Known as the “surfing Capital of the Philippines,” this tear-shaped island 800 kilometers southeast of Manila was thrown into the limelight by foreign surfers searching for new destinations with big breakers in the late 1980s. Siargao, which is part of Surigao del Norte, soon after acquired a worldwide reputation for its thick haloow tubes, which early foreign surfers nicknamed “Cloud 9,” after a local chocolate bar. This right-breaking reef wave is the sight of annual Siargao Cup, a domestic and international surfing tourney that attracts a lot of professional wave riders.
The island is composed of seven towns, including General Luna where the surfer camps is. Siargao has the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao at Del Carmen town, which is said to be inhabited by big man-eating saltwater crocodiles that protect the sea forest from poachers.
American photographer, John S. Callahan, who discovered the islands major draw in1992, published the first major feature on Siargao in the US-based Surfer magazine in 1993.
PLACES TO SEE IN SIARGAO ISLAND
This enchanting cove is half-submerged in water most of the time and accessible only during low tide. As such, it can be entered only during low tide passing through a cave entrance. Once inside the cove, visitors can go around paddling in kayaks passing through rocky islets while enjoying the pristine waters and beautiful natural sceneries. It can be reached from Surigao City in an hour ride by boat. Experience the thrill of passing through a cave, accessible only during low tide, into a lagoon of countless islets. Situated in Bucas Grande Islands.
compared to the famous (and crowded) Boracay Island, Dacu provides a better ambience. The bright emerald color of the water, the powder-like white sand and the romantic sunset views are some of the best on offer. Add to that the fact it is just a few leaps from General Luna and you will never tire of this setting.
Located at Barangay Buenavista, Hikdop Island, 45 minutes by pumpboat from the city is this enchanting cave. The interior stone formation depicts the illusionary image of a grand King’s Court complete with inner chambers complemented by picturesque stalactites and stalagmites. The highlight of the journey down this cave is the knee-deep pond situated in one of its innermost caverns resembling a throne.
Located near Sitio Pagkawasan of Barangay Buenavista. It can be reached by water transportation and is approximately four miles from the city proper. It has three entrances which all lead to a cavern approximately 3 kms. in length. Unique stone formations inside the cave create an illusionary vision of a majestic “King´s Court” complete with other chambers. It has also an underground pool which is knee deep and is about 100 meters from the main entrance. Like the Mapawa Caves, it has also impressive stalactites and stalagmites which bare witness to the fact that nature is still the foremost sculptor.
The pear-shaped Mainit Lake engulfs the municipalities of Mainit and Alegria between Surigao and Butuan. At a certain season, one can admire the purplish blooms of water hyacinths and lilies. Its placid waters is a sanctuary of thousands of wild ducks. This 17,340 hectare body of freshwater is the fourth largest lake in the Philippines. Also site of many waterfalls.
Lake Mainit is the fourth largest lake in the Philippines, with a total inland water of 17,000 hectares and also the deepest lake in the Philippines, with a depth of 180 meters and an elevation of 37 meters above sea level. The unspoiled teardrop-shaped lake is one of the most natural ecosystems in the region that has unique and diverse potentials among the largest lakes in the country. It has the most pristine water surrounded by numerous cold and hot springs in its various tributaries. The lake is home to some rare and delicacy fresh water fishes such as eel, locally known as “casili” (Anguilla Sp.), mudfish or “hayuan” (Ophicephallus striatus).
Across the General Luna Beach is an islet with powdery-white sand and a cluster of coconut trees. It can be reached by pumpboat in less than 10 minutes. It offers a good view of the incredibly powerful waves of Siargao Island. A few meters away from the island, one can go surfing and do other water sports activities.
Why Naked? The small island is basically a heap of fine white sand. Even trees and shrubs are non-existent. That is why it generally feels hotter compared to nearby places as there is no respite from the sun. You can walk the entire island in just a few minutes.
Tired of all the saltwater? Hire a motorbike to take you to Santa Monica’s Taktak Waterfalls. Stand under the rush of fresh mountain water, have a swim and keep your eyes open for a variety of seagoing birds that frequent the area.
THINGS TO DO
1. Surf in the early morning – you’ll be impressed to see local kids as young as 8 years old surfing like pro’s and pulling off some pretty audacious moves. If you are new to surfing, have one of the locals teach you how to paddle out and balance on a surfboard. Don’t miss this opportunity to hit the waves or you’ll make a million surfers cry!
2. Visit Tiktikan Lake – this lake is included in the Sohoton Tour package. There is an entrance fee of Php 10 per person. If you would like to explore more by riding a boat, there is an additional fee of Php 5. The lake is vast and very calm. It is also incredibly scenic so take your camera if possible.
3. Swim with stingless jellyfish - similar to the Jellyfish Lake in Palau, it is possible to swim with jellyfish in Sohoton Cave without fear of being stung by them. At first, swimming with a school of jellyfish might feel awkward or weird as they will swarm you like bees but this is one experience that you should not miss and better than swimming with old faithful who was caught a couple of islands over some 80 years ago.
In fact a decent number of foreigners have built businesses there and now live on the island year round which tells you something about the place.
And before you leave, don’t forget to buy a few bottles of the speciality mango rum, you won’t be disappointed.
AND THE BEST THING TO DO IN SIARGAO EVERY DAY
Watch the sun rise. Yes, I mean it. Make the effort to wake up early at least once during your trip. Make the walk to the tower that overlooks Cloud 9 and just watch the sun rise. You’ll probably also be treated to the sight of dawn patrol surfers paddling out for the choicest waves before the crowd comes in.
There are direct flights to Siargao Island from Cebu now four times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Carrier is Cebu-Pacific. Prices for flights seem to vary, but expect to pay approx. $US50 one way. Flight time is approximately 45 minutes. Airport is approximately 45 minutes from the main accommodation areas at Cloud 9. Usually there are plenty of vans to transport people to their accommodation…price is not fixed, whatever you can bargain the driver down to…they have to return to the Cloud 9 area anyway.
The ferries from Surigao City to Dapa (main port town on Siargao Island) leave at approx. 6am, 11.30am and 12 noon…travel time varies between 2+ hours to almost 4 hours, depending on the ferry. Tricycles, vans and habal-habals (local form of transport=motorbikes designed for carrying passengers) wait at the pier to transport people to the main tourist/accommodation areas at Cloud 9. As always, flight times and ferry schedules may change without notice.