You can snorkel, swim for hours, do some spelunking, kayaking or bird watching, or just relax by the bay. But to experience all these, you first have to go through the 60-meter long tunnel passable only by boat during the low-tide season.
Marked by one entrance and one exit described as a “horseshoe,” a rock formation structured like (what else?) a horseshoe, Sohoton Natural Park speaks of adventure even through the stillness of the day. Nature, the fresh scent of air, mountains and heavy foliage, peace and tranquility encase you throughout your journey.
The Caves of Sohoton
The Hagukan Cave, meaning “snoring” cave in the vernacular, is one of the first attractions in Sohoton Cove. This is just one of the few caves immersed in water where just a portion of its roof can be seen above the surface of the sea, making it a haven for water enthusiasts. To get inside, you must swim—life vest and all—to see the wonders of the stalactites attached to the roof of the cave. As an added bonus, the water also illuminates. When the light enters the cave to meet its sandy bottom, the water reflects and glows.
Just five minutes away is the Diving Cave, but unlike Hagukan, this is only immersed in knee-deep water. Like its name, you enter by either walking through the pile of rocks, or wading through the shore, but exit is by jumping off a cliff. Inside, you'll encounter bats that have made their nests on the ceiling, as well as stalagmites and stalactites. On the rightmost part of the cave is the trickier portion: a vertical rock formation that functions as a ladder leading visitors to the ledge to dive, around 12-15 feet high. Not an easy climb though but worth it for the adventurers. Those who refuse to go up the ledge can exit the way they enter the cave.
Aside from these two caves, there is a mountain known as Sohoton Gamay (“small Sohoton”) where once again, two adjacent caves are located on top. Just a five-minute trek can bring you to the Crystal Cave, named because it's filled with shining ornaments considered to be crystals. The cave is an endless labyrinth of small and large rock formations, birds' nests, stalagmites and stalactites. Some parts of the cave have massive gaping holes, so be really careful.
Just next to it is the Bolitas Cave considered one of the most challenging caves to enter because you have to crawl on your back. The opening is really small but it gets wider and wider as the trail progresses. Once inside, you'll see birds such as the nido that have lodged their nests and the usual stalagmites and stalactites.
The Parks Au Naturel
Part of the beauty of Surigao del Norte involves four smaller islands, which magnify the crystal clear water, corals and the majestic nature of the country. Naked Island, a two-hour boat ride from the main attractions of Sohoton, is aptly named because it has no trees nor shrubberies, not even a glimpse of a shade. But it does offer a spectacular white sand beach and sandbar.
In Dako Island—“dako” meaning big in Visayan—and the postcard-pretty Guyam Island, you can laze around, have a picnic, swim or snorkel. The former has a village inhabited by a small number of people, where visitors can buy food such as pork chop, while the latter is somewhat a developed grove of huts and coconut trees. Both islands provide ample relaxation and rejuvenation time for visitors.
Tiktikan Lake is another place to visit. Accessible via a short trek up the mountain, this one is inhabited by a small community and there is a makeshift sari-sari store to provide some of your needs. Huts have been constructed fronting the lake, surrounded by trees and shrubs. Aside from just relaxing by the lake, you can go boating, bird watching and even fishing.
If you want to snorkel, you can either go to Small Island, an islet located in the middle of Sohoton, or Marka-A Beach, a stretch of white sand nearby. Both provide a great view of the corals underneath the waters.
Sohoton Travel, Accommodations, Food
Going to Sohoton in Surigao del Norte involves a lot of travel time—and different modes of transportation. Keep in mind that there is no direct flight from Manila so you have to fly to Cebu.
The cost of the ticket depends on how early you booked before your trip. Ticket prices may range from P1,500–P1,700 ($34–$39) back and forth. Once you are in Cebu City, you can take a smaller plane, which can lead you directly to Surigao del Norte. Hire a private van (travel time is around two hours) and take a ship to Sohoton.
For food, take time to go to the market in Surigao del Norte before heading to the resort where the food is quite expensive—around P500 ($11) per person per meal. But if you are willing to shell out a bit of money, you can have your lunch or dinner in the city at Ocean Fresh and Frozen Foods Inc. in 888 Diez St., Surigao City, Surigao del Norte (09175231180). They have one of the finest prawns ever!
For your accommodations, stay at Club Tara Resort in Dona Helen, Socorro, Surigao del Norte. The place is so serene and tranquil, nature so verdant and alive, you’d have no problem communing with the scenery—and the endemic species. Tour packages are available at this resort and they can take you wherever you want to go.
The cost of the whole trip is around P12,000 ($273) that covers food, accommodations, tour packages, trips, for as long as you are able to get a good deal on airfare.
Excel V. Dyquiangco describes himself as a "dreamer, an adventurer and a mentor." Between working freelance for magazines and surfing the Internet, he inspires, encourages and builds “passion for some people who have lost theirs along the way.”