When it is winter time and it is as cold as minus 30, we usually crave to fly to a warmer place like the South America, or Australia, or Asia. We want to be caressed by the gentle breeze coming from the seas. We want to feel the warmth of nature, spend our time outdoors, without having to put our winter coats and snow boots on.
Unfortunately, sometimes career demands prevent us from flying somewhere and experience the sun. Hence, we stay in cold Manitoba. Being confined indoors though, can somehow release the power of imagination and reminiscing. It seems to give us “travels for free”. Then, I remembered one of my getaways last year in the Philippines. Have you ever heard of Caramoan Islands?
The Caramoan Islands are quite isolated yet still part of the Camarines Sur, in the Philippines. It will take you at least eight hours on a bus trip to travel from Manila to Naga City, the capital of Camsur, and two more hours by boat to reach Caramoan. I traveled by plane from Manila, thus it only took me thirty minutes to reach Naga City. At first glance, the Caramoan seemed to be a typical town in the Philippines, but when my friends and I reached the Gota Village Resort where we stayed for three days, I was surprised to know that here’s a place, seated peacefully in the southern part of Luzon, promising a world-class tourism, and revealing another God’s amazing creation.
Chasing “ Survivor”
If you’ve been watching the Survivor TV program, you must be familiar of this place. To date, five countries have already shot their Survivor episodes here- Bulgaria, France, Serbia, Sweden, and Israel. Being a venue for the Survivor episodes, Gota Village Resort is not open to the public all year round, as the program sometimes reserves the place for their video shoots. (Currently, they are open to the public until March 31 this year and until their next notification). I was amused finding myself in the Tribal Council area, a venue where Survivor’s tribemates vote one person out of the tribe. I also wore that immunity idol necklace, which has always been a most-wanted possession among the participants to bargain for alliance or for voting purposes during the game. You would see more of the props the show has used in its past episodes, and would make you recollect the adventures and challenges of the participants to survive in the wilderness.
The Caramoan boasts its beautiful and unsullied beaches. There are top ten must-visit islands in the peninsula but I`ll pick three as my personal faves. Gota beach is one of my favorites, and it is where we stayed for three days. The island has been prepared to accommodate visitors and guests, coming from different parts of the world. The Gota Beach resort features a community of relaxing and homey cavanas, instead of typical hotel room accommodations. Meals are prepared a la carte, and boy, they got my two thumbs up as to the food taste! For three days, my friends and I felt we were regal. The staff attended well to our needs. Sure they were friendly and complaisant.
Another island that I liked was Matukad Island which features, aside from its wonderful waters, an enigmatic lagoon surrounded by big boulders. Though unsafe, my friends and I climbed up the 90-degree stiff rockies with just our flipflops on and no harnesses nor ropes at all, just to see the lagoon. I was stunned by the peaceful, clear lagoon. It was enchanting. There were fishes swimming unreservedly, like royalty strolling around their kingdom. I`ve never seen any lagoon as untouched as what I saw in Matukad. My third pick is Hunungan, another developed island which also has rest houses, but are more expensive compared to the cavanas in Gota. According to the folks of Hunungan, the exiled tribe members of the Survivor show usually stay in this island until the taping of the episodes is finished. Well, I think spending your time in Hunungan is more than a consolation prize!
Ocean and Outdoor Adventures
If you like adventures more than dancing in the bars, I bet this is a good place for you. If you are a beach bum, you can do snorkling, kayaking, and even scuba diving in some parts of Caramoan. You can also do other beach games here like volleyball, Frisbees. You can also just collect shells, cover a friend with sand, or build your own sandcastle.
As the place offers a variety of options for outdoor enthusiasts, Gota also is a place for camping, trekking, spelunking, and rock-climbing. My friends and I tried trekking and rock-climbing. It was around five in the morning when we climbed off to the Gota mount. The heavy rain made the soil slippery to walk on, and trails more difficult to track. After an hour trek, we reached the top of the mount where the five flags of the countries which joined the Survivor are waving freely. We were overlooking the Caramoan Peninsula already. It was definitely breath-taking.
We were fortunate to have tried rock-climbing too, while we were in Gota. The resort’s management have hired four people from the locale, trained in Thailand on ropes and rock-climbing, to facilitate the activity. We started with Grade 4+, and after we conquered that level, moved on to a higher and more difficult Grade 5 which, if my estimation serves me right, is about 20 meters high.
My activities, though tiring, were indubitably fun! In Caramoan, there`s just so many things to do that a “dull moment” would not be in your lexicon.
So I hope, my article took you to the warm and relaxing Caramoan, even just for several minutes. But if you ever have the chance to visit Philippines, make Caramoan part of your itinerary. Not too exploited by commercial tourism, this place is definitely a haven for those who want to experience nature at its best.