Stress causes health problems, affects mental fitness, rips families apart, changes attitudes, and even kills. Yet, in today’s modern, high-tech, and so-called civilized world, high levels of stress are prevalent. We take stress for granted and consider it as a normal effect of social changes and even necessary for success. What scares us most is knowing how stress can have a devastating effect on both the physical body and the psyche of a person.
Traveling to exciting destinations and undertaking adrenaline-pumping adventures have always been our balm against stress. That’s why we always strive to look for adventures every weekend or undertake multiday trips whenever we can. Our sojourns keep us sane from the stress of working the same tasks day in and day out in claustrophobic workstations, racing against deadlines, and being reprimanded mercilessly by superiors.
Even before fireworks signaled the start of 2014, Sweetie and I realized that we need to have a long, real vacation—one that can truly melt all the stresses accumulated for many years of working in the corporate world. Personally, I needed some time to thoroughly cleanse myself of worries from an impending resignation and look for a new perspective in life. Additionally, this rejuvenating trip is also our very own way of celebrating Sweetie Sheila’s birthday. Happy birthday, Sweetie!
We already knew that our latest Puerto Princesa and El Nido trip is going to be awesome. However, we felt that the trip will be too touristy for our taste. Thus, for a few months, Sweetie and I meticulously planned a 5-day trip in two beautiful destinations—Siargao, the surfing capital of the Philippines, and Bucas Grande, the alluring island of virgin secrets.
August 29, 2014 was the big day. Since Sweetie was working graveyard, she was quite exhausted and sleepy when we met up at the airport. But that exhaustion failed to dampen her excitement for this trip.
We took off at noon, bid goodbye to Mactan Island, and enjoyed the view way below us. On our way to Sayak Airport in Del Carmen, Siargao, we saw tiny settlements on reefs, islets, and sandbars right out in the middle of the sea! Wow! Who would have thought there are human settlements far off the land!
As the aircraft started its descent and neared Siargao, we flew over this small, tropical island with an incredibly beautiful deep-water lagoon in the middle of it. Later, we found out that it is Poneas Island, and its lagoon is an upcoming ecotourism destination.
As we neared the airport, we flew over the municipality of Del Carmen. Del Carmen boasts of the largest and most extensive mangrove forest reserves in the entire Mindanao. The photo below shows just a very small portion of the untouched and carefully preserved mangrove forests.
We later learned that Del Carmen is a major ecotourism destination in Siargao, notable for its population of Philippine crocodiles.
When we landed in Sayak Airport, the first thing we noticed was the number of foreigners lugging surfboards! Apparently, they were heading to General Luna at the other side of the island where most of the island surfing activities were held.
Sweetie and I, on the other hand, took a tricycle and headed to Dapa where we can ride a ferry to our first destination of this adventure.
According to our research, we were supposed to endure a two-hour ride to Dapa. To our pleasant surprise, we arrived at the municipality in just 45 minutes! That means, we had time to take a filling lunch, walk around the Poblacion, and visit the tourism office before heading out to the port to catch a ferry (actually, a large pump boat) to the town of Socorro in the neighboring island of Bucas Grande.
Although the surf town of General Luna is more popular with local and foreign tourists, Dapa is actually the capital of growth, commerce, and education in Siargao.
Since we boarded the ferry an hour before its scheduled departure, we were able to experience a tiny bit of life in this part of the Philippines. On the boat, we chatted with a nice local lady who was on her way to Socorro, had fun with schoolchildren spending their holiday by frolicking in the pier, and lent a hand in starting the boat’s engine.
At last, at exactly 3PM, the captain ordered his lookout to cast off. Goodbye, Siargao! We will see you in a few days.
And off we go! The first leg of the two-hour long boat trip was quite tranquil with smooth seas and warm afternoon sunshine. It seemed as if we were sailing in a large, calm lagoon rather than in the sea.
The boat soon slowed down to navigate a narrow, shallow channel in the Middle Bucas Grande islands, which served as the gateway to Bucas Grande.
Vast tracts of unspoiled mangroves carpet both sides of the channel. Mangroves are very important elements in a coastal/marine ecosystem. They serve many purposes such as nurseries for fish and invertebrates; hunting grounds for birds, monitor lizards, crocodiles, and other fauna; homes for endangered species; buffers against storms and erosion; and many more.
As our boat exited the channel, it gathered speed and later turned left to the coast. Have we arrived in Socorro? That was a pretty short ride.
Well, not really. The boat just dropped off a couple of our fellow passengers in the small town of Consolacion to attend the town fiesta. A fiesta? What fiesta? The quaint town was virtually deserted!
As our boat resumed its course, we were treated to snippets of Filipino ingenuity, creativity, and resilience. These stilt houses utilized by local fishermen are perfect examples. Despite the flimsy appearance, these humble homes can weather heavy seas and storms.
Along with agriculture, fishing still remains one of the largest and most robust industries in the Caraga Region. Large trawlers with traditional pump boat design ply the Dapa Channel, Surigao Straight, and even skirt the Pacific Ocean in search for the bounty of the sea.
An hour later, we exited the Middle Bucas Grande islands and sailed in open water towards Socorro in Bucas Grande. Considerably large waves battered our boat, but our vessel was sturdy and well-built.
The presence of choppy waters was no surprise since we were actually sailing at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Snippets of Life in Socorro
After holding on to our seats for dear life as wave after wave pounded the boat, we finally arrived in the port town of Socorro, Bucas Grande. The port seemed to be quite lively and hectic as boats and barges loaded and unloaded goods and people.
First things first! As responsible travelers, we dropped by Socorro’s tourism office to introduce ourselves; register as visitors; ask for tips, rate sheets, and other pertinent information; and take a few brochures and maps of the region.
We would like to thank tourism officer Aga Galandia who wholeheartedly assisted us in getting a boat and a very competent guide for the morrow’s island hopping escapade.
After our short but warm visit in the tourism office, it was time to head to our humble but cozy temporary home in Socorro—the Island Vacations Country Inn, a budget backpacker’s hotel located just a few minutes walk from the pier.
Booking here turned out to be a pleasant surprise. We found out that Island Vacations is owned by a fellow PTB blogger, adventurer, and traveler! How cool is that!
The town of Socorro was exceptionally peaceful, clean, and laid back. We would love to spend a few days here to immerse and enjoy rural life.
I needed to rack up a few pogi points. Good thing I was able to do just that in Socorro.
Mmmm! The smoky smell of grilled chicken, pork, and other meat products caused our empty stomachs to rumble and complain. Giving in to the urgent demands of our tummies, we went to the source of the mouthwatering aroma—a humble barbecue eatery that prepares some of the best and cheapest barbecues we ever tasted.
Right after dinner, we returned to our simple but comfortable room to rest. We have a long day and an exciting island hopping trip tomorrow, so a good amount of rest was a must.
While Sweetie took a shower, I studied our destinations for this 5-day sojourn and marked down our next destinations in the Caraga Region, specifically the surfing meccas of Lanuza and Cantilan.
Enough of our uneventful first day, but we felt it was important to give you an idea of just how pleasant this trip was. Now, let’s get down to the adventures themselves. Of course, we can’t fit all the remarkable destinations and thrilling activities covered in this 5-day vacation in one blog post. So here are previews of what was in store for us during this sojourn.
A refreshing, picturesque tour of the Sohoton Bay area started our adventure. The tour included visits to secret Tiktikan Lake, charming Bubon Group of Islands, sandy Marka-A beach, and an unnamed coral-rich snorkeling area. But we consider swimming with cute stingless jellyfish in Isla Noah the highlight of this particular segment of our tour.
Underneath the earth are natural geological wonders that are as astounding as they are mysterious. The call of exploration prompted us to visit Crystal Cave and Bolitas Cave.
Mere words can’t describe the ethereal and captivating beauty of Sohoton Cove National Park. It was like entering into the realm of mermaids and sea nymphs. We cruised along what seemed to be like a gigantic lagoon filled with numerous islets, listened and entered a “snoring” cave, and dived off a cliff.
You can’t say you’ve visited Siargao if you haven’t tried riding its powerful waves. Surfing in Cloud 9 in Siargao was addictive; we understood why this place rocks among surfers all over the world! We were definitely stoked as we rode (or attempted to ride) wave after wave.
But Siargao is not all about surfing. There are lovely pockets of paradise that are within reach from the coast—paradises such as sandbars made of powdery white sand, secluded islands, and secret pools.
Join us as we take you to some of Northern Mindanao’s best kept secrets.
Since this 5-day trip covered several destinations and activities, we wrote each destination or activity in detail in separate posts. For your convenience, we hyperlinked our adventures from this page. You will find itineraries, budgets, and useful information after the last posts of Day 2, Day 3, and Day 5.
Alluring Sohoton Bay and Dagatan: A Quiet Sojourn in Emerald Waters
Crystal Cave and Bolitas Cave: Into the Strange, Deep Bowels of Bucas Grande
Sohoton Cove National Park: A Silent, Enchanted, and Otherworldly Realm
An Uneventful, Rainy day
11:25 AM – Departed Mactan Airport
12:25 PM – Arrived at Sayak Airport, took tricycle to Dapa
1:00 PM – Arrived at Dapa, lunch
1:30 PM – Visited Dapa tourism office, inquired about rates
2:00 PM – Boarded ferry to Socorro, interacted with locals
3:00 PM – Departed Dapa, head off to Socorro
4:45 PM – Arrived at Socorro, visited tourism office
5:30 PM – Checked in at Island Vacations Country Inn
6:00 PM – Walked around town, haircut
7:00 PM – Dinner
8:00 PM – Wash up, lights out
Budget (per person)*
- P 300 – tricycle fare from Sayak Airport to Dapa port (rented the entire tricycle)
- P 100 – boat fare from Dapa, Siargao to Socorro, Bucas Grande
- P 750 – per night rate, aircon room, Queen bed in Island Vacations Country Inn (good for 2 pax, no free breakfast)
* Except where indicated, all rates are on a per-person basis. We did not include our expense for meals, snacks, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, miscellaneous transportation, and sharing scheme from us. We also didn’t include the airfare, which we got as a promo. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
1. A multi-day trip that involves crossing islands requires very thorough planning. Take time to set your itinerary, schedules, and budget. In our case, more than a month of researching was spent in researching and getting the data from word-of-mouth and the Internet.
2. If possible, reserve your accommodations at least two weeks to avoid headaches. As far as we remember, there were only two low-budget backpacker’s inns in Socorro, Bucas Grande; one, of course, is Island Vacations Country Inn. We found the place suited to our requirements, preference, and budget. However, you may want to check out other options. Note though that most other accommodations in Bucas Grande are high-end resorts situated in isolated pockets around Bucas Grande. You may have to search in the Net or rely on other travel blogs to know the rates, check-out times, services, etc. of your options. Reconfirm your booking a day before and on your arrival.
3. Sayak Airport is isolated from Dapa. For convenience, you may have to rent an entire tricycle, habal-habal, or van to get to Dapa or elsewhere. Van fare is P300 per person, while habal-habal fare is P500 per motorcycle. However, the aforementioned fares are the usual prices from Sayak Airport to General Luna. Since Dapa is nearer, you may have room for negotiation.
4. Tricycles and habal-habals form the bulk of public transportation in Siargao and Bucas Grande. There are only a very few jeepneys and buses.
5. It is best to visit Siargao during September to December when waves are large, powerful, and conducive to surfing. However, the seas between and around Siargao and Bucas Grande will most likely be very choppy, even on a sunny day, during these months. If sailing on rough seas makes you nervous, try to schedule your boat trips in the morning when the seas are calm.
6. If you wish to enter Siargao via Surigao City, we recommend taking a ship from Cokaliong Shipping Lines, which departs from Cebu the night before your scheduled adventure. You can gain a huge advantage in time because you’ll arrive in Surigao early in the morning, not to mention a good night’s rest. From Surigao City, take a Montenegro ferry to Dapa.
Cebu to Surigao
- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday – ETD Cebu 7:00 PM; ETA Surigao 6:00 AM
- Wednesday and Friday (via Maasin) – ETD Cebu 7:00 PM; ETA Surigao 8:00 AM
Surigao to Cebu
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – ETA Surigao 7:00 PM, ETD Cebu 6:00 AM
- Thursday (via Maasin) – ETA Surigao 7:00 PM, ETD Cebu 8:00 AM
For ferry schedules from Surigao City to Dapa and back, click here.
7. Once you arrive at Socorro in Bucas Grande, make sure to stop by the local tourism office near the pier. Sir Aga, the tourism officer there, will help you arrange your Dagatan island hopping trip and your Sohoton Cove adventure. Take note that the fees for island hopping around Dagatan and a visit to Sohoton Cove are separate. We will cover that in our Sohoton Cove article.
8. Pack light; it makes traveling faster, easier, and more efficient than ever. Do bring the following in your backpack.
- water (at least 1 liter)
- dry-fit, comfortable clothes for traveling
- trekking shoes or sandals
- umbrella, hat, or scarf
- rain gear (in case of bad weather)
- extra money for emergencies
- medications (if any)
- bathing suit, rash guard, bikini, or trunks
- face towel
- goggles or snorkel equipment (for seeing the underwater wonders of Bucas Grande and Siargao)
- cell phone
- camera (waterproof or GoPro cameras are recommended)
- extra money
9. Waterproof your stuff by wrapping them in dry sacks or plastic bags before putting them in your backpack.
- Mr. Aga Ver D.Galanida II (Socorro Tourism Officer) – 0909-3661517
- Island Vacations Country Inn – 0919-9897331
- Vincent Tamayo (boatman and guide) – 0930-8028704
**Contact details can change without prior notice.