Geographically, Camotes Islands is a group of three islands and one islet located east of Cebu, southwest of Leyte, and north of Bohol. Poetically, Camotes Islands, whose name was derived from sweet potatoes (camote), which used to flourish in the area, are sensational slices of heaven that the gods gifted the Cebuanos. Camotes Islands have all the natural gems one would wish to find in a paradise – blue crystalline waters, white fine sand beaches, stretches of greenery, charming caves, and romantic lakes.
I have been to many islands in the Philippines, and I have seen stunning panoramas from the ethereal limestone formations of Coron, Palawan to the vibrant coral reef and marine life of Apo Island in Negros Oriental, but only Biri Island of Northern Samar can compare to the unspoilt magic, untouched by gratuitous commercialization, that Camotes Islands possess. There is a certain sense of peace that quietly radiates from every corner of the islands and brings forth the calmness that a vacationer needs. The dearth of jeepneys and other large vehicles contributes to this tranquil state, with mostly the habal-habal (motorbikes) plying the routes to and fro. One can travel in Camotes Islands for half an hour without encountering another vehicle, with only the magnificent stretches of mangroves on both sides of the road to accompany the motorist. The serenity is broken only by the waves crashing onto the shore or the night-time insects humming momentarily until they cannot keep up to the speed of vibrating metal.
Travelling at night in an unfamiliar place usually gives me an inescapable feeling of apprehension, but riding a habal-habal in a long expanse of road without so much as an electric lamp felt relaxing and safe. In Camotes Islands, it was actually freeing to be in the an open road in an open vehicle while the wind played with my hair and the moon caressed my whole being, whispering sweet nothings, until the façade of the hotel where we were staying came into view. I was almost regretful to rest my weary body on the soft and inviting bed inside a cold room because it meant an abrupt finality of my commune with nature, albeit a temporary one.
Santiago White Beach
Santiago White Beach was our first destination of our Camotes Islands tour. Santiago White Beach is a wide carpet of fine sand, transparent cool water, and picturesque structures built on protruding rocks. The shore is not long but it is flat. One can walk around 500 meters from the safety and shadow of the cottage to the water without the liquid touching above the ankle. The sand forms peculiar shapes that photograph well, and the morning we were there, there were tiny blue crabs that raced from the sand to the waters, dogs frolicking in the shallow water, and children horsing around.
Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort
Paraiso Cave is an underground cave that is more of a hole in a ground rather than a geological chamber. It has relatively wide steps leading to the bottom of the cave, which opens to a spacious area, enough to contain at least two sitting areas, and a natural pool. The water in the cave is a combination of freshwater and saltwater, and the level goes up and down depending on the tides. The bottom of the pool has limestone rocks.
It is within a private property which charges guests P15.00 (US $0.30) for entering the cave and an additional P10.00 (US $0.20) for swimming. Swimming period depends on the number of guests. That early morning, there were only Juan and I and swimming had no time limit. The guide whose name I forgot (my memory is not as good as I thought it was. I need to start taking down notes for my future posts.), spoke mainly in Cebuano, was very cheerful and took our photos at every turn. 🙂
Lake Danao Park
Lake Danao Park is blue, bold, and beautiful. It is bold in its blueness, and it is beautiful in its blueness. Labeled as the Lovers’ Lane, Lake Danao Park lives up to its name for having a romantic and quiet atmosphere, without alienating non-lovers with the various activities that the park offers.
For more information, please read Lake Danao Park (Camotes Islands, Cebu).
Bakhaw Beach is a long swathe of shore sprinkled with white sand and crystal waters. Its bucolic backdrop is very relaxing. There are beach umbrellas and reclining chairs available on the shore. Juan and I spent over an hour just sitting there, talking and gazing at the horizon. Despite the presence of dozens of people down the shore shouting merrily and singing wailing karaoke hits, the noise was thankfully diffused.
If I am mistaken, the entrance fee was P50.00 (US $1.00) per person.
Timubo Cave has narrow and long steps down the main part of the underground cave. Its antechamber (?) contains water up to my hips, and the main chamber has a natural pool. Curiously, there is also an altar dedicated to Virgin Mary in the main chamber. The interior of the cave is darker than in Paraiso Cave, hence the lack of usable photo for this part of the post. 🙂
I cannot remember that entrance fee, but it must have been P20.00 (US $0.40) per person.
Camotes Islands Baywalk is popular for its view as well as the food the stalls offer. Juan was adamant (hahaha) to taste balut (boiled duck embryo) and puso (rice wrapped and boiled in woven coconut leaves). The first one was at my urging, the second one was at half my urging, so we decided to end our day in Baywalk.
Beside the Baywalk is the public market where fruits, meat, and seafood are sold. Adjacent to the bay area are food stalls that sell grilled food that are curiously uniform in their redness, but thinking that it has been years since I had stomach problems due to street food, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take Juan on a food journey of no return.
Juan and I hired a habal-habal for one day for P600.00 (US $12.00).