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Weekend at Calaguas

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The journey from Manila to Calaguas is not to be underestimated. Roads in the Philippine have certainly not been designed, or built, with the overnight traveler in mind. Our driver Shaun did not help the situation by spending three quarters of the journey on the wrong side of the road, slamming on the breaks at regular intervals, and doing whatever he could to keep the van’s centre of gravity from stabilizing for any length of time. But he got us there in one piece, which is all that really matters. Besides, a lazy day on the beach was all that was ahead anyway. Before this though, we had one last leg of the journey to complete; A 2 hour bangka ride. We snaked our way through a winding river which got progressively wider, and before we knew it we were in open water going full steam ahead. It was at this point those in the front of the boat found out why the crew had wrapped the entire luggage in waterproof plastic prior to boarding.

 

I will put my cynical frame of mind down to a serious lack of sleep in the 36 hours prior, but this was soon forgotten as we turned in towards our destination. I was quite speechless as we pulled up on the sand. I sat there staring out into the water and across the beach and could only muster up one word to my travel companions… “Wow!” I was in awe of the place as I attempted to disembark from the vessel and before I knew it I had stumbled into waste deep water. Thankfully I had entrusted my iPhone to someone with a waterproof bag a few minutes prior.

 

The bangka ride to the island

The first thing that really caught my eye was just how blue the water was. Even though i was staring into 80 feet deep of water, it was one of the purest colours of blue I had ever seen. As we started to pass by other islands i could see the clear light blue colours in the shallow waters leading to the various beaches. Being conscious of the fact that where we were headed was free of any development I recall thinking to myself, whets wrong with that beach? Such an inspiring thought on a journey to paradise!

The clear blue waters of Calaguas

I will put my cynical frame of mind down to a serious lack of sleep in the 36 hours prior, but this was soon forgotten as we turned in towards our destination. I was quite speechless as we pulled up on the sand. I sat there staring out into the water and across the beach and could only muster up one word to my travel companions… “Wow!” I was in awe of the place as I attempted to disembark from the vessel and before I knew it I had stumbled into waste deep water. Thankfully I had entrusted my iPhone to someone with a waterproof bag a few minutes prior.

 

 

There was not much left to do but ditch the bags, slap on some sunscreen and hit the beach. I could not wait to dive into the water (again), and see what the clear blue water had to offer. So I grabbed a snorkel, did some exploring, and found absolutely nothing! While there were no fish or coral in sight, the purity and cleanliness of the water was really something.

 

skim boarding, some of the activities you can do on the beach

 

The sun seemed to take on a new level of ferocity that you do not get in the city. Without the layer of smog and haze to compete with the sun can really do some damage, but your lungs feel better for it at least. So we took some cover and dug into some Halo-halo. While very refreshing and tasty, if you are very particular about hygiene then this one may not be for you, at least how these were made anyway. I suppose if hygiene were a problem than a deserted island may not be destination of choice anyway. So do not expect to see running water or proper plumbing anywhere. Although there was a toilet, which was unexpected and welcome news, there was no toilet seat.

 

Nightly entertainment: Fire Dancers

I had found many of the Filipino dishes I had tried in and around the city to be something that I would always try, but rarely go back to. After this trip it is clear I have just been eating at the wrong places. The food prepared on the island was spectacular! We were given three meals on the island and after each one I ate to the point where I could have been mistaken for the biological miracle of a pregnant man!

 

food is served on the beach

 

Watching the sunset on the beach with a few beers in hand was one of those magic moments that’s get etched in your memory forever. This alone was worth the trip. After spending a relaxing evening on the beach my travel companions and I thought, well, we may as well sleep here. So, the tents were not needed in the end. Thankfully rainy season held off for at least another day and a 3am drenching was avoided.

 

Halo Halo to beat the heat!

 

Watching the sunset on the beach with a few beers in hand was one of those magic moments that’s get etched in your memory forever. This alone was worth the trip. After spending a relaxing evening on the beach my travel companions and I thought, well, we may as well sleep here. So, the tents were not needed in the end. Thankfully rainy season held off for at least another day and a 3am drenching was avoided.

After my fruitless snorkeling attempt the day before, we thought it wise to seek some help from those in the know. One of the regular visitors to the island tipped us off as to where the good snorkeling spots were and off we went. This trip was a little more action packed with coral and fish stretching all the way along the coast line at the end of the beach.

Our whirlwind visit then came to an end. As we started what would be our 13 hour track back to the city I realized that we will have spent 26 hours on the beach, and traveled 26 hours all up to do it. This might sound crazy, but if I was asked to do it all again next weekend my answer would be a resounding “Yes!”

 

LOCATION: Calaguas is a group of islands in the Pacific under the jurisdiction of the town of Vinzons, Province of Camarines Norte, a merely two hour boat ride from the mainland.

HOW TO GET THERE: While there are travel/tour organizers offering Calaguas tour, a DIY trip is possible and the cheapest way to get to the island. The experience of doing it on your own for the entire journey adds thrill and excitement to what is already an exciting adventure.

Via Vinzons

Daet, the capital of Camarines Norte is the jumpoff point to Calaguas Islands if you are going there via Vinzons. From there catch a jeeney to Vinzons and get off at the fishport (pandawan). There’s a boat going to Barangay Banocboc daily, it departs the fishport at 11 AM, from Banocboc you can hire a banca to take you to Calaguas Islands for as low as P500.00 or even lower depending on your haggling skill. The return trip to Vinzons fishport leaves Banocboc at 6AM the next day.

Alternatively, you can hire a banca from Vinzons fishport to Calaguas Islands, price depends on the capacity of the boat. For a small boat that can fit four to five people, the lowest rate is at P2500-P3000.00. It is a two hour boat ride from the port.

Going to Daet from Manila, you have two options:

By Land

Philtranco, Amihan (Contact No: 3871792) and Superlines buses offers Cubao/Pasay to Daet for an approximately 7-8 hours travel time. Fare cost differs, but ranging from P450.00(~$10) to P750.00(~$17)

By Air

Naga in Camarines Sur is closest airport with regular commercial flights via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air. From Naga, Daet is around two hours drive. There are vans to Daet located in Naga Van Terminal, the earliest departs at 5AM and the last trip is around 7PM.

Via Paracale

Paracale, a Camarines Norte town popular for its gold, is fast becoming an entry point to Calaguas Islands. From Daet, the town can be reached in less than two hours by public vans, fare is around P100.00. But if you are coming from Manila, Superlines has direct trip to Paracale/Panganiban. Get off at Paracale and make your way to the fish port. Alternatively, you can ride a bus to Daet, get off at Barangay Talobatib in the town of Labo and ride another bus for less than an hour to get to Paracale town and walk to the fish port.

At the fish port, you can ask around for fishermen’s boats to Halabang Baybay (Mahabang Buhangin), Calaguas for as low as P2000 (good for five to six persons) or you may opt to ride a boat that goes to Barangay Mangkawayan, Calaguas for a cheaper fare of at least P50 per person. However there’s no regular public boat going to Barangay Mangkawayan but more of fisherman’s boat and the schedule  is unpredictable.

Going to Paracale from Manila, Superlines and Philtranco have direct to Paracale trips. Alternatively, you can ride the Daet bound buses and get off at Talobatib junction where buses going to Paracale pass. Last trip from Daet to Paracale is 6PM and 4PM for Paracale to Daet.

 

WHERE TO STAY: There is no commercial establishment in the islandtents and food are included in your chosen tour package.

 

Kindly contributed by James Treloar

Photography by Steffi Amoranto

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