Caramoan Island – Camarines Sur

Best known as the host of the Survivor Philippines series, Caramoan Island is a great destination for a long weekend getaway. You have a good variety of activities at your disposal that are a little different to the usual Philippines getaways. You will find some awesome food, and some of the most beautiful scenery you will see anywhere in the world.

The character of the place, and the complete absence of any crowds when I visited made this at the top of my list for favourite trips in the Philippines.

Accommodation

Gota Village CaramoanWe stayed at Gota Village, which is the same place where the Survivor series was filmed. This closed the resort down for six months of the year while production is in progress and I guess no one spread the word when it was open again. It seemed that our group was the only one there.

The resort has two sections. The main section is where the reception area and cabins are located a small distance from the beach. The second is just around a small headland that requires a short boat ride to reach. On arrival you have a row of cottages on the water, and what was at the time our own private beach. Perfect!

Waking up each morning to the sunrise over the bay is one of the more memorable experiences of my time in the Philippines. Being alone on the beach in such a beautiful place is one of those magic moments that you wish you could freeze and take with you. I will have to settle for a photo on a cheap camera.

caramoan sunset

When staying in such an isolated section of the resort you are at the mercy of the surrounding swell. The kitchen is in the other section of the resort and meals need to be transported over. If the waves are high then the boat cannot make it. We had our dinner delayed a few hours while they waited for calmer waters. So make sure you pack a few emergency snacks just in case, and don’t order anything that will not still be good cold.

The beach itself is not great for swimming. There are a few too many weeds close to shore. You can still paddle around in the shallows if you want to though.

gotta village food caramoanOne of my travel buddies was very adamant on having crab for dinner. On the first night they said they didn’t have any, but we could order for the following day which would give them time to catch them. This was the first time I ever tried crab and while it took me time to figure out how I was supposed to do this the end result was amazing. Opened up a whole new world of seafood for me!

The staff were very accommodating. I did feel bad that we were the only ones there. While we were outside drinking they were not able to leave us. So they just sat there waiting for us to order one drink after the other.



Activities

Underground River – Swimming Only!

This is a different beast to the tourist conveyor belt that is Palawan. This is a small cave that runs deep underground and at times will be inches above your head. No boats will fit down here, so it is life jackets on as you float into the darkness.

You could drive past his and never know that it is there. We parked the van seemingly in the middle of nowhere and walked into the backyard of someone’s farm house. There was a small creek with a narrow crack leading to the cave. It is a leap of faith just getting past the entrance, but the kids playing around in the creek gave me some confidence that it was at least safe to jump in the water.

The terrain underwater is as inconsistent as the ceiling of the cave. To avoid cutting yourself on jagged rocks you have to lay as flat as you can as you paddle into the depths.

I was amazed at how far you venture into this cave. It is a solid 20 minutes to the end, and another 20 to get back. It is a test of your nerve at times. If the lights go out you would lose all orientation very quickly and you may never get out. The water also gets very cold the deeper you go.

This is at the top of the list as it is the absolute must do activity when you visit Caramoan. A fun and very unique experience.

Rock Climbing

rock climbing caramoanThis one is much more of a physical test than it looks. You climb a sheer rock face just near the beach at the main section of the resort. The face wouldn’t be any more than 5-10 metres, but unless you are a seasoned climber expect your forearms to ache and your hands to be missing skin when you get to the top.

Hiking/Abseiling

We didn’t have time for this one unfortunately. The giant cliff overlooking the resort would be a challenging hike with a spectacular view at the top. They did mention abseiling, but I do not know if this was serious or they were trying to scare us. The sheer drop down the face of this cliff would make anyone’s knees shake. I would give it a go, but I was relieved not to.

Island hopping

The standard activity all around the Philippines! There are frequent stops for snorkelling and each island has something different.

caramoan island hopping tour

You can climb up some endless stairs to a mountain top chapel which gives you a spectacular view across the collection of islands.

island hopping caramoan

A big sandbar which makes for a great lunch spot (sit at a floating table for a fee of course)

sand bar caramoan

Plus some very quirky islands with beaches in every direction.

two beach island caramoan

This part of the country is facing the ocean so expect a bumpier ride than your standard island hopping trip. Especially late in the afternoon when the waves can pick-up. It was touch and go whether we would make it back to our accommodation at all at one stage.

The Travel

As with most things around the Camarines area you have to put in some serious hours to get there. We flew to Naga, then a van ride of a couple of hours, followed by a two hour boat ride. Pretty standard for most destinations in the Philippines. It was more comfortable than most journeys though with plenty of space on the boat and great views the whole way.

The boat ride home ended in one of the more creative docks I have seen. Again you need to pay a fee to use this.

caramoan philippines moving dock

You will struggle to fit this one into a standard weekend, but why would you want to? A long three day weekend is fine, four days would be better. I took this trip a few years ago now and I think we paid about p11k per person all inclusive for flights, transfers, accommodation and the activities. Pretty amazing value when you consider the quality of accommodation we had.

We did this trip in late January. This was obviously not peak season and I would recommend it if you are not big on crowds… which are hard to avoid pretty much anywhere you go.

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