We like to think Caramoan as the last frontier in Camarines Sur, with its mostly undeveloped islands and yet-to-be-discovered lakes, caves, and lagoons. But hey, with the propositioned Partido airport plus road system leading to it, envisioned being up and running in a few years, it’s really no surprise why our already famous and still very affordable Caramoan is being mulled as the next Palawan or Boracay.
There are 10 main islands off the coast of the town. Caramoan’s ticket to fame is when the reality TV show Survivor used one of its islands as location for several editions.
Caramoan has largely been undiscovered until the new millennium. Indeed, improvements in transport and infrastructure would give this pristine peninsula a much-needed boost. But an increase in tourist arrivals has an inevitable downside: Caramoan playing host to too many people, even those who don’t have the islands’ best interests at heart. But that’s a different story. We all know you’ve been itching to go, so let us give you a few tips on how scratch that itch but still enjoy Caramoan without the guilt, especially if it’s your first time to come.
Do not expect a strong wifi or 3G/LTE signal. Smart has a stronger signal in Caramoan and Globe only recently set up a cellsite there. Out in the islands, do not expect to be able to chat with your friends on social media. Channel an alternate “active now” status by talking to the one you’re with or savoring alone time instead.
Do not forget to wear a life vest when island hopping. Although it is SOP for rental boats to be equipped with life vests, some visitors can pretty much YOLO their way into everything. Like your girlfriend and her mood swings, weather is unpredictable in this part of the Pacific Ocean, as thunderstorms come very suddenly. Mishaps are rare but do you remember when the girlfriend said she wasn’t hungry? She still ate your order of fries. Better be prepared than sorry.
Do not look for nightlife in Caramoan. Restaurants, stores, and the occasional bar close early. The only red light you’ll see is probably, really just a red light and nothing else.
Do not go island hopping and miss visiting the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Mother of Peace Grotto in Barangay Tabgon on top of Mt. Caglago. It is the biggest image of Our Lady in the Philippines and has since become a pilgrimage site. There are 524 steps leading to the 26-foot image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If the climb isn’t enough to take your breath away, the view surely will.
Do not go walking around half naked in the town center. It’s fine to be in swimming apparel in the islands but in the town proper, please practice a little prudence by covering up.
Inspite of Survivor and the influx of tourists during summer, native Caramoanons are still very conservative. Also, nothing is more endearing than a tourist learning to “Makiagi po” (Makidaan po) to the natives. This is verified by leading tour operator and Caramoan expert Jojo Villareal of Kaddlagan Outdoor Adventure. No, Caramoan isn’t Palawan, Bohol, or Boracay…yet.
Do not go to Caramoan and not visit the lighthouse in Guinahoan Island and the Manlawi sandbar, the farthest of the scattering of islands off the peninsula. The long boat ride is worth the trip. These two jewels are one of the best places to be in Caramoan. Manlawi sandbar has cottages that float when the tide rises. The sea shines like emerald; warm and calm and is the perfect backdrop to your jumpshots. Manlawi is for parties while the hike up to the lonesome lighthouse in nearby Guinahoan is like walking the hills of Batanes. The desolation is striking, loneliness suddenly creeps in, and you start missing all you left behind.x
Do not indulge in extreme sports such as rock climbing at the many limestone formations in the islands without proper gear or coach. Do not go spelunking or stay overnight in an uninhabited island or islet without an accredited tourist guide.
Finally, as in any other national parks and tourist havens, do not get sand, rocks, stones, shells, endemic flora and fauna, to bring home as souvenir. Do not disturb the marine ecosystem. Do not vandalize the trees and rocks. Do not leave trash especially non-biodegradable materials.
Oh, and one more thing: the Tita in me says, “Don’t forget to have fun!”