I was craving for some downtime and a change to a less urban type of scenery after a busy itinerary in Naga and Legazpi City. No doubt, my #1 agenda for the whole trip to Bicol region was to visit the “Survivor” Islands of Caramoan! Caramoan became known internationally as the setting of several foreign “Surivor” TV series franchises in Italy, Isreal, France, Serbia, , Bulgaria, and Sweden. The islands have risen as one of the hot ticket destinations in the Philippines … of course, I wanted to get my fill of this tropical paradise. I stayed in Caramoan for two nights. Since I was traveling solo, I initially hoped to join other tourists for island hopping tour. Unfortunately, I failed to find a group when I arrived. I had to go island hopping all by my lonesome. The night before, I felt a bit scared. I’ve never done it solo before. Would I still enjoy it without any company? What could I possibly do the whole day alone? What if something happens to me while I’m in some remote island?
Solo Travel in Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Planning the Caramoan Island Hopping Tour
Caramoan has many beautiful off-shore islands sprinkled across its vast waters. I chose to visit the “Matukad group” since it was the cheapest option and covers the actual sites where the Survivor series were shot. I booked the island hopping tour for P1,500 at a souvenir store near Rex Tourist Inn. Since Paniman Beach, the main jump-off point to Matukad, was still another 15 minutes away from Caramoan Centro, I had to charter a habal-habal (single motorcycle). I paid P200 for the round-trip transfers, which was probably overpriced … the distance from Caramoan Centro to Paniman Beach was just around six kilometers.
Surivor Caramoan: My Solo Island Hopping Escape
I arrived in Paniman Beach at 8:00am. I wasn’t exactly alone during the island hopping trip since I had the two boatmen as company. “We” explored the Matukad group of islands starting with Gota Beach, the famed exclusive resort in Caramoan. The actual site of the resort was located in an inland location, a hundred meters from the shore.
Beach near Gota Resort
Gota Beach Resort
Landing at the beach, I couldn’t tell that there was a sprawling village of high-end resort cottages nearby. The only structures visible were the nipa/wood houses of the resort security. Found out that the entrance fee at Gota Beach was P300 for a day tour. Would’ve wanted to go since I wanted to see the tribal council set-ups, which was still maintained at the resort property but I was worried I might not have enough cash. Shelling out P1,500 for the whole boat was already expensive and there weren’t any ATMs in Caramoan if I go bankrupt.
Hunongan Beach Resort
Got really excited getting near Lahos Island. From afar, it looked like two smaller islands connected by a narrow white sand beach. The moment my bare feet touched the shore for the first time, I was thinking about how cool it was to finally reach my goal of arriving in the Caramoan Islands. I liked the jagged rocks and the pristine blue waters. The rawness was similar to El Nido, but in a more subdued form … beautiful nonetheless. It was “cool” for the first 20 minutes but beyond that, it felt kinda lonely not having anyone to share the experience with. To keep me occupied, I explored as much of the beach as I could … going from one corner of the island to the other, climbing up the rocks to get a better view of the islands, taking souvenir self-portaits. Although it wasn’t the “fun” experience I expected when I was first captivated by the idea of solo travel, I guess I got what I asked for. Only thing I could do was to tune out the loneliness and just give in to the breathtaking scenery around me.
Aproaching Lahos Island
Self-portrait in Lahos Island, Caramoan
Jagged cliffs and off-white sand of Lahos Island
Salamander? in the bushes
MY pumpboat service for the day
Climbing the low rocks at one side of Lahos Island
Gorgeous view to die for
Telephoto view of Matukad Island
Bieber fever, haha… playing with my hair was definitely a sign that I had too much free time on my hands … time move on to the next destination
Tayak Beach was where the last survivor castaways settled in Caramoan. Remnants of the production sets were still at the beach area during my visit.
Wooden structure where the castaways slept in Tayak Beach
Looks like a shrine of some sort
What’s left of the huts used by the production crew at one corner of the beach
Manong boatman with his Survivor “Art Crew” t-shirt. It’s a nice thought that the production team provides employment to locals also.
We weren’t able to dock at secret beach. Forgot if it was because the tide was either too high or too low. The boatmen suggested I should have started the island hopping trip earlier like 6AM.
I had my brief Survivor moment when the boatmen left me alone at Matukad Beach during lunchtime. The chance that the boatmen might not come back certainly entered my mind but I wasn’t alarmed … I wouldn’t mind being left in such a beautiful place. I had a lot of downtime in Matukad Island (too much actually!). I used up the chance to take as much photos as I could and explore every photo-op I could think of.
Approaching Matukad Island
Climbed the jagged rocks stacked at one side of the beach
View of the Caramoan mainland
Starting to go up the stacked rocks
Breathtaking panoramic view at the top
video footage on top of the stacked rocks | music: “Beautiful” by Athlete
I ate my packed lunch at Matukad Beach. Had Lutong Bahay prepare and pack food for me. Spent P120 for two meals (fried chicken and rice).
When the boatmen came back (thank goodness!), they led me to a steep rock cliff to see a hidden pond/lagoon. They reached the top in no time. I had to take my time to make sure I got a good grip/foothold while climbing since the cliff was really steep. One slip and I could fall in a bed of sharp rocks. I was able to see the mystical mother bangus (milkfish) believed to be the guardian of the island. According to local tales, there used to be two bangus seen swimming at the lagoon. One day, a fisherman went to the island and brought one of the bangus back to his family (for dinner I suppose). Only then did the townspeople knew that the bangus was cursed when all of the family members died shortly after finishing their meal.
View of Matukad Beach while climbing the cliff
See the bangus?
Dark clouds approaching
Last Stop at a Grey Sand Beach
I finally told the boatmen to head back to the mainland since it started to rain. I don’t know why but they took me to a grey sand beach along the way. Although it wasn’t as pretty as the other beaches I visited in Caramoan, this tiny beach we went to seemed like a nice hideaway spot :D
Passing by Hunongan Beach Resort again
All in all, I’m glad I pushed through with the trip even on my own. It was a personally revealing experience … but I couldn’t possibly do something like this ALL the time. It would be too expensive! seriously … it was, in a way, fulfilling to cross an item off my travel bucket list but I realized that some forms of travel are better enjoyed when there’s somebody else to share the experience with.
Caramoan Island Hopping Tips
- Caramoan Island Hopping Tour – P1,500 whole day pumpboat rental for Matukad group.
- P2,000 for “Sabitang Laya/Manlawi island group,” and P3,000 to visit 9 islands covering both island groups.
- Daytour in Gota Beach – P300 entrance fee (not sure if its inclusive of resort facilities)
- Packed lunch from Lutong Bahay – P60 (x2 meals = P120)
- Roundtrip habal-habal transfers – P200