Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bucas Grande escapade


Bucas Grande escapade
Photo source Leng Compra
LOCATED at the northeastern flank of Mindanao under the political jurisdiction of Surigao del Norte province lies Siargao, a group of islands known much as a surfing destination. But unknown to many, the Siargao isles also boast of magnificent coves and lagoons that harbor very scenic seascapes, enough to make your jaws drop in amazement.

One of these islands is Bucas Grande, lying adjacent to the more well-known Siargao Island but located much nearer to the Surigao del Norte mainland (a shorter 45-minute trip from barangay Hayanggabon in the nickel-mining town of Claver).

Bucas Grande is an irregular shaped island; the western side that faces Surigao del Norte is straddled by coves and islets. Its numerous emerald colored inlets provide not just breath-taking sceneries but also a perfect aquatic playground where one can swim, kayak, snorkel, dive or just chill in some idyllic strips of beach strewn across these inlets.

When my friend Albert had his Shenzhen China trip cancelled due to visa problems, he immediately booked his Lenten vacation Plan B, which was a long-weekend trip to Bucas Grande. He invited me along with some of our photography co-hobbyists to join the trip.

For a group of 10, we shelled around P4,500 each, which basically covered all the necessary expenses for the trip that includes transportation, accommodation with meals and the tours around the island.

From Davao, we took a seven-hour drive to the town of Claver, the jump-off point is at Barangay Hayanggabon, where you take a motor launch for a 45-minute trip to Bucas Grande. There are accommodations in Hayanggabon for van drivers, where they can wait during their clients' sojourn.

Claver town hosts one of the largest nickel mines in the country and as you set forth to Bucas Grande, one can see contrasting landscapes, the bald, brown mining mountains of Claver and the lush verdant islets of Bucas Grande.

The boat took us to Tiktikan Lake Resort, which is going to be our home for the holidays. The resort had only two cottages, thus it was not really crowded and at times, we felt we had an island for ourselves.

Our cottage has a stunning view of a lagoon, which looks more like a lake. There, one can rent a small banca and go rowing to explore the lush inlet. The sound of hornbills from the nearby forested cliffs indicated that the place is still rich not just with flora but also of fauna.

The emerald waters of the Tiktikan inlet provided much respite to our urban-weary bodies, hiding in a nearby inlet is the Crystal caves where one can go spelunking.

The highlight of the trip was whole day island-hopping. The boat took us to beach strips. Much of Bucas Grande are coves with cliffs rising up to the sea, and there are pockets of white sand beaches like the popular Marka—A (named because of an A-shaped mark, naturally etched on the cove's cliff), which are pit-stops for island hopping tours.

Another trip was at Club Tara, a high-end resort that reminded me of a low budgeted version of Samal Island's Pearl Farm Resort, a breakwater cuts off an inlet that provide resort's guests with their own virtual private lagoon.

Another stop was the jellyfish sanctuary. Visitors take human-powered small bancas to the sanctuary, where boatmen will guide you to an inlet where harmless non-stinging jellyfishes abound. The main highlight of the island tour is a trip to the Sohoton National Park.

Bucas Grande escapade
Photo source Leng Compra
The Sohoton National Park can be accessed through a cave during high tide. On the other side of the cave, you are greeted by scenery much more pristine and virginal than the rest of the Bucas Grande inlets since this place is more isolated than the rest of the island. It is a maze of coves and inlets, where one can get lost if you don't have an experience guide with you. The forested cliffs are teeming with Philippine Ironwood, which is said to be one of the hardest hardwoods in the entire world.

The boat makes numerous pit-stops inside Sohoton, one of which is the Haggukan Cave known for the snoring sound the cave makes because of a natural vacuum. Another cave is named Magkukuob cave known for its stalactites and stalagmites. Exiting Magkukuob can be done by jumping off to the inlet through one of its opening.

Our boatman/guide said the National Park is an enchanted place -- the abode of supernatural beings -- during the boat ride inside the park. In the middle of a hot summer day, a sudden downpo
ur caught us unprepared; good thing I brought along some plastic bags to shield our cameras. The boatman said the rain, which seemed to occur only inside the national park, was a sign of the presence of these beings.

Supernatural powers or a wonder of nature, Sohoton and Bucas Grande Island would still cast the same enchanting effect to any traveler who would wander along its coves. (Sunstar)

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