“The main entrance and exit is only accessible during low tide” said our guide as our pump boat glided through the water in the dark cave half-submerged in water. The hard hats we had been issued shielded us from the stalactites that hung precariously above our heads. The boatmen expertly maneuvered through the cave entrance towards a pinprick of light that slowly opened up into a vast lagoon. I stared in awe at the stunning landscape I saw before me.
We had just entered Sohoton Cove, a natural haven that is the pride of Bucas Grande Island in Surigao del Norte.
While the province is mostly known for its world-class surf and beach resorts in Siargao, Surigao del Norte has a wealth of other amazing natural wonders to offer. A maze of secret caverns, stunning lagoons, spectacular rock formations and countless islets await those who venture to Sohoton Cove.
Leaves drifted down from the trees above to the clear turquoise waters of the lagoon. As we rowed to the different islets, the guides pointed out rock formations sculpted from the weathering of time and erosion. “That one’s called the horses’s foot,” said our guide pointing to a rock formation that jutted out and ended just above the water’s surface.
As we turned round the bend, we encountered another boat-full of people at our first stop – Hagukan Cave, named for the snoring sound that can be heard as the water slams into the cavern.
A tiny crevice in the rocks could be seen inches above the water. In order to enter, I was asked to lie flat on the water while one of the guides steered me through the barnacle-encrusted entrance. The shards seemed to come nearer and nearer my face, until suddenly I found myself floating in a vast cavern, where a hazy green glow illuminated the water. Like the main entrance to Sohoton Cove, the space is said to be only accessible during low-tide. As I floated around, I wondered how the mysterious spot was discovered by locals in the first place, and how many other similar secret hiding places were still out there.
The next cavern we headed to was Magkukuob Cove, which refers to the bending position people have to mimic to make their way through the low opening and up the steep and rocky passageway. Known more popularly as the Diving Cave, the winding cavern emerged towards a skylight and a wooden platform right on a cliff 15 feet above the water, where visitors could dive back into the lagoon. Though the platform, tied to branches and roots of the nearby trees, didn’t look too high up from the boat, the view from the top was daunting.
“Don’t think, just jump,” I thought to myself after steeling myself for a moment. The rush of jumping off the platform and hitting the water sent a surge of adrenaline through me, and I ended climbing back into the cave for a second jump.
The beaches of the islets we stopped at were something else. White sand fringed the islands of tiny islets that led to other secret spots. From one beach, we headed up a path into Crystal Cave, named after the shining crystals inside that glinted in the dark. The tiny crystals illuminated the different columns and formations in the huge chamber.
We were told that during the summer months (from March to May), visitors to Sohoton Cove could swim with flocks of stingless jelly fish which abound in the area. Unfortunately, I spotted only a few jelly fish as I took a dip in the clear waters after visiting the Crystal Cave.
At another island, we docked at a wooden walkway on stilts leading upwards to a hill and towards Tiktikan Lake. Surrounded by a lush forest and lined with walkways fringed by flowers in full bloom, the lake was a picture of tranquility. A couple of open air cottages for those who wanted to spend the night were perched on a hill by the lake. The view deck above the lake’s serene waters contained a few elaborate carvings of creatures that made the whole place seem surreal.
Since high tide was fast approaching, our boatman suggested we head back to the mainland. On our boat ride back, we passed through more spectacular scenery and several resorts including Club Tara Beach Resort and Hidden Island Resort, for those who want to spend the night in the cove’s vicinity itself.
Sohoton Cove is one the most enchanting places you can visit in the country. Aside from the stunning landscapes and natural attractions here, it’s a place where you can find peace of mind and commune with pure nature. I left with a happy feeling of stumbling upon something so beautiful this side of earth.
TOUR OPERATOR: (Updated November 2016)
For Bucas Grande Island Tour, contact Evangeline Tour: 0909 873 7794/ 0912 085 8593. Facebook Page: Evangeline Tour. They offer boats for rent and can tour you over 5 Islands within Bucas Grande. Rate: P3,500 per 10 persons
- How to get to Bucas Grande Island: You can catch a ferry going to Socrorro, Bucas Grande Island from the Dapa Port in Siargao every morning and afternoon. Fare costs P100.00/person and takes 1 hour.
- Tours can be arranged at the municipal tourism office near the Socorro Port.
- Day trip package tours can also also be arranged directly from Siargao for P4,500 upwards.
- What to bring: waterproof bag, snorkeling gear, underwater camera camera, water and snacks
WHERE TO STAY:
- Backpackers can opt to stay in Island Vacations Country Inn on A. Taruc Corner Burgos Streets in the Socorro town center. This cozy place offers budget friendly rooms, free wifi and is easily accessibile to the port. For inquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms start at only P200 per head/day (for dorm rooms,
- Club Tara Resort within Sohoton Cove caters to those looking for high-end luxury accommodations.
- More affordable rooms can be booked at the family-friendly 2-star Hidden Island Resort.
ESTIMATED COSTS: (prices as of September 2012)
- The cost of hiring a boat from the Socorro town proper to the jump-off point to Sohoton Cove ranges from P1,500-P2,000 per day for a boat that can accommodate up to 10 or 15 passengers or P500-P1,000 for a boat good for less than 10 passengers.
- Separate fees are calculated upon arriving at the Tourist Assistance Center in Sohoton depending on the spots to be visited. Visitors will need to transfer to a smaller pumpboat in order to pass the entrance to the cove.
Sohoton Tour Operation
- Mandatory Fees and Charges:
- Municipal Government:
- Environmental Fee: Foreign: P150, Local: P50
- Rentals (Helmet/Life vest): P40
- Docking Fee (P10-P20 donation in some islands)
- Table Charge: P50
Partner Peoples Organizations
- Pumpboat from tourist assistance center to the cove: P500
- Boat Guides (at least 2/boat): P165
- Paddlers: P100
NOTE: This article was first published in Leisure + Adventure TRAVEL Magazine’s “The Best Travel Secrets” issue