Camotes Island

The Philippines Islands is made up of more than 7000 islands.  My mom’s side of the family is from the Island of Cebu, which is the second largest island and is really beautiful.  We go to the Philippines once every three to four years and when we were young before we didn’t venture out much.  Now that I’m older and my cousins are older we ventured out a little more.  The last time I was in the Philippines in 2014, we toured the Southern portion of Cebu.  It was a great trip.  This time around in 2016 we decided to venture out a little further and check out the nearby island of Camotes.

The Depature

We didn’t have much time to spend on Camotes due to my wedding the week before, and my triathlon a few days after Camotes so we wanted to get there early.  My wife still had to drop off some family that was in for our wedding at the airport, so we couldn’t take the earliest boat to Camotes.  Our group got together at 7:00am to head from Mandaue City to Danao.  Our target ferry didn’t leave until 8:30am and Danao is only about 20km away from Mandaue City BUT the traffic in Cebu can be HORRIBLE so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to travel.  Leaving early was nice, because we were able to make stops and not be stressed.  One of the fun things in the Philippines is street food.  We had some bread for breakfast with us, but we were able to buy some sachets of cheese on the side of the road to add a little flavor.  We also found a guy pushing a cart of taho around. We made sure to stop and get some of that as well, it’s a great morning snack.

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We made it to the ferry and paid for our fares.  We paid 180php a person for the general out door seats.  You will also need to prepare 5.00php for the terminal fee.  This is separate from the ferry fare.  We didn’t have to wait long for the ferry and soon we were aboard and headed to Camotes.

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The Ferry Ride

The advertised time to travel from Danao to Camotes is 2 hours.  I thought surely this is a joke.  We could easily see Camotes in the distance and a normal moving boat would not take that long.  We also assumed that a normal moving boat would generate a nice sea breeze that would keep us cool on this ferry ride.  We were wrong about both of those things.  It really did take 2 hours…because the boat crawled at the slowest pace possible and by moving so slowly we generated no breeze and even at 8:30 in the morning, it started to get quite warm.  If we were going to be on the water for 2 hours I at least hoped to see dolphins, which some people have reported seeing.  No such luck 😦  The ferry ride was long and for the most part hot and uneventful

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Traveling Camotes

There are several ways you can travel around Camotes.

  1. You can bring your own car onto the ferry and drive yourself around.  This is a versatile option, but it is quite a bit more expensive to take your ferry.  Instead of the 180php fare, the fare is 1400php.
  2. Rent motorbikes on Camotes.  This looked to be a fun way small groups could travel on the island.  A fun way to travel like many locals travel
  3. Rent a multicab.  This is the option we went with considering we had 10 people in our group.  We found a guy who agreed to take us around for 2 days.  In total I think we paid 2000php for 2 days worth of travel.

When we arrived on Camotes our multicab driver was waiting for us.  He was nice and fun as most of the Filipino people are.

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Our first stop was our hotel so we could unload all of our gear and check into rooms.  We stayed at the Santiago Bay Garden & Resort.  This was a nice resort right on the beach.  There were two pools, a restaurant, and many room options.  If this is your first trip to the Philippines, you may be surprised by the showers.  This hotel did not have a traditional Western shower head nozzle.  Instead it was the traditional Filipino method of filling up a bucket with cold water and scooping water out to dump on your head.  Just be aware that this is normal!  After dropping off our stuff we went to go find lunch.

Lunch was an easy walk from the resort.  It was currently high tide so we couldn’t walk on the beach to the restaurant.  Instead we walked on the street and ducked through a small alley and that took us to Sutukil.  This place served local foods and was tasty, but the wait for the food was pretty long.  There are several options for food nearby including pizza and a karaoke place.

After lunch we met back up with our multicab.  Our first stop was Lake Danao.  There is a 10php charge per person to enter.  This was a large lake that has become a tourist destination.  You can rent kayaks and swan boats to explore the lake.  They have some yummy food and desserts on site as well as an alligator you can observe.  There is also a pool on site if you would like to swim there.

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After briefly exploring Lake Danao we headed to a beautiful white sand beach called Bakhaw Beach.  It was amazing that we had this beach all to ourselves.  If we had more time…and it was a little cooler I would have loved to spend more time here.  The water was refreshing, but the sun was hot and harsh.  This wouldn’t be an ideal place for snorkeling and reef watching as I didn’t see any.  This is really more of a relaxing beach…and it was nice.

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Now that we were sufficiently hot and burnt we decided to change up the water and head to an underwater pool in a cave.  We headed for the Timubo Cave.  I believe we paid 10php a person for entrance again.  The cave is very dark…since it is a cave.  There are some lights inside, but it is dark and slippery.  Be careful walking down.  There are also some sections where you need to wade through waist high water to get to the main pool.  So be advised if you are carrying any electronics or equipment that might get damaged in water.  This was one of the most entertaining parts of the trip.  The water was cold and refreshing coming from the hot Philippines heat.  It was dark and protected from the sun which was another plus.  There are lights above the water, but it can still be difficult to see so be careful moving around in the water.  You can easily slip or bump a shin into an underwater rock.  Timubo cave is a spooky but interesting visit.  Highly recommend it!

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We had spent several hours traveling around Camotes and now we were hungry again.  I really wanted from fried bananas from a street vendor, but we didn’t see any at the time.  Instead we found a street vendor selling tempura, fish balls, and peanuts.  I felt like we bought everything this guy had to offer and it was tasty.  It was a welcome mid day snack.

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As we headed back to the resort we saw a large group gathered near the beach and in between a lot of palm trees.  There were a lot of vendors so we found some fried bananas there yum!  Turns out the gathering was for cock fights!  Pretty sure they were illegal cock fights, but it was interesting to take a peak at.

Back at the resort, the sun was beginning to set.  The tide had rolled out and now there was a long strip of beach that could be walked on.  We wanted to get a fun jumping photo in and we thought this would be a good spot.  The resort had access straight onto the beach.  Just a heads up, the stairs can be slippery since half of the day they are underwater.  We made it on to the beach and did some fun jump shots and even built a pyramid 🙂

After our fun we hopped in one of the pools and hung out together.  It was a good way to unwind and prepare for dinner.  The night sky was nice and there weren’t too many lights disturbing the stars.  As I stared hard into the night sky, I began to pick out portions of the Milky Way.  I grabbed my camera to see what I could capture.  Not the best photo from my camera, but definitely should have a great view of the Milky Way.

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For dinner we walked back out to Sutukil.  I knew the wait would be pretty long so I wandered out on the beach to try to take a night photo of our hotel or grab a better shot of the Milky Way.  I ran into a group that were lighting lanterns into the night sky.  They were beautiful and looked like fun.  Maybe next time I’d like to try that out.

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Dinner finally arrived and we were serenaded by the karaoke restaurant next to us.  If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get someone with a lovely voice to carry you through dinner.  We were not so lucky.  It was terrible singing, but it was kinda fun to listen to.

After dinner, I headed off to bed.  Others stayed up.  There was a massage area down stairs where several people got massages, and others hung out and drank in the common area.  Overall it was a busy and fun day!

Day 2

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We didn’t have much time on Day 2.  My sister, who was with us, was leaving back to the States that night so we needed to give her time to get packed.  We rented a few kayaks and paddled in the waters.  We also rented a few snorkel masks and explored the waters.  You had to go pretty far out in the water to get to the fish and corals.  The area was small, but had some nice views.  As always when I swim in the Philippine waters I ran into a sea snake.  That scared me and I swam away and was pretty much done for the rest of the day.

We met back up with our multicab and he took us back to the port.  This time we opted for the air conditioned room on the ferry.  I believe the air conditioned fare was 220php which wasn’t bad to not be burning up.  The room also played a movie for us.  It was entertaining since it was a 2 hour trip.  Most of us passed out and slept the majority of the way back.  On the way back we ran into a pretty heavy storm.  Even though it was a big storm the boat held up fine and we made it back to Danao.

Overall, Camotes was a fun trip.  I think we did the majority of the touristy things.  One part we missed was Buho Rock, which is cliff diving.  Sounded fun, but not for everyone.  If you have a chance to go, check it out!

The last part of this video is from the Camotes trip. Enjoy 🙂

Pilipinas 2016 from kevin koo on Vimeo.

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