Discovering Bucas Grande Island
One of the best feelings you can get while traveling is that sense of discovery. With social media, there are just a few places in this world that hasn’t been blogged about or extensively photographed and posted on Instagram or Facebook. Bucas Grande Island is that place for me. Before I set foot in Siargao, I had never heard of this island. I came across it during my visit to Siargao as I chose the tours I wanted to do here. Sohoton Cove National Park in Bucas Grande was one of the choices offered. The cost was much more than the other tours since it would take a two hour boat ride to get there. So I originally passed on the idea of going there because of the cost and distance. During the second day in Siargao, I went on line and researched Sohoton, and the island, and I was blown away. I asked drivers and other tour guides if there were group tours I could join and the answer was always that you had to obtain the group yourself and share the fare. This is a much less traveled tour than the others and waiting at the harbor to join others may not be such a good idea. In fact, I know of maybe five boats that morning that made there way from the harbor of General Luna, Siargao. The cost of the boat would be 5,000 pesos which is just under $100 US Dollars with additional entrance fee of 1600 pesos. It’s an expensive excursion if you’re traveling solo, especially in the Philippines. But, it was something I couldn’t pass up. I secured a boat on my fourth day of my visit in Siargao. The staff of the hotel was so nice and accommodating that I offered them to join me on the trip and that I would pay for the boat. They would just have to pay the rest of the fees. Two had wanted to go but one dropped out because the rest of the fees would still be too much and then the second one dropped out because she didn’t want to go alone.
The morning of the trip, one of the hotel employees drove me, on a scooter, to the harbor. I was pleasantly surprised that the boat crew would be the same as the one that had taken me on the island hopping tour two days earlier. The younger man spoke english which made it easier. I was on my way, two hours of riding in a boat with a load motor. My ears still ring when I think back on it so I would recommend ear plugs or head phones if you venture out Bucas Grande. Water splashed my body as we made our way. We were never out of sight of one island or another. As we rounded the far end of Bucas Grande island, we could see the island of Mindanao. The coast line became covered in reefs and the water was now shallow. We were close. We entered Sohoton Lagoon, a network of waterways and smaller lagoons that seemed to stretch for ever. The water was this indescribable shade of blue.
The crew dropped me off on what I would describe as a wooden platform with buildings that including a restaurant whichh made up the entrance to the park. This would be were I would pay my entrance fee, 1600 pesos, and additional fees to visit the caves and the jelly fish lagoon. I think it was an additional 300 pesos for each and I’m sure I got charged more for being a foreigner which is standard practice. It was a bit chaotic, there was a large group there. They were there on a company outing from Mindanao. Majority of the visitors seemed to be from Mindanao.
I boarded a much smaller boat and I was on my way to see the caves. As we made our way through the connected lagoons, I was in awe of the whole landscape and waters. We even traveled through a small cave which didn’t even phase the boat driver as he barely slowed down. Our first stop would be a bioluminescent cave. Unfortunately, I thought it would be too dark to use my GoPro so I left it in the boat. We swam into the cave through a small entrance and came to a spot were we could stand. I could see the lagoon water enter the cave through an under water entrance as the bioluminescent water brightened the cave. My guide asked me to splash the water with my hand so I did. Water droplets went everywhere and it was like hundreds of fireflies had suddenly aluminated the cave. It was and amazing sight to behold and I regret not taking the GoPro. It was bright enough in that cave that I could have captured bioluminescent water on video. I thought about asking to get my GoPro and re-enter the cave but there were too many people waiting on their boats for me to do that. I wish I could have spent more time in there.
We were off to our next stop, another cave. This would involve a short hike, in a dark cave, to a perch on a cliff that overlooked the lagoon. This would be the location for a cliff dive. I made my way to the edge and leaped into the warm water as the other boats looked on. The cave portion of the day was now over.
I was taken back to the park entrance where I waited for the 2nd excursion of the day. I boarded an even smaller more intimate boat that was propelled only by oars. The boat man rowed us to a different part of the park, a more shallow lagoon. The slow speed of the boat allowed me to appreciate my unreal surroundings. Our destination was a lagoon that was bordered by a reef that kept the fish within its borders. This made up the jellyfish sanctuary. These were the harmless variety. With that in mind, it was easier to admire their beauty. I was paddled around the lagoon and then I was allowed to swim with the jellyfish. Of course I jumped in. There weren’t that many around, unfortunately. I also held them in my hand and it didn’t feel as slimy as I thought it would. They felt like a thin plastic bag filled with liquid. This was a unique experience I would truly remember.
I was taken back to the park entrance and the platform. I wanted to take aerial footage of Sohoton Cove National Park so I sent my drone in the air. This birds-eye-view just added to my appreciation to the area. Unfortunately, I couldn’t send my drone too far, I kept loosing the signal. It was time to go, so I thought. I found my boatman for the return ride to Siargao. He asked if I wanted to visit another lagoon. Of course, I said yes.
This lagoon was near the entrance of the main lagoon. It was now low tide so much of the lagoon was inaccessible by boat and it was starting to rain with a light sprinkle. This lagoon was beautiful and I wanted to at least capture it on video. I decided to use an abandoned house to launch my drone and as shelter from the light rain. The rain had stopped but my drone had attracted one of the local kids playing in the water. The boy had never seen a drone so I shared my screen with him as it flew over the lagoon and eventually over his siblings. He was amazed at the technology he was experiencing, as much as I was amazed of the lagoon he called home.
I know I wasn’t the first person to set foot in Sohoton Cove National Park, but it felt like I was. I had discovered this gem at the end of the world. It was a sense of discovery I still feel today. Bucas Grande Island is a long way from anywhere but it’s well worth the effort. I don’t know when I’ll visit the Philippines again but I do know I will be making my way back to Sohoton and Bucas Grande.
Photos can speak a thousand words but a video can do it from different perspectives.