Jun 23, 2013

Seven Amazing Things to Check Out in Camiguin

The month of May nearly killed me. In between dealing with the rigors and stress of daily life, I had to attend a wedding (on another island) and move to a new apartment. What better way to end a perfectly hectic month than to embark on a perfectly refreshing vacation somewhere new. My summer-ender’s destination? Camiguin.

Camiguin is a sun-kissed province found in the Bohol Sea. This island boasts of a wealth of both natural and manmade wonders- from majestic volcanoes to storied ruins. Click on READ MORE to find out seven tourist hot spots you shouldn’t miss when in the so-called Island Born of Fire!

As a natural paradise, the island of Camiguin is perhaps unmatched anywhere else in Southeast Asia. This exquisite island province of varied ecosystem stirs the imaginations and baffles the mind. Camiguin boasts kilometers on untouched coastlines with swaying coconut trees and is dotted with hot and cold springs. Fine beaches offer sun-filled days of relaxation and the clear blue water, enchanting marine life and coral reefs beckon diving enthusiasts from all over the world.
- grabbed from the Camiguin Province website 

Camiguin may be a tiny island, it’s the second smallest in the Philippines, but there’s plenty of things you can see, do and experience here! For first-timers visiting this wonderful province, here is a list of seven hot spots you should check out:

1. The Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross
The Walkway to the Old Volcano is a series of steps leading to the top of Mount Vulcan, locally known as the “Old Volcano”. Life-size statues that depict scenes from the Stations of the Cross are featured along the walkway. I read somewhere that religious devotees flock to this place during the Holy Week for spiritual enrichment and as a personal expression of penitence and sacrifice.
This stop is a must-see for the religious and, I must add, the physically fit. There are probably over a hundred steps between the first statue and the last one, Jesus’s resurrection, found at the top. Since I’m not religious and I wasn’t in my best shape that day (I slept at 2:30AM and had to leave for the airport at 4:00AM!) I decided not to push any farther than the second station. Can anyone guess which scene from the Stations of the Cross the above picture is based on? 

2. The Suken Cemetery

The Sunken Cemetery is probably one of the most iconic tourist spots in the island. In fact, when I found out I was vacationing in Camiguin (I first thought we were headed to Camotes Island), the first image that popped up in my head was the huge cross rising out of the sea. The story behind this renowned structure is both fascinating and morbid.
During the volcanic birth of Mount Vulcan in 1871 to 1875, some parts of the town of Bonbon submerged underwater, the town cemetery was one of the areas that sunk below sea level. The cross that we now see was erected in 1982 to commemorate the location of the sunken cemetery.
There are boats that can take you to the site and from there, you can jump into the water to swim and snorkel.  

3. Old Church Ruins

When my cousin asked me which Camiguin tourist spot was my favorite, I told her: the old church ruins.
When we entered the church—or what remained of it—my initial reaction was, “Oh this is it?” The people standing by the entrance told us to keep going and said that there was more to see at the back. True enough, a doorway led us to this breathtaking spectacle:
The lighting, the lush greenery, the huge tree, the castle-like structure—everything felt magical! We were all pleasantly surprised and to me it seemed like I had stepped into a fairy tale. If I had the luxury of time (and extra baggage allowance) I would have brought all my Victorian garb and had a photo shoot here! 

The remains of the church, convent and belfry in the town of Catarman are reminiscent of the second Spanish settlement established in 1679. These structures were also devastated during the eruption of Mt. Vulcan in 1871. 

4. Bura Soda Water Park
Our fourth stop was Bura Soda Water Park. Before we got there, my aunt was already telling us about the things she heard from her friends. The water in the pools and fountains was said to taste like soda and that was enough to pique my curiosity. There are drinking fountains next to the pool where guests can taste their so-called “soda water”. I won’t tell you exactly what it tastes like because that’s for you to find out when you visit this place.
My aunt said Bura Soda Water Park was her favorite tourist spot and I can tell why. Being the busy woman that she is, the cool water and the refreshing ambiance of the waterpark was exactly what she needed to de-stress and unwind.
Unfortunately, sleeplessness and the craziness of the previous week had finally taken its toll on me. Instead of joining my aunt and cousin at the pool, I decided to take some much-needed shuteye in one of the cottages. I woke up an hour or so later to eat lunch. 
Bura Soda Swimming Pool serves meals for groups at reasonable prices. For P500 we enjoyed generous helpings of grilled fish, adobong manok, rice and soft drinks (we had Coca Cola, not the water in the pool, mind you!).
Entrance fee: P20.00
Cottage rental: P50.00 

5. Katibawasan Falls

From the foot of Mt. Timpoong, Katibawasan Falls plunges over seventy meters down into a refreshing, man-made rock pool. This was our second to the last stop during the first day of my Camiguin vacation and it was just what I needed after a long day under the scorching sun.
I don't know if it's the trees or the waterfall itself but there is just something enchanting about this place. The moment I stepped through the park entrance I could immediately feel the change around me-- the air was cooler, even sweeter. 
The park has basic recreational facilities so guests can either swim in the pool or enjoy picnics around it. We didn't plan to take a dip but the relaxing atmosphere of the park was enough to rejuvenate my 12-hour-or-so-gallivanting self. 
Entrance fee: P15.00 (if I remember correctly)

6.  Ardent Hot Springs

After the church ruins, Ardent Hot Springs is my second favorite Camiguin tourist hot spot. Because I missed out on the water adventures at Bura Soda Water Park, I looked forward to taking a dip at Ardent Hot Springs. I expected an evening of pure relaxation and I couldn’t be more right! 
Ardent Hot Springs is located at the foot of Hibok-Hibok volcano. The volcanic activity of Mount Hibok-Hibok heats the water in the resort's many pools. The pool where we bathed in was 40 degrees, the warmest in the resort. 
A dip in the warm waters of Ardent Hot Springs was the perfect finale to a day bustling with activity. We almost didn’t want to leave!   
Entrance (and swimming) fee: P30.00

7. White Island

White Island is a horse-shoe shaped, completely uninhabited sandbar about 1.4 kilometers off the northern shore of Mambajao. Geological jargon aside, this place is simply stunning! No Camiguin vacation would ever be complete without a visit to the pristine paradise that is White Island. 
I only heard about White Island while planning for my Camiguin getaway but the almost unbelievable stories and descriptions I heard (i.e. a tiny 'island' in the middle of nowhere that slowly submerges when the tide rises!) were enough to convince me to see it for myself.
Aside from swimming, snorkeling, picnicking and sunbathing, White Island offers a breathtaking view of Mounts Mambajao, Hibokhibok and Old Volcano.  
White Island is accessible via a 10-12-minute boat ride from the mainland. There are many resorts and independent operators that offer transportation services as well as snorkeling and safety gear. 
Boat fee (up to 8 pax): P400
Environmental fee: P20.00 

Have you been to Camiguin? What are your most favorite attractions? Which Camiguin hot spots are you most excited to try in your upcoming vacation there?

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