The Island Borne of Fire’s blanket of adventures—some known; others not so—is for all sorts of enthusiasts. Dash curates.
It’s not very easy to find a place in the Philippines that’s conveniently located that can satisfy those wanting to either dive into the waters off the coast, tear up roads and trails, or take to the skies onboard something they can barely control. But we’ve found one: Camiguin, off the coast of Northern Mindanao.
Camiguin, once only accessible either by a chartered flight to the island or multiple transfers, but now at only over an hour’s flight away—thanks to SkyJet Airlines’ launch of direct from Manila flights—is a unique province with more active volcanoes than towns. The tiny island they call the “Island Born of Fire” has something that most places don’t offer: challenging mountain treks, colorful reefs, and an entirely different way to see it all from up high or ground level.
We’ve scoured the island as much as we could to give you a list of things you can do based on how gutsy you and whoever you’re traveling with are.
Hike up the Old Volcano Walkway
This “walkway” zigs and zags up the side of the Old Volcano, and is an exhausting hike even though you’re only walking up the side of a dormant volcano. You’ll need to wear something dri-fit or bring an extra shirt if you’re doing this early into your day around Camiguin. The highlight? The life-size statues depicting the Stations of The Cross.
The Walkway is about 17 minutes from the airport. Environmental fee: Php10 per person.
Snorkel Mantigue for giant clams, sea turtles and table corals
The reefs off the southern shore of Mantigue Island (formerly called Magsaysay) are perfect for anyone who wants to see underwater creatures in their element. You’ll see large table corals and several schools of fish, and if you’re lucky, a sea turtle. There are four giant clams that are at least half a meter wide somewhere within the snorkeling area that’s a quarter the size of the island.
Port to Mantigue Island is 25 minutes from the airport in Mahinog, followed by a 15-minute boat ride to the island.
Zip line over a lagoon
It may be another zipline, yes, but the Camiguin Zipline sprawled above the Taguines Lagoon in Mahinog is the only one of its kind on the island. It’s a 45-second ride from their 742-meter-high platform with views of the sea and Taguines Lagoon. You’ll then take a short (10-20 seconds) zipline back to the restaurant—the latter part of the ride will have you glide within five feet of the water’s surface.
Camiguin Zipline is at J&A Fishpen, about 30 minutes from the airport. Fee: Php350 per person.
Hike Binangawan Falls 2
The trail to Binangawan Falls 2 will take you at least 45 minutes through the side of a mountain. Views will vary as you walk the two-kilometer trail—you’ll get a glimpse of the southern part of Camiguin and Mt. Balatukan in Misamis Oriental, and the tropical forest in Mt. Mambajao. You’ll come across birds endemic to the island if you’re lucky, but your true reward is Binangawan Falls 2, a short waterfalls hidden in the middle of the mountain.
Binangawan Falls is in the town of Sagay, about one hour’s ride from the airport. No entrance fees needed, but an accredited guide is necessary.
Trek hidden but tough Itum
One of the recently-discovered trails, the Itum trail is the most difficult yet also the shortest route to the summit of Mt. Hibok Hibok. It’s a steep incline up one side of Mt. Hibok Hibok that’s practically hidden below dense foliage, and is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be challenged with lots of transitions from using two to four limbs both going up the mountain and down to the base camp.
Should you want to take on any of these trails (or any of Camiguin’s other mountains), you’ll have to coordinate with the DENR office in Mambajao and get an official guide.
Call the Camiguin DENR Protected Area Management Office at +6388 387 0040 or reach out to Yvonne at +63905 357 2591 before setting up a climb to Mt. Hibok Hibok and get a list of their accredited guides. Climbs are at Php200 per person, Php50 for students.
Easy dive at White Island
Vladimir calls this one “relatively easy.” The waters surrounding this Camiguin icon are perfect for underwater photography with easy underwater terrain and a vibrant coral reef. Face the island of Camiguin and you’ll be able to find black corals and sea turtles within the small snorkeling area to your right, along with a view of Mt. Hibok Hibok. Visit after lunch if you want to avoid the crowds.
See Camiguin’s sea walls that can rival Tubbataha
Another gem that’s not too close to the mainland, Vladimir likens Jidgup shoal to the Tubbataha Reefs because of its 6-45-meter wall dives. It may not be as teeming with marine life as other dive sites, but the shoal is an excellent dive site for those who want to see eagle rays, schools of drummers, and green sea turtles.
To access any of these dive sites, book a dive with Scuba de Oro at +63917 312 7872 or [email protected]. You can also visit their dive shop at Bahay Bakasyunan, Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin. Rates for dives with Scuba de Oro start at Php4,200 per diver for a group of four or more.
Bike around the island
This one’s literal. Rent a bike from the resort you’re staying or somewhere in town and go either clockwise or counterclockwise—the island is a perfect round shape. You’ll be back to where you started in an hour, give or take 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how hard you push your two-wheeler. It’s the best way to see the island in all its glory, plus it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than taking public transportation.
An even better—and dare we say, more scenic—option is to ride a mountain bike around the island. There’s a bike shop in downtown Mambajao that will let you borrow their mountain bikes for a small fee. It’s tougher on your legs (at least two and a half hours) to go around the island this way, but it’s less taxing to mother nature.
Rent a bike at Willy’s Bike Shop. Tel: +63 917 712 7477.
Who are our insiders?
For hikes and trails to Mt. Hibok Hibok: Yvonne May Abao-Retes
Yvonne is the community development officer for the DENR in Camiguin. As the point-person for climbs to Mt. Hibok Hibok and Timpoong, she knows these trails about as good as their official guides.
For dives sites in Camiguin: Vladimir Elazegui
Vladimir is a PADI IDC staff instructor and has been teaching scuba since 2007. He is based on Camiguin Island at the Scuba de Oro dive center in Bahay Bakasyunan Resort. Scuba de Oro is on its 11th year producing responsible and able scuba divers. Their utmost goal is to protect this God-given marine resource—the coral reefs—to sustain the life of their ocean.
Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Camiguin five times weekly. You can ride a multicab or a motorela to take you to your resort before renting a motorbike to get around the island. No need to negotiate about fares since they have it posted as you make your way outside the arrival area.
Experience all-in hassle-free tours of Camiguin by booking #DashHolidays
Tel: +63917 840 6853, +639917 627 6179
Solar Century Tower, 100 Tordesillas cor. HV Dela Costa Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City
Words: Andrew Del Rosario, Photos: Daniel Soriano