Monday, June 3, 2013

[MAMBAJAO] The Coraliens of White Island

I was supposed to transfer to Fantasuites, but my clingy habal-habal/de facto tour guide had another accommodation in mind, which turned out to be a good choice because it brought me closer to White Island. How close? Well, there is this one stretch of road in Mambajao where most of the ho(s)tels found in Agoda are lined up. At the end of that road is the dock from which the boats to White Island depart. The only caveat is that I had to wait for more people to come because I am traveling solo, and a boat costs close to 500 pesos on its own, round-trip. I finished my karinderya meal at around 1 PM and did not get to board until quarter to three. No complaints whatsoever, though, sometimes the best part of the trip is that idle moment given by the universe for you to reflect and think about a lot of stuff.

White Island seems more like a group of sand bars than an island, per se. It is said that it changes in shape depending on the tides, but do not quote me on this because I am not that reliable when it comes to facts, or hearsay, in this case. Island or not, White Island is definitely one of the main tourist draws of Camiguin. You have never been here if you do not include White Island in your itinerary. Yes, it is that popular. Miss the Sunken Cemetery. Miss the hot springs. Miss the cold springs. But do not miss White Island. As simple as that.

Aside from the boat fee, you also pay a 20-peso environmental fee. Cheap. In fact, very cheap, for this kind of attraction. You see, there are around two big areas that consist the island and those two are linked by a shallow portion of the ocean, like a part of the shore that got lost and ended up there. Cute. The island as a whole is not that big, and I imagine how crowded it could be during weekends. On weekdays, however, you can claim your own space, a mini beach kingdom for you to rule while on your bathing suit. Sunbathing is a popular choice of activity for the ladies. For those who do not fancy a tan, maybe you will do better snorkeling. Because of its orientation, there are some areas that are close to shore but deep enough to support corals and the fish that come along with them.

Oh, yes. Fish. Most of them that I saw were of the boring black and white ones. The colorful ones were either having an excursion in some deep part of the sea or simply none existent. I think I chose the wrong area because I had to swim away to actually see fish. The area where the boats park has an immediate deep part with corals abound. Save your limbs the trouble and just dive right there once the boat docks. Do not follow my example. As I always say, I am sort of sadistic. In any case, I was able to see some underwater activity and I am already okay with that.

What I find weird is how I sort of panicked while floating there with my head in the water. You see, I only rented a life vest but decided to bring my goggles and not rent snorkels and fins. Snorkels don't like me at all. All they ever do is force salty water into my mouth. Fins don't like me either. I just couldn't figure out those webbed footwear and how theyr'e supposed to be used. Anyway, I saw an eel which quickly wiggled away and hid in the nearest coral. I wiggled away too. What? What if that was an electric eel? What if it was a poisonous eel and it decided to stalk me? And the paranoia starts there.

That particular area was full of corals and you simply don't know if they're poisonous. Even if they aren't, the damage they could do to your bare feet, or what damage your bare feet could do to them, prompts you to just float and abandon walking altogether. As I said, the area isn't that deep. After the near encounter with the eel, crazy thoughts started entering my head. These thoughts were further complicated by the visual of another weird creature that looked like a snake, but turned out to be an underwater plant/mollusk/what-have-you that have alien-looking teeth that grin at you from below. Shit.

What if one of those suddenly bites me? What if some weird coralien (coral + alien hybrid) wraps itself around one of my limbs and injects some serious amount of venom? What if I turn around and suddenly see a shark! I know that part is shallow but whatever! I bet there are some suicidal bi-polar sharks down there too who would risk suffocating to death and biting off one of my arms in the process. And so there ended my mini underwater excursion as I hurried back to the shore, and freaking out when some harmless floating seaweed ambushed me from one side, almost embracing my face. Seriously, you should have seen how I squealed. It was hilarious. Sometimes I wish I weren't this paranoid.

Enough of my misadventures. Let's put the focus back on the island. What to expect? Nothing but sun and sand! There are vendors there, by the way. I know, right? You though you only see them at the sidewalks of Makati, but no, they are here too. And mind you, they charge Cebu Pacific prices, like 50 pesos for a pack of Piattos or Chippy. To be fair, their Pepsi only costs 25 pesos, and given that they come in bottles, you are sure to get more than the cans served in-flight. The round Monobloc tables will set you back 50 pesos but the wooden ones are free. Those vendors are cool if you suddenly go hungry or thirsty and realize that you didn't bring anything but your swimming trunks.

And of course, Hibok Hibok! What? That is the name of one of seven peaks on the island of Camiguin and is said to be the only active and volcanic one. The view of those peaks is one of the bonuses you are bound to get during your trip. This is the part where the camwhores rejoice. Yes, given the right angle and position, you can capture yourself, the mountains, and the sand bars in one photo.

Most of the locals suggest going there at around 3 PM or very early in the morning because the sun can be stark raving mad after lunch, like, burn you until you are charred kind of mad. Bring your own sun block! If you decide to come at around 3 PM, then you'll be just in time for a short side trip to the Sunken Cemetery by sundown. Now that one is also a lovely view. They say that the actual cemetery can be seen if you snorkel around the cross, but I was not able to ask if that is even allowed. The short boat trip costs 100 pesos back and forth, cheaper if you have someone to share the costs with. Heck, the boatman was even giving me 50% off. I do not see the logic of going all the way there, though, given how the view that matters most is from the viewing deck above the dock.

3 creature(s) gave a damn:

Henzy said...

Nice post! I want to visit this lace, too! :)

benj said...

Returning to Camiguin soon! :)

As a diver, I must share that I hope to see a shark in Mantigue. :D It's very hard to spot sharks in heavily fished parts of the Philippines. :)

ihcahieh said...

@Henzy - Book book din pag may time. I suggest Manila - Cebu - Camiguin. Haggard lang yung via CdO.

@benj - Wow, I envy you. Diving also fascinates me but I kinda chickened out while I was at White Island, considering how shallow that way! Paranoid much. I was not able to visit Mantigue, maybe if I come back I would. :)

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