Bathing at Hinatuan’s Enchanted River

DSC_0310Nowadays, the Hinatuan Enchanted River is one of the most visited site in Southern Philippines as most of the educational field trips of both government and private companies, including small group outings in Mindano are always pointing there. The place was highlighted and recommended several times by tourists who had been there and experienced its charming scenery.

Location: Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Terraza Viktoria, Borobo, Surigao del Sur

Buddies: Family (8+)

DSC_0295
Sole standing tall tree greeted us while on the way to Hinatuan.

We stayed overnight at a friendly paid accommodation in Trento, Agusan del Sur. The accommodation was supposedly not accepting outsiders but because we have a family friend whose working there, we availed its guest room and bed at a super cheap rent. The group left at 6:30am to have a longer time in the Enchanted River.

Moderate rain showered so early and the weather was acting accordingly to the local weather forecast. We reached the small village of Hinatuan and the parking area to the river at 9am. We brought our valuable things as there was a need to hike from the parking area to the entrance gate. At the entrance, we registered and paid the entrance fee. Also, at the right side of the gate is a row of stalls offering fresh fish and sea foods. They can cook it according to the costumer’s liking and deliver it to the cottage at a given time for a small fee.

DSC_0301

DSC_0306After the entrance gate, we hiked entering the secluded vicinity.  The surrounding trees and undisturbed forest are hiding the serenity of the site. Only the resort’s private vehicles have access on the entrance road while the rest of the visitors should have to walk. We reached the checked-in building where a staff guided us to our reserved bamboo-made cottage. The place is like a resort with cottages, benches, tables, and full of people. There are also stairs down to the water. We also rented life jackets which are required and very important while swimming on this river.

DSC_0336

DSC00542This river is believably enchanted and that is where the locals acquired its name. There are mythical stories known to the locals about its legend. Its depth is never measure even by professional divers as it is like a continuous underground tunnel filled with water. The appearance of the fishes from below during feeding time at 12nn is still a mystery. However, you can still see the people (including me) bathing and diving on this dangerous mysterious water source.

There is a shallow part at the side of the river for kids but it was too dangerous for them without the guarding adults. Mosquito repellent lotion is also necessary to bring because the thick forest is covering the vicinity. These insects normally attack the victim once rise up from the water.

DSC_0357The river is temporarily cease for swimming few weeks after our visit but there is certain area where the tourist can enjoy its cool water. It is now only for photography which is for me is good enough to preserve its mysterious beauty. I had no chance of peeking the real dark bluish color of the water as signage of its deepest part during my visit. The water appears so blue and majestic on a regular sunny day but since the entire week was raining, the water was not as clear as what I expected.

Side Trip to Stingrays

At the dock, downstream of the river, there were rental motorized boats for P150 per hour. They brought us to the resort stationed in the middle of the sea with a small entrance fee. They offered us feeding of stingrays and swimming with other fishes. They also have rooms for an overnight stay especially in Sibadan Resort which has a restaurant too.

DSC00546

DSC00555

DSC_0425At 4pm, we left Hinatuan and before we headed to our accommodation in Borobo, we visited the Wakat Cave and freshened us in the pool of cold spring water supplied inside the dark cave. The cave is normally public bathing area of the locals which is hidden from the knowledge of the tourists.

DSC_0456

Spying Underground River and Caving in Ugong Rock

SONY DSC

Our tourist guide named Ernie picked us in the hotel at 7pm. On the way, we picked us a couple, and a family with four members. All of us have the same status as explained by Ernie. Booking for Underground River tour should be done a month before of planned vacation. Our group just have booked yesterday so this local guide gave us chances to visit underground river. Anyone can justify that it is illegal but I proudly say, he gave justice to our vacation itineraries. We occupied those names who has booking but confirmed that they wouldn’t come. We’re just like an undercover agents having different identities. Me and my wife having the names of Mr. and Mrs. Narciso Lopez with matching identification card. Very clever!

IMG_0785.JPG

The underground river is in Sabang, two hours away from Puerto Princesa. As we traveled, we passed those roads categorized on how its name implied. The zig zag road, roller coaster road, massage road, and the rocky road. Ernie also surprised us as he is also a puppeteer. He managed to entertain us using his monkey puppet.

IMG_0882

UNDERGROUND RIVER. We arrived in Sabang and we enjoyed ourselves taking beautiful shots while Ernie registered us to Sabang Park, the entrance of the river. After 30 minutes, we boarded a boat going to Sabang Park where wild alligators were freely roaming. They said that there are monkeys too, but we saw nothing during that time.

We headed to the river entrance where we put on our life vests and helmets. A paddled boatman whom our underground tour guide arrived to pick us and started the tour inside the longest underground river which was now included in the Seven Wonders of Nature. I’m seated in the front seat so I’m maneuvering the spot light of the boat. I clearly saw stalagmites and stalactites in vegetation, animals, and biblical forms. Also, the entire cave is with foul smell because of bats and cave birds. The paddling tour took for 45 minutes.

IMG_0809SONY DSCSONY DSC

We were back to Sabang beach with the same boat which waited for us in the park. In the beach, our buffet lunch was served as part of Underground River package tour which costs P1,500 per head. The lunch was so delicious because of pork liempo and chicken adobo. Tamilok, edible sea worm, in vinegar was also served for P100.

IMG_0907.JPG

UGONG ROCK ADVENTURE. “The villagers here are nature destroyer…before”, nicely explained by Ernie. The money earned from every tourist visiting Ugong Rock contributes and helps the villager to do other livelihood instead of damaging the nature.
At the tourist receiving hall, they asked us if we like to do caving, spelunking, and zip line. Caving costs P200 while zip line is for P250 per head. “What is spelunking?”. It is a climbing technique during caving by pulling the body with rope. Everyone in the group agreed to do caving but nobody assured to do zip line. We put on helmet and gloves as required to avoid contact with the growing stalagmites and stalactites. The group started caving Ugong Rock which its name derived from the humming sound when knocking rocks and walls seen in this cave. Ugong Rock Adventure is merely a mountain climbing activity which the final destination is on the top of the mountain.

IMG_0922.JPG

At first, the caving was funny for it was just an ordinary cave. But when we went higher, the steeps, channels, and slopes were getting more exciting. We needed to enter in side ways, climb stairs, and spelunking until we reached the summit for more than 30 minutes.

After the sweaty caving, we took a rest at the shade on the top of the summit. How can we go back? The staffs gave us two options, by going back through the same channels we had passed through or by 11 seconds zip line. Even the eldest in our group preferred the zip line for he felt his knee trembling and tired. Besides, going down is more difficult than climbing up.

DSC02491.JPG

I went ahead for it was my first time to do zip line. I felt nervous. My entire body was almost numb and I closed my eyes when the frictionless motion of the harness begun to slide. In the mid air, I adjusted, relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

We left the Ugong Rock with a smile for most of us were first timers. We arrived in Puerto Princesa at 4:30pm.

IMG_0959-001.JPG

Dinner at Ka Lui is the most suggested food tripping venue by locals. The restaurant don’t accept walk in costumers, so we were advised to book it early. We asked the hotel receptionist to reserve us a table in Ka Lui and we were scheduled for 6:30pm dinner. The place was with native decorations and we entered  the restaurant leaving our shoes on the rack outside.
The foods were excellent especially the Trubattaha salad. They served the food orderly from soup to desserts so our table was never full of serving plates. The best thing here was the food price was cheap though it was a well known restaurant.

IMG_0966.JPG