“What do you mean we shouldn’t go inside the sanctuary?” I snap at the poor, suddenly-rattled guide at the Sohoton National Park.
He was going on and on about the infamous jellyfish not being in season and that it was too low tide and there were few boatmen available and how it would be okay not to experience it because we wouldn’t see many jellyfish anyway and the boat would find it hard to pass through the entrances.
I was finding it hard to listen. After a 3 hour boat ride from Siargao and you tell me I shouldn’t see any jellyfish?
“I will swim that if I have to,” I say to him, a little strongly, probably half joking.
He laughs nervously.
“No, Ma’am, okay, we’ll get you some boatmen,” he says immediately and leaves to arrange boatmen for us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not as bitchy as I sounded. But there was something in their tone that irked me.
It was as if he was convincing me not to see the infamous stingless jellyfish. I had flown from Cebu to Siargao and taken a 3 hour boat ride just to get there. I wasn’t about to let some laziness and a bit of low tide stop me from seeing what I came to see. If I had to swim it, I was going to. And if it turns out the lagoon did not have any jellyfish, then at least I tried.
At the same time, we had already paid for the paddlers. I checked my entrance fee receipt and they had included P100 per paddler.
The guide came back and announced that our boatmen was waiting for us. We trudged back down the stairs and I nodded a thank you, in apology for my previous outburst.
The jellyfish sanctuary in Bucas Grande Island is famous for being stingless. It has a specific season where the lagoon fills up with tiny brown and white jellyfish, but apparently, this early in March was not one of it.
The paddler I got didn’t speak much Tagalog and I didn’t know any Visayan. Despite telling him I didn’t understand Visayan, he continued speaking it anyway.
He paddled me to the open area first where we met with a barrier of land. Suddenly, he called something out to the other paddlers.
“What is it Kuya?” I ask.
“Low tide,” he tells me and I look on, frowning because I was determined to pass through.
To be honest, I thought the canoe could still pass through. But I wasn’t the boatman. I even offered to walk it and he just laughed at me.
My boatman pulled back and we took a few pictures as we waited for the rest of the boats behind us to retreat.
“How are we going to get in?” I say, panicking a little.
I am this close to seeing those damn jellyfish and backing out was not in my vocabulary.
“We’ll go through the other entrance,” he says and I breathe out a little.
I was just about to go on a temper tantrum right in the middle of the clear, blue sea.
He paddled me out over to the other side where there was a smaller entrance.
This time, the land was more visible and we could actually walk through it. The boats in front of us did just that – passengers got out and carried the boat over the land just to get through the limestone cliffs that surrounded the lagoon.
Now that’s one way to make it happen, I thought.
And as we made it through the small entrance and reached the inside of the lagoon, I was glad I pushed for this trip.
From the entrance alone, even if I do not see any stingless jellyfish, I thought canoeing the place was already worth the trip.
Thank goodness the little animals didn’t disappoint me.
There weren’t a lot of them around. But once or twice, a few of them popped out, clear and noticeable from the emerald green colored waters.
Despite the color of the water, the depth of the waters seemed a little blurry. According to my boatman (or what little Visayan I tried to understand), it was blurry like that because of the algae that feeds the jellyfish.
For those who want to swim, you cannot put on any sunblock, lotion or any chemically induced body sprays as these may harm the jellyfish.
We toured the lagoon for awhile, me in my tank top, under the 1pm sun. And people wonder why I’m so tanned.
We saw a brown jellyfish and a white one, thanks to our little group of paddlers.
As we paddled along the walls of the limestone mountains, my boatman tried (unsuccessfully, by the way), to explain the insect eating plants growing on the trees. The paddler on the other boat had to translate in order for me to understand.
We paddled back into the entrance and headed out of the small, but breathtaking jellyfish lagoon.