
Was the climb hard? It was average, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Did I get hurt? Initially, I thought I came out unscathed, but when I felt the pain of tearing skin behind my knees while I was wearing jeans, I knew I must’ve scratched myself some way.
Really, some of the best things in life have to hurt.