There is more to Siargao than surfing. But who can resist its fabled waves? So we do island hopping, swimming with jellyfish, spelunking, kayaking, cliff diving and surfing when we visit Siargao islands.
Siargao is the ultimate place to be for surfers visiting the Philippines. It’s extremely good waves can get any enthusiast stoked.
Beyond its surfing spots, more natural wonders await for visitors to discover and enjoy – from secret coves and lagoons to still lakes and natural pools to pristine white sand beaches that are never crowded. These hidden gems make non-surfers enjoy the Siargao islands, too.
Enjoy Siargao islands!
Photos courtesy of my travel buddies (Ely, Gin, Joann).
In a popular island destination like Siargao, it’s a wonderful thing to know that locals still have their space for recreations. That is the island community in General Luna, the gateway to several tourist sites in Surigao del Norte such as Cloud 9.
Other nearby destinations that can be accessed through General Luna are Bucas Grande Island in Socorro, and the trio islands – Naked, Guyam, and Dako – in Siargao as well as Magpupungko tide pools and a secluded lagoon. Tourists also stop here to eat, sing, or rent a motorcycle or a bicycle.
Once those necessities have been fulfilled, tourists moved on with their itineraries and leave the island community which to the delight of locals, I believe.
Folks living on this remote island are lucky to have a pristine island for their home, recreations and training sites for surfing, and a good place for sunset watching. Not to mention that business is thriving here, giving locals income opportunities other than fishing.
photo credits to travel buddies Gin Riobuya and Ely Cuela.
To visit Bucas Grande Island in Surigao del Norte is to discover a world hidden in a labyrinthine terrain. A world where hilly and rounded islets, each covered in thick evergreen, dominate the landscape.
Bucas Grande Island is located in Socorro, Surigao del Norte. It is usually accessed via Hayanggabon Port, though some take an approximately three-hour boat ride from Genenral Luna in Siargao to get there. Visiting the island gives non-surfers other ways of experiencing Siargao than surfing.
Photo credits to my travel buddies Ely, Joann, and Ginny.
Cliff divers make a visually striking spectacle through their acrobatic feats. Their stunts display a breathtaking choreograph, leaving watchers in awe at how they can carry out such a sequence of rhythmic motions while defying gravity.
Although the sight I saw at Magkukuob Cave in Sohoton Cove was not that intense, there was something that captivated me in the way H – one of my companions – jumped into the water from a makeshift diving platform 12-feet above sea level.
He wasn’t a professional cliff diver, neither was he a good swimmer. But his body was completely relaxed when he took the plunge challenge. His stance emanates sheer calmness like those of professionals.
His right hand was stretched upward; his right foot pointing downward, so it can pierce through the water without incurring injury from the impact. It didn’t take long for him to touch the water, but the sight of his body so slowly and gracefully falling down the water had made him look infinite. I was so transfixed at the sight that I felt it too that very moment in time.
I knew he did that to do the challenge properly, not to show off, or inspire anyone -as was the effect to me. But it did motivate me.
To cut it short, my hesitance was replaced with a resolve. A resolve to jump into the water without wearing a life vest. A resolve to do the challenge properly. So that I too can experience not only the invigorating rush but also the infinite feeling of being suspended in the air which very briefly takes place in between taking off and plunging into the water.
At Magkukuob Cave – one of the main attractions in Sohoton Cove – spelunking ends with a cliff diving challenge. That is, for good swimmers. But for recreational swimmers, calling it “take the plunge” challenge would be more appropriate.
Whether it’s one or the other, one will have to do the challenge because it is the fastest way to get back to the water, where the boat is waiting nearby. The other way to exit the cave is to go back to the entrance of the cave.
In the end, it’s not about how experienced (or inexperienced) a person is that counts. It’s about managing the crazy feeling that a scary stunt like cliff diving gives that matters.
Being able to do that rewards one of an invigorating rush, a quasi-euphoria kind of feeling, telling oneself that it’s worth taking the plunge no matter how risky it sounds.
A basic but very helpful piece of advice that experts and first-timers can use is to not overthink things.
For a first-timer like me, jumping off a platform that is suspended from a cliff, 12-feet above the water, is a memorable feat.
Note: Sohoton Cove National Park is part of Bucas Grande Island in Surigao del Norte. The park, together with the rest of Bucas Grande, forms a maze of natural wonder that can only be seen (or access) in certain conditions.
Photo credits to my travel buddies Gin, Ely and Joann.
Muffin-shaped mountains are scattered all over the island of Bucas Grande, providing a beautiful background against the paddle boats sailing to their first destination: the Jellyfish Sanctuary.
Sailing forward, more details of this part of the island are revealed. The mountains are limestone formations abundantly covered in untrimmed and thick vegetation.
In between mountains are tunnel-like passageways covered in canopies of protruding branches of wild plants and trees.
At the entrance the water is clear and shallow, making some marine species visible from the bottom such as “tajum” (sea urchin) that used to dominate the area when it was not yet known as the Jellyfish Sanctuary.
With only the sound of the flowing water and the rowing boat can be heard in the area, one could easily tell where this is heading to – a lagoon that is set in blissful seclusion.
Indeed, the lagoon is a wide expanse of flat turquoise calm, making the tableau of corals visible underneath. Seeing the corals from the bottom makes one feel like being able to touch them without having to dive down.
It’s amazing how everything remains unspoiled and the tranquility that envelops the area undisturbed. It is as if a thin sheet of blanket is blocking the outside noise, allowing only the chorus of various chirping birds to penetrate the invisible shield.
During off seasons, the different species of non-stinging jellyfish are nowhere to be seen. That was exactly the scenario when we visited Bucas Grande last November.
I admit it was a little disappointing. Thankfully, the lagoon is itself a thrill to see. Not to mention that passing through the maze-like waterways make the journey to the sanctuary quite like otherworldly.
For me, that part of Tojoman Lagoon, now called the Jellyfish Sanctuary, makes it an entirely unique natural gem in Surigao del Norte.
*The local government of Socorro – one of the 9 municipalities of Siargao – and the DENR must have done a good job in keeping the islands of Bucas Grande in Surigao del Norte well preserved and protected.
*According to tour guides swimming with millions of jellyfish can be experienced in the months of March until May, where they start to spring, and in the months of July until August, where they bloom into full grandeur.