Interest in Caramoan, Camarines Sur has surged ever since it was featured in the hit reality show Survivor. International franchises of the show that have been filmed here include Serbia, Israel, Bulgaria, France and most recently the 25th season of the US version, which started airing last week.
Even though I grew up in Naga City in Camarines Sur and am a huge fan of the reality show, for some reason I never got to visit Caramoan until earlier this year. While visiting my folks in Naga City, I heard that some Bicol friends (who had also never been there) were heading to Caramoan for (of all things) a fun run. Thus I finally got my chance to visit the islands that I had dreamed of setting foot on for many years.
Ironically, it was because of the shooting schedule of Survivor that we didn’t really get to see many of the islands–they were closed off to the public for exclusive use of the show. Some areas were cordoned off and other areas were being guarded.
A notice in town read: “This is to inform the public that Gota Village Resort and Hunongan Cove is (sic) fully booked from February 2012 until August 2012. The following islands: Sabitang Laya, Tayak, Pitogo, Catanhawan, Inayun-ayunan, Matukad and Lahos, will also be unaccesible (sic) due to a special project from February 2012 until August 2012. Please bear with us. Thank you!! – The Provincial Government of Camarines Sur.”
Though I previously thought Caramoan was an island, it’s actually a peninsula with a stretch of irregular, rugged coastline with clusters of islands. With its rugged terrain, white sand beaches, limestone cliffs, coral reefs with diverse marine life, serene lagoons, subterranean river and caves, I’m not surprised that the the production staff of Survivor decided to shoot here.
During our island-hopping trip, our boat just passed Gota Village Resort, where a row of huts dotted the shore and a private yacht-like boat could be seen off the coast. Though the cabins here are offered to tourists during the off-season, this is reportedly where the crew and cast (presumably after they get voted off) stayed during the filming period.
Since Gota was closed off, we visited a small island relatively near it, with a narrow strip of beach and a large rock near the shore, which visitors could climb. After swimming a bit around the waters, we made our way up the rocks to snap some pictures. If we had more time, it would have been great to try climbing up the cliffs.
The next island we visited had a scenic sandbar in the middle of two cliffs, with several boats docked on one section of the shore and a number of visitors playing in the sand, sunbathing and swimming. I can’t be certain, but I think it’s the island in the background in the first episode of the show when Jeff Probst assigned tribes to the returning players.
As I walked along the beach, I imagined myself being marooned there. It wouldn’t be a bad way to spend 39 days. Despite the brief visit, I feel fortunate to have spent some time in Caramoan and made new friends on the trip. My torch may have gotten snuffed early on, but now that filming is done, I’m hoping that that I can go back sometime and really go island-hopping (and hopefully visit the Tribal Council area).
In case I don’t get a chance to do that (because of the filming contracts and all) I’m glad that I’ve ticked Caramoan off my bucket list. It’s inevitable that this kind of coverage is going to put the Philippines on the international tourist map. I just hope that local tourists can also enjoy the place in the future. Next time, I’ll make sure to pack an immunity idol.
How to get to Caramoan:
The small town is located on the eastern tip of the Caramoan peninsula, about 110 km away from Naga City. Though it’s connected to the mainland Camarines Sur, the area surrounding it is really rugged, making traveling there by land very difficult. The most convenient and comfortable option is to book package tours from CWC or the Camsur Tourism Office organize the transport transfers. You can also take vans or buses from the Central Terminal in Naga to San Jose, then travel by sea from either the Sabang Wharf in San Jose or Nato Port (Sagnay) to Caramoan (Guijalo port). The boat ride costs P120 and can last from 2-3 hours. It’s also possible to take a boat from Virac, Catanduanes to Caramoan.
Where to Stay in Caramoan:
- Sights and Sand Inn. Mila del Castillo, Proprietor. Email: sightsANDsand@yahoo.com. Tel. no: 0929-4721095
- The Travellers Camp. Contact info:0917-8746437 / 0919-8491694 / 02-6563851.www.thetravelerscamp.webstarts.com
- Rex Tourist Inn. 0915-3295658 / 0919-8821879. www.rextouristinn.com
- CMC Villa Caramoan. 0917-5688262, 0920-9030226. www.cmcvillacaramoan.com