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Caramoan Islands: Why It’s The Survivor’s Choice

caramoan islands

The fact that the road to Caramoan ain’t for the fainthearted makes its beauty all the more raw and untainted.

Earlier in August, I won a sponsored trip to Caramoan Islands from TravelBookPH as a blogger affiliate contest winner.

I was so thrilled about this trip that I asked to cancel a year-in-the-making trip to Dumaguete with my boyfriend for our anniversary. He understood, after all, he has dated a girl who travels for two years. It’s not every day that followyouroad wins in an online contest!

Caramoan Islands’ claim-to-fame is the international reality TV series, The Survivor. Together with fellow travel bloggers, none of whom I have met before, we found island experience was kind of the same. A sponsored trip to remote islands with a bunch of strangers… Just how Survivor-esque could this trip be? Here’s why:

Read the winning entry that took me here!

Caramoan Challenge #1 The Neck-Breaking Drive to Remote Islands

Located in Camarines Sur in Bicol Region, the road to Caramoan was indeed for Survivors. Our tribe passed through the vomit-inducing trail of Bituka ng Manok. Had frequent piss breaks at less-than-hygienic gas station loos. Not to mention, experienced sleeplessness throughout the back-breaking ride. It really reminded me of my Catanduanes trip, as both are in the far east side of Luzon.

But once our feet landed on the powdery white sands of the islands, all the queasiness broke free. In a second, we realized why the producers of the reality TV Series Survivor had a penchant for Caramoan Islands. As French TV director Corinne Valliant said, “We chose Caramoan because it’s really wild. It’s necessary that contestants don’t see anything other than nature for them to believe that they’re really lost in the wilds.”

And in the wild, we were. Despite its celebrity-status, Caramoan is far more deserted than other beaches. Even on a long weekend holiday, there is an absence of huge crowds. Perhaps we owed it to the remoteness of Camarines Sur, or the saturation of beautiful beaches here that guests can visit.

Caramoan Challenge #2 Beware of the Bangus

It’s easy to think that a trip to Caramoan Islands will be mostly about eating Bicolano food and island hopping. But take a clue, because there is an island whose name literally means, “to climb”. Matukad Island, one of the most frequently visited of the Caramoan cluster, also holds the tale of the two mystical milkfish (bangus in Filipino).

Taking on the vertical challenge, we perched ourselves atop the jagged limestone rocks, leaving my knees with scratches and bruises. From the rockies, the bangus can already be seen from the hidden lagoon below. But don’t think about catching the mystical milkfish for lunch! Legend has it that its pair has once been speared and devoured by a fisherman, leading to his untimely death…

We’ll have laing, ginataang alimasag and Bicol express anytime.

Caramoan Challenge #3 The Disappearing Manlawi Sandbar

Caramoan Islands is apparently the go-to place for sandbar loving island girls who’d like to take wanderlust-inspired #OOTDs. In fact, its Manlawi Sandbar and Cotivas Sandbar have been named one of the best sandbars in the Philippines! These beauties feature rippled white sand shores that get submerged at around noontime, during the high tide.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see Manlawi Sandbar in its full glory because of the high tide. Instead, what greeted us were the floating cottages made of bamboo and shallow water hiding the sandbar underneath. And food! Fishermen would stop at each cottage to offer coconuts, halo-halo, and mais con yelo.

manlawi island

Caramoan Challenge #4 Find the Lost Sea Turtles and Poisonous Sea Snakes

Caramoan Islands has one of the strangest name origins.

Initially, the area where locals lived was called Gota de Leche by Dutch traders. It means drop of milk because of the white stalactites found in the port area. Upon the arrival of the Spaniards, it was renamed  to “Carahan”, the name of the indigenous sea turtles in the area. Strange enough, we never saw a single pawikan on the beach. Not even one! Where have they gone?

In its place are the frequent warnings of walo-walo or highly poisonous sea kraits lurking beneath the tropical waters. Its local name meaning “eight” was derived from a local story that the snake’s venom is so lethal, bitten victims die within 8 seconds (!). They are usually found among mangroves and corals rocks. Years ago, the sightings of the walo-walo have been reported from Lahos Island and Sabitang Laya Island. But thankfully, we were able to spot nothing during our trip.

I can totally imagine Survivor cameramen going for a close up on one, though.

 Caramoan Challenge #5 The 360-degree Lighthouse View

Often dubbed as the Batanes of Camarines Sur, Guinahoan Island is beautiful for two reasons.

It features the white shores and waves of Liwan Beach on one side, and grasslands leading to the hilltop Guinahoan Island Lighthouse on the other. Thankfully, our boat docked to the jump-off point of the hills. For a mountain-lover like me, after two days of white sand beaches and sea, it was refreshing to reconnect to the earth.

We passed through local villages thriving mainly through livestock and agriculture. Kids and cows alike graced our entrance. In just a five-minute hike, we were engulfed with the view of windswept grass glistening in the sunset and a bird’s eye view of distant islands. This has been one of my favorite parts of Caramoan Islands.

Don’t get too enamored by the sight, however, and watch your step for landmines (AKA cow dung)!

Caramoan Challenge #6 Beach, Please!

Compared to my other island hopping trips, the must-see islands of Caramoan are situated quite some distance from each other. As such, we are left with views of seascape and rock formations en route the islands. This just made us anticipate the white sand beaches we stopped over, each completely different from the other:

Lahos Island features a small clump of white sands between two limestone rocks, thus having two shores on opposite sides. During the high tide, it is said that the beach get submerged in water, as the waves from both directions meet in the middle! Lahos Island’s name either meant “lagoon” or “to vanish” (laho in Filipino).

Sabitang Laya Island is a large, triangular-shaped island with two-kilometer (!) stretch of white sand. It has been said that on the high tide, the entire island is divided by the sea into three, namely the main shores of Sabitang Laya, Bagting and Baliti.

Cagbanilad Island, on the other hand, is more known for snorkeling activities within its perimeter. Just a few meters away from Cagbanilad’s shore are corals and schools of fish!

Finally, there is the newbie Yupakit Island, managed by a local homestay, Al Del Rio Villa Resort. Its flat and peaceful shores are a mix of black and white sands and a sunset horizon that changes color from left to right. We heard that guests will be allowed to camp there soon.

By the end of our very own version of Survivor Caramoan: Travel Bloggers Edition, there emerged no “Sole Survivor”. We came home from paradise no longer as strangers, but as friends with good memories in paradise! Big thanks to TravelBook PH and Al Del Rio Homestay for our trip.

caramoaan islands

How to go to Caramoan Islands: For commuters, the recommended route is purely land travel. From Manila board the bus going to Bicol Central Station in Naga City via terminals of Raymond or Isarog (fare: PHP 650 – PHP 1000, travel time: 8 hours). From Naga City, board the bus to Caramoan via terminals of Florencia, Penafrancia, MRR or Raymond (travel time: 4 hours).

If you’re looking for where to stay in Caramoan Islands, read my review of Al Del Rio Villa Resort.

Best time to visit Caramoan Islands: The dry season from November to May are the best months to travel. The wet season makes island hopping more challenging for smaller boats. It also renders lower visibility for snorkeling activities. Prior to your trip, call local tourism to confirm if some islands are open for visiting, as Survivor crew sometimes close off parts of Caramoan Islands. It is also a VL-friendly destination, because a two-day trip is enough to cover most of the islands. Ask your tour operators or boatmen to visit sandbars and low-altitude islands first, such as sandbars, so you can see them in their full glory.

 

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53 Comments

  • Reply
    Mommy Queenelizabeth
    October 9, 2016 at 8:49 PM

    Congratulations for winning the trip! Lucky you! I wish to travel too and do a blog about a sponsored trip. Its thrilling to be a part of this trip! Caramoan is such an enchanting place and i hear a lot of great reviews about this place! Would love to visit! 🙂

  • Reply
    Alyssa Tuangco
    October 6, 2016 at 4:00 PM

    First of all congratulations for winning the trip! Caramoan is truly a great visit. Medyo naloka lang ako to how you got there, with the famous bituka ng manok road and the neck breaking ride but all of that was worth it! If I was there baka nasuka na ako hahaha. Anyway good thing you didn’t see any walo-walo! Those scared me while snorkling in Boracay.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      October 6, 2016 at 10:38 PM

      Wow, you saw one in Boracay? Shit. Hahahaha.

  • Reply
    Amanda (@HotMamaTravel)
    September 17, 2016 at 12:13 AM

    Very cool! Although the poisonous sea snake thing would def freak me out! It looks like a really pretty place though!

  • Reply
    Jeszelle Suetos
    September 15, 2016 at 6:23 PM

    This is what I missed out last summer. We have planned to visit Caramoan but the Travel Agency we booked in said it will not go through unless the seats got accumulated all and ended me up asking for a refund. Lesson learned for me, I go DIY next time.

  • Reply
    mhaan.a-ds
    September 14, 2016 at 5:01 PM

    Your post reminds me of my adventures a few years back. Sadly, I had to stop since I have a baby (and a husband) to look after hehehe. Hope we could visit Caramoan with the whole family next summer. Thanks for sharing!

    Mhaan | http://www.mommyrockininstyle.com

  • Reply
    Airina Desuyo
    September 14, 2016 at 1:19 PM

    Congratulations for bagging this free trip! You deserve it, you write beautifully 🙂 Did you really climb that dangerous-looking… wait, is that even a mountain? :p

    airinaapril.blogspot.com

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 14, 2016 at 7:24 PM

      Yes I did! I got scratches on my knees. Haha.

  • Reply
    Arrianne Guzman
    September 13, 2016 at 11:38 PM

    I will never get tired of saying that Manlawi sandbar is one of the most fave places I’ve visited. We were so lucky during our visit it was low tide. Sobrang nag-enjoy kami, super late na kami umalis inabot kami ng dilim sa gitna ng dagat! Was a bit scared on our boat ride going home because it was so dark and the waves got so strong na. Haha! But I was so happy we got to maximize our time when we went there 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:51 PM

      Huhu I’m grieving because we were not able to see the sandbar! Inabot din kami ng dilim during the first day. But what was amazing that there were bright stars in the sky… and glowing plankton in the water!! Parang may sea of stars na rin!! I can’t take photo of that… But it’s one of my most prized moments.

  • Reply
    Oscar Bornea
    September 13, 2016 at 9:26 PM

    My friends and I are planning to visit Caramoan soon. We’re thinking of 1st quarter of the 2017. I’ll be bringing my tent and love to assemble and place it not far and not too close to the beach (avoiding high tide) if this allowed in the area. I’ll love trekking and surely will enjoy the 360 degrees view upon reaching the peak.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:49 PM

      That’s great! Hope you’ll enjoy camping. I think I’d also go that way if given a choice. Just for one night though hahaha.

  • Reply
    Johna
    September 13, 2016 at 8:28 PM

    First of all, congrats on winning! You had a beautiful winning entry hehe. I’ve always wanted to go here but the long long long drive had put me off for while but I hope maybe in the next year I’ll be able to visit!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:48 PM

      Thanks for thinking my winning entry is good haha. The long drive will put me off too, if I hadn’t won this one! Hope you’ll see it too. Aside from Caramoan I also wanna go to Calaguas 🙂

  • Reply
    Joanna
    September 13, 2016 at 7:27 PM

    Congratulations on winning! This is definitely a dream prize and it seems you enjoyed it to the fullest! It’s awesome that you were in a bloggers community and I bet you’ve learned a thing or two from each other. The scenery looks fantastic and the simple lifestyle would suit me perfectly.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:46 PM

      I agree. It was really great meeting people whom I only know from their blogs. Also, it felt really… flattering hahaha that some of the people there knew my blog too! My newfound friends are part of what made this trip so awesome 🙂

  • Reply
    Carlos Panganiban
    September 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM

    Another Caramoan adventuuuuuuure! huhu! whyyyy! I envy you people! HAHAHA those breath-taking views are…they just left me speechless! Im looking forward to my Caramoan experience like Sam had:)) yeepee!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:43 PM

      I can feel your FOMO. Haha. Hope you make it there too! 🙂

  • Reply
    Klaudia
    September 11, 2016 at 9:49 PM

    Wow , congrats first of all ! That is a great reward to win (y) That place looks divine , such a beautiful spot on earth. I am not sure if I would be really that keen on finding the poisonous sea snakes tho. But the surrounding is just breath taking . I bet , you had a fantastic time , no wonder you wanna go back for your anniversary 🙂 There are some really romantic little “hide aways” to enjoy ,that little beach and the clear water looks amazing. Enjoy your next trip to the Caramoan Islands !

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 8:24 PM

      Yeah. Super glad I went on this trip!

  • Reply
    Nica
    September 11, 2016 at 7:30 PM

    Aww bitukang manok! Bicolana here! Whenever I travel I always keep a bag of medicine with me especially going home to Bicol. Haha. Love this post made me miss Bicolandia 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:40 PM

      I wish I could go home with you. Hahaha. I’d take on Bituka ng Manok again to see Bicol.

  • Reply
    TheGracefulMist
    September 10, 2016 at 6:14 PM

    Philippines really has some of the most beautiful islands. Congratulations for winning this trip! I would love to explore the Philippines` islands more. Travel bloggers like you inspire me to hopefully travel around our country more.

    With Love, Grace ❀
    http://www.TheGracefulMist.com

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 13, 2016 at 11:38 PM

      Thanks Grace! Hope you get to travel locally more 🙂

  • Reply
    Miera Nadhirah
    September 10, 2016 at 6:02 AM

    with every post I am reading on Caramoan I am getting more and more keen on visiting the place… it looks awesome, so picturesque and I want to be there!!!!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    September 8, 2016 at 1:32 AM

    First of all, congratulations! If I were in the same situation as you, I would’ve also canceled another trip for this! Haha! Ang saya kaya ng sponsored trips. 😛 anyway, I heard Caramoan is really a go-to place in Bicol but the travel time can be exhausting and really time-consuming. It’s not for the ones who are mabilis mainip sa byahe. Hehe. And as you’ve mentioned Bituka ng Manok road, I felt nostalgic already because we used to pass that road also when I’m still a kid and our family’s going to our province jn Bicol. It really is vomit-inducing. Our parents would carry plastic bags with them just in case.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 8, 2016 at 2:51 AM

      Haha! Great that your parents were ready haha. Me too, I think if I hadn’t win the contest, I wouldn’t drive that far for the beach! That’s why I also chose the free trip, coz I know otherwise, I wouldn’t go! 🙂

  • Reply
    Me-An Clemente
    September 8, 2016 at 1:16 AM

    Who would have thought that we’ll end up meeting in a trip to Caramoan? I feel so happy to have gone through those challenges with you and we ended up as good friends. Although we have different preferences in places, you, mountains, and me, beaches, our connection will always be great since we both have a passion for traveling. It is lovely to have you and Charm as my travel blogger friends. See you on The Yard! 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 8, 2016 at 2:52 AM

      Great to meet you too Me-An. Now I have the face to the name of YogoAndCream. And I hope to see you on more travels! Be it ours, or sponsored ones again! 🙂

  • Reply
    Milton Coyne
    September 8, 2016 at 12:48 AM

    First of all, congratulations to you Sam and the rest of the bloggers who won this wonderful blogger getaway. I have heard so many great things about Caramoan.. I usually see a lot of offers online and I saw their inviting pictures but your post made this place a lot more convincing.. it has so many great sights to offer and I would love to visit this place someday

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 8, 2016 at 2:54 AM

      Thank you Milton! I appreciate that you like the photos. Hope that when it comes to Cavite, I visit Pico de Loro Beach too!

  • Reply
    Leona
    September 7, 2016 at 9:38 PM

    Congrats on winning, your blogpost must be outstanding! And what an amazing trip you took with strangers, but that’s how friends are made. I love the survivor series too so can totally identify with this

  • Reply
    mariaisquixotic
    September 7, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    Congratulations on winning! Actually, your post made me jealous. I’m a Bicolana yet I haven’t been there. Whenever I’m home, I just feel like staying on my bed but I also want to travel. Your post gave me that motivation to start saving again. Hope you’ll reach Albay soon! 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 8:43 PM

      You’re so lucky… coming from such a beautiful place! My grandma actually hails from Sorsogon, but she ran away as a teenager #drama. So, maybe that’s why I keep coming back 🙂 Would love to backpack the entire region!

  • Reply
    Dominic
    September 7, 2016 at 4:09 PM

    Wow nice! Congratulations for being part of that trip! So there’s 3 bloggers already that I know that were there in Caramoan. I’m sure you guys are buddies with each other already. So far though, I like your photos better. Is that your trademark look in the photos? looking away from the camera? hehe

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 8:31 PM

      Haha! Maybe. #shytype

      But you gave me an idea! Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Ella
    September 7, 2016 at 3:04 PM

    Wow, congrats Sam! I just saw it on Twitter and I immediately clicked the link from TravelBook! I actually wanted to join the contest too pero looking at the travel dates medyo alanganin kasi. Haha as if naman talaga ako yung mananalo. Haha. Anyway, ang ganda naman ng Caramoan! Been hearing about it pero di ko sya masyadong pinapansin. Maganda pala talaga 🙂

    xx, wanderingella.com

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 8:32 PM

      I’m sure you’d win too Ella! Promise! Hope you can join next time pag may contest pa. Would love to meet you (in case mapasama ulit ako!) 😀

  • Reply
    Shai Habon
    September 7, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    Love this post and all your photos! I think I must visit Caramoan soon! And I love that your boyfriend is very understanding! #couplegoals! <3

    XX, Shai

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 8:32 PM

      Hahaha. True though! Not upset at all. Thanks Shai 🙂

  • Reply
    Berlin
    September 7, 2016 at 7:04 AM

    The Philippines is indeed very blessed with beautiful sand and water. Weve got a number of beautiful beaches and other tourist destinations. Sadly though, most are unaware of them until a tourist or a stranger settled on that island and declared it as beautiful. I hope more and more islands and places be discovered by the locals themselves and that the government help in boosting its presence not only in the international market but to local tourism as well.

  • Reply
    Paul Andrew Pisig
    September 6, 2016 at 2:11 PM

    This was one adventure I would surely NOT forget. I’m happy to have met you and be friends with you, sis! 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 8:34 PM

      T’was nice meeting you there too, Paul! See you on the 12th! Hehe 🙂

  • Reply
    nilyncartagena
    September 6, 2016 at 5:51 AM

    Wow! I’ve never been to Caramoan, or anywhere in Bicol at all! But before anything else, you are so sexy! hehe. I can’t not mention that! 😀 Going back, this place is really nice, oh, how I wish I could also visit this place one day…

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 8:35 PM

      Thank you! Hahaha. Ineffortan ko yan, char!!! 🙂

  • Reply
    ROBERT LEE
    September 6, 2016 at 1:12 AM

    Congratulations, Sam. It was a trip that is worth is because you found new friends and you were able to visit Caramoan. It has been more than 20 years since I went there so you have an idea of what it looked like before when there was absolutely nothing.

    Pride ng Bicol iyan, Caramoan. 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 6, 2016 at 2:16 PM

      Wow, 20 years ago? I didn’t even know it was a tourist spot for that long! 🙂

      • Reply
        ROBERT LEE
        September 6, 2016 at 8:37 PM

        Sam,

        Of course the Bicolanos already know it pero at that time, not many people in Manila knows about it. Lalo sa Camarines Sur, sa Naga, ma pride ang taga-roon. Madalas ko noon marinig, we have this or that, try this or that, wala sa Manila iyan.

        So they have Caramoan, nalaman ko rin. I also joined some divers there on exploratory dives too.

        • Reply
          Nicole Paler
          September 12, 2016 at 12:17 PM

          Wow robert! such an adventurous life you led! I wish though that Caramoan will stay to be a ‘secret treasure’ of the philippines and not be overpopulated soon like Sagada… Also Sam, as per your photos, napapa ‘moan’ ako everytime! I so want to come there soon as well! Glad you enjoyed your travels with Char Char and other writers! 😀

      • Reply
        ROBERT LEE
        September 10, 2016 at 4:36 PM

        I also meant to ask you, Sam. Did you climb the steep rocky … hill or mountain? The one where when you reach the peak, you are supposed to see the bangus? Looking at the photo, I still can’t figure it out. Where is the milkfish or what is in the picture that is supposed to look like one?

        • Reply
          Sam Coronado
          September 13, 2016 at 8:22 PM

          Yes I did, and the edges were really sharp that my knees were lightly scratched. You will climb to the peak of the limstone, and from there the lagoon on the other side where the bangus resides can be seen. 🙂

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