Traveling around the Philippines: Camiguin & Leyte
Whoever says traveling around the Philippines is easy should be put in their place. Traveling around the Philippines requires a lot of patience, but it is worth every little bit of frustration. Be aware that ferries will be late, buses will not show up and your journey will most likely be double what they say. The locals will laugh at you or not take you seriously, some of them will even pretend they don’t understand what you’re saying, but just remember to take a deep breath and know you’ll get there. And yes, while I’m writing this I’m trying to talk myself through the most frustrating journey of all my travels.
Camiguin and South Leyte were my next two stops in the Philippines. Both are less visited tourist destinations which made them that much more appealing to me, but harder to get to in some instances. The locals are incredibly friendly in both places, happy to welcome you into their homes and swap life stories. Take a few days to explore these islands and if you have extra cash flow I highly recommend buying flights in advance!
The journey to Camiguin from Bohol was very simple, but the advice I was given by the ferry company made a four hour journey into an eight hour journey. I took a bus from Anda to Jagna early morning because the ferry company said I had to be there three hours before and boy were they wrong. I could have shown up thirty minutes before, bought a ticket and boarded the Fast Cat ferry at 11:30am to then arrive in Camiguin by 3PM. You live and you learn. It did take them thirty minutes to park the boat, but once we were on land I easily waved down a hobble hobble to give me a 30 peso (60 cents) ride to Souldivers where I would be staying for the next few nights.
Camiguin is known as the island of fire because it is home to many volcanos including Hibok Hibok, a massive volcano situated directly in the center. The last eruption was in 1951 leaving beautiful black sand beaches all along the coast. The island is mountainess and green with black sand beaches, waterfalls, cold and hot springs and beautiful scenic winding roads. I spent four days around Camiguin soaking in the raw beauty.
I recommend hiring a scooter to drive around the island. You can literally drive around the whole thing in less than two hours. Every person you drive by waves and screams “Hello!” “Where you come from?” or “I love you.” It’s hilarious, but does get exhausting after saying “Hello” over a thousand times as you drive. I visited lookout point for a beautiful sunset when I first arrived. I was alone and couldn’t really decide on what to do or where to go so I ended up finding a little family’s shop eating two boiled eggs and a papaya salad before driving home and passing out around 8pm. There is not really connection on Camiguin unless you are on the main road or staying at a place with decent WiFi so do not expect to be connected otherwise.
The next day I drove my scooter all around the green mountainess roads. I visited a couple waterfalls and the cold springs. As I was sitting reading Harry Potter a Filipino came over for a chat. She brought me a San Miguel Beer and some fish. She was extremely kind and we talked about her family and what she did for a living. Many Filipinos move to Dubai to work because in the Philippines it is hard to find a good paying job, but everyone is Dubai can find work even without an education. She was explaining the family dynamics of the Philippines as well. It is typical for the parents to support their kids throughout their whole lives until they are unable to work any longer which is when the roles reverse and the children start paying for their parents. The whole extended family hangs out and even lives together sometimes. She was visiting from Dubai and received 70 days off every year.
My Finnish friend met up with me for my last few days on the island which made me very happy because it can get quite lonely adventuring solo sometimes. We snorkeled at the Giant Clam Sanctuary and spent the evening at the Ardent Hot Springs before scuba diving in Mantigue island the next day. Since my friend just got certified we had to do two easier dives. One at Turtle Point and the other was Mantigue Dive site. They were average dives with lots of nudi branches, scorpion fish, lion fish and heaps of turtles which was amazing! If you are an experienced diver I hear Jigdup reef is the best for coral and sealife, but be sure you can descend fast as the current gets quite strong.
What to do:
- Rent motorbike
- Cold Springs- 50 pesos($1) entry
- Ardent Hot Springs- 50 pesos ($1) entry
- Waterfalls- 50 pesos ($1) entry each time
- Lookout point
- Trek Hibok Hibok
- Giant Clam Sanctuary
- Diving- 1300 pesos per dive ($26)
- Mantigue Island- 250 peso ($5) diving fee
- White Island
- Snorkeling - Black Forest
Where to eat:
- All the best- Delicious empanadas
- Northern Lights
- Local spots- Julian’s Eatery
- Herma makes nice food at Didi’s House
Where to stay:
- Souldivers - 200 pesos ($4) per night
- Didi’s Place - 800 pesos ($16) per night breakfast included
South Leyte - Padre Burgos
It was a very long journey from Camiguin to South Leyte. It took us 12 hours plus an extra two because my kindle slipped out of my bag in the van and I had a mission to go retrieve it from the driver, but I got it back! Throughout the whole fiasco the locals were laughing and making jokes which bothered me because I was on limited sleep, but it was all in good fun at the end especially when they gave my tablet back. The ferry left at 3am and arrived at 5:45am and cost 380 pesos ($7.50)where we then switched to a van for 100 pesos ($2) to Ubay and then caught another small ferry to Bato for 250 pesos ($5) which took 3 hours to then switch to a van to Maasin for 50 pesos ($1) to then get in a jeepeny for 30 pesos (60 cents) to be dropped at our door step.
We stayed at Peters Dive resort in the dorm which was a lovely place to land after the long journey. The resort is located right on the water and offers a sea front restaurant and a balcony in the dorm rooms. The dorm beds were very comfortable, the staff was amazing and it was only 400 pesos ($8) per night. The food to be honest was subpar, you’ll find a much better restaurant down the road called Alma and Jerry’s that I highly recommend.
We did two dives in Napantao which were the most incredible dives I have ever done. Even though during my first dive my weights were all messed up and they added two extra kilos to my BCD which caused me to sink fast and develop decompression sickness it was all good because the dives were packed with the most amount of sealife I’ve ever seen! The coral was immaculate and the little critters everywhere blew my mind. The diving fee was 100 pesos ($2) and each dive cost 1600 pesos ($32) including equipment. I really enjoyed Napantao and highly recommend diving there if you have the chance.
There is a chance to see the whale sharks as well. I can’t say I recommend it because I paid 2500 pesos and struck out. We sat around on the boat near Pintuyan for three hours before they decided to take us snorkeling at a below average reef. There were jellyfish everywhere and after we left we got word there were three whale sharks that came through an hour after we left. I believe that they should have compensated us with half price or at least stuck around until we saw one. It was pretty ridiculous that even with over twenty paying customers on the boat they didn’t stick around for longer. I was pretty disappointed, but doing it in Pintuyan is much better for the whales than Oslob. In Oslob you are guaranteed to see them but they feed the whales causing an unnatural change in migration and very weird behaviors of the whale sharks. One day maybe my luck will change and I’ll get to see them but until then I will be a tiny bit bitter.
WHATEVER YOU DO DO NOT TAKE THE ADVICE TO TRAVEL THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT TO SIARGAO ISLAND. The bus never stopped for us and we ended up sitting on the road from midnight to five in the morning. The local bus that picked us up was literally one of the bumpiest rides and it was a horrendous journey. We ended up missing all the ferries and having to stay the night in Surigao City. Not okay.... When going to Siargao Island you are best leaving early in the morning around five taking a bus to San Ricardo to the ferry and then hopping on a bus once you reach Lipata. From Lipata you go to the Dapa ferry dock and reach Siargao from there.
What to do:
- Diving - Napantao
- Whale Sharks
Where to eat:
- Peter’s Dive Resort- overpriced and not too nice, but has to be done when you’re diving
- Alma and Jerry’s kitchen- Still a bit on the expensive side, however, they serve delicious fish curry. Be aware the food takes ages to prepare!
- Local eatery behind market in town- the town is very very small but there is one eatery that sells breakfast and lunch in town near the fruit market. This will be the cheapest meal you’ll find in Padre Burgos.
- Bakery of course!
Where to stay:
- Peter’s Dive Resort- 400 pesos ($8) for a dorm bed per night