Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sohoton, the Enchanting!

Sunrise in Siargao
Bucas Grande
We only spent the night at Siargao. The next day we rented a banca to take us to Bucas Grande Island, specifically to Sohoton Bay, more than 2 hours away.  The banca arrived and picked us up just when the sun was about to rise from the horizon.  We gave Patrick's on the Beach  one last look and set sail for the next leg of our trip.  
Smaller limestone islands
Island with eroding base
Siargao is also the name of the group of islands near Siargao the island.  Each island is quite far from the next. You could see the neighboring one coming into view, but will be surprised that it takes 30 minutes to an hour to travel to it. Bucas Grande, smaller than Siargao, has been very visible since we left the main island but took about 2 hours to get to the side where Sohoton cove is. The boat ride was boring at times because it makes you anxious of what to see in the next island. But for long minutes the trip left us staring at large expanse of water ranging from crystal clear to bluish and dark green.

Limestone coastline
Bucas Grande has an interesting coast line.  It took the banca close to an hour to traverse half its perimeter.  The island was bordered with limestone cliffs and weathered smaller islands.  The limestone face peaks through lush vegetation precariously hanging from the almost vertical slopes. The greens are a mixture of fine, coarse and strappy textures.  There were large pandans, Dracaena, cycads, trees and of course the ubiquitous coconut. 

New tourism structure being built

Visitors waiting for their turn
Tourism center
We finally made a last turn behind a prominent headland before the entrance to Sohoton Bay came to view. From wavy currents, we entered calmer and crystal clear waters. The craggy silhouette of the mountains and the waterline is only interrupted by two shed structures and a score of smaller makeshift boats surrounding the tourism center. 
Clear waters with corals
The lush greens
Small caves at base of limestone formations
Sohoton Bay at first glance is already enchanting, but it was revealed to us that it still held more secrets. The tour of it brought us deeper into the bay, with river like lagoons hidden behind caves and limestone formations.  An outrigger enough to fit five of us, a boatman and 2 guides navigated through bends and corners, and ultimately through a cave (only accessible in low tide) before it opened into an inner lake enclosed by limestone walls and towers.
Hanging pitcher plants
Cave swimming
For the adventurous, they offer swimming through submerged caves and platform diving into the clean water.  I opted to content myself with what Sohoton's beauty had to offer. Filled half my memory disc with numerous pics of the fascinating landscape and of course, the accompanying flora.
To the jellyfish lagoon
Limestone walls of jellyfish lagoon
entrance has strong current
But Sohoton still had another treat in store for us. We transferred to smaller bancas, only accommodating one passenger and a boatman.  I was paired with Bryan, a small fellow, who paddled my boat through small passage into another equally beautiful lagoon. Since I am bigger than my companions, Bryan had difficulty navigating me and my itsy-bitsy boat through the narrow and shallow pass. Water had a slight current making it more challenging.
Prominent coral formations
Albert holding a jellyfish
Brown jellyfih on a paddle
But once we got through the ordeal, the tight corridor opened up into a grand view, appearing like a natural cathedral.  The mountainous limestone cliffs echo the solemn sound of bird calls. I was still getting amazed by the overlapping symphony of trees and palms, Bryan was strongly pointing out to me to look into the water. In it are numerous jellyfish swimming close to the surface.

Minnie trying to feel the slimy but not stinging invertebrate
The brown jellyfish are about the size of a fist.  They gracefully open and contract, appearing like they are floating on air. Bryan said to touch them because they dont sting like their open water counterparts.  I did and held the soft cold gelatinous body. I only felt the slime sliding through my hand.
Brown jellyfish close up
Leaving the lagoon
It was only past 11 am when we returned back to the tourist center.  We alighted our rented banca again to bring us out from Sohoton Bay and eventually Bucas Grande into Hayonggabon in Surigao Norte. We were back in mainland Mindanao.  We left the Siargao group of islands  with memories of 2 days living the slow sweet life in the islands.  In the course, I reached Cloud Nine and visited one of the best places I have been in the country and the whole world.  But our adventure down south was not yet done...

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