Touch the untouched Mindanaoan dame, Camiguin

Touch the untouched Mindanaoan dame, Camiguin

The Island Borne of Fire’s blanket of adventures—some known; others not so—is for all sorts of enthusiasts. Dash curates.

Camiguin’s top attraction: White Island.

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 Firehas 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

Difficulty: Easy

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

Difficulty: Easy

Dive…
… deep…
… and find Nemo alongside giant clams.

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

Difficulty: Easy

It’s also next to J&A Fishpen, where you can get a good lunch right after zipping through the air.

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

Difficulty: Difficult

This is your reward after a treacherous 45-minute hike.

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

Difficulty: Difficult

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

Difficulty: Easy

You can also have your friends set up camp while you’re out snorkeling.
White Island’s waters are so clear they glisten

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

Difficulty: Difficult

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

Difficulty: Easy

You can ride up to the PHILVOCS view deck.
… see the old Guiob Church ruins…

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.

… or take a photo of the picturesque sunset at Sunken Cemetery.

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.

The basics
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

Dashing Spot: Mantigue Island

Dashing Spot: Mantigue Island

There’s more to Camiguin than its famous sandbar. Case in point: Mantigue Island.

Mantigue Island's white sand beach with a view of the mountains of Camiguin
It’s a marine sanctuary with a white sand beach. What more can you ask for? Photo by Daniel Soriano

When people hear Camiguin, the image that first pops out is usually that of White Island. The popular sandbar has always been one of its major tourist draws, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one.

In fact, there’s this four-hectare island off the coast of Mahinog that gives you the same white sand beach experience coupled with more things to do: Mantigue Island.

Mantigue has a bit more cover than White Island—thanks to the small beach huts on the southern part of the island. There’s coverage in the form of mangroves along its shores as well as vegetation in the middle part of the island, where you can find a restaurant, which doubles as the island’s tourism office. The waters surrounding Mantigue has been declared a marine sanctuary, making it perfect for snorkeling or diving. There’s also a small fishing community on the northern part of the island.

How to get there

SkyJet Airlines offers direct flights to Camiguin five times weekly. We suggest renting a motorbike (Php500 or about USD10 per day) and driving to get to Brgy. San Roque in Mahinog, which should take around 30 minutes. In San Roque, board a motorboat (Php600/boat, maximum of six people) to the island, where you can stay for four hours maximum. If you stay longer will set you back Php75 per hour per boat.

Things to do

There are a couple of things you can do in Mantigue Island, even if you’re only limited to for-hour stays.

Mantigue Island fees as of May 2019.
  • Stand-up paddle board
  • Diving
  • Glass boat rides
  • Kayaking
  • Beach bumming for the Gram
  • Talk to the island locals, and (maybe) buy fish from them (fresh or sundried)

4 days in wreck wonderland

4 days in wreck wonderland

Explore sunken ships—the ugly beautiful allure of Coron, Palawan.

Coron, Palawan, the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, is known for its 13 World War II Japanese shipwrecks all lying within depth enough for them to be explorable by underwater addicts—the divers— from the Teru Kaze at a minimum depth of 4m, to the Irako with a maximum depth of 42m.

These wrecks offer great views from the outside and excellent routes on the inside for experienced divers and those with the right certification levels. Most of Coron’s dive operators in town, including our own Reggae Dive Center, typically offers three daily dives.

If you only have a few days in town, try this itinerary.

Day 1

Swimming in Barracuda Lake.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Start your diving holiday with some shallower check out dive in Barracuda Lake, known for its thermoclines and temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celcius—a perfect warm-up for a stunning dive on the Morazan Maru, which offers great diving both for experienced and entry-level divers.

Morazan Maru was originally built in 1905 in England but was sunk in September 1944 along with the other wrecks. She has since turned into a home of an abundance of species like lionfish and giant trevallies—and sometimes even turtles.

The beginner-friendly (and eerie) Teru Kaze.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Cap off your day with a shallow dive at Teru Kaze located a stone’s throw away from the Morazan Maru, for some reef and wreck diving. This wreck is good for snorkeling as the shallowest part is only 4m below the surface. On most days, Teru Kaze will offer good views from below as well as from above the surface.

You’ll be back in Coron later in the afternoon with ample time to climb Mount Tapyas for a view of beautiful sunsets and of Coron Island. Enjoy a refreshing fruit shake or a cold beer at the newly opened Tapas Lounge before you continue further down the hill and out into town.

End your day by stopping at Coron’s many bars and restaurants. You can have the bistek and menudo at Lolo Nonoy’s or vegan pesto pasta and veggie sticks at Le Voyage. For something off-track, walk off the main street and venture into Coron’s side streets with its eateries and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 2

Experienced and certified divers can upgrade their depth limits with dives to the Akitsushima.

The Akatsushima.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

This wreck’s location between 23 and 35 meters under the sea makes it not suitable for entry level divers but it remains to be one of the most popular dives in the area as it’s the only wreck left with its guns mostly intact. The guns are dislodged from the gun turrets and are currently standing upright on the seabed next to the wreck, with three barrels raised toward to surface.

It’s a just-barely-doable for entry-level divers: the Okikawa Maru.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

After spending some time on the surface, have your second dive at the Okikawa Maru, an oil tanker that holds the distinction as Coron’s longest and widest shipwreck at 160 meters in length and a 20-meter span across the beam. Her shallower part lies above the depth limit for entry level divers.

This wreck is located in a passage that from time to time creates strong currents. Due to the relatively shallow depth and the current, the Okikawa Maru teems with marine life—groupers, snappers, crocodile fish, triggerfish, and more. Those with keen eyes will find this wreck good for macro diving.

Cap your day’s dive series at Lusong Gunboat, one of the last unidentified wrecks in Coron. The Gunboat took direct hits and had its wreckage spread over a wide area, though the hull is generally intact. As with the Teru Kaze, this gunboat was also sunk in very shallow water—so shallow in fact that this wreck pokes out of the water at low tide.

The Lusong Gunboat is perfect for all levels of divers—from those getting into scuba diving, experienced divers who want to chill a bit after some great dives, and macro enthusiasts.

End your day with a dip at Maquinit Hot Springs with its natural saltwater springs, or a full Italian meal at Altrove.

Day 3

This day will be your last diving day in Coron since divers are advised not to fly within 18 hours of going underwater. Finish off in style at the Irako, Coron’s deepest and darkest shipwreck.

The beauty of the Irako outweighs the risks for experienced divers.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Irako was a refrigerator ship in the Japanese Navy. She has tight compartments and storage rooms, and her starting depth of 30 meters means only the most experienced of divers dare to take her on. Currents can change in a heartbeat and visibility ranges from a few meters on a bad day to magnificent ideal months. Her upright position with masts still poised makes it easy to see why she has become part of many divers coming to Coron’s bucket lists.

The eerie compartments of the Kogyo Maru makes for one daring dive.
Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun of Freediving Coron

Another deep dive is on the cards for your last dive day: the Kogyo Maru, an auxiliary construction supply ship, which went down with her load. One can still see the toppled construction machines in her cargo holds, with belt tracks and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cement. Like the Morazan Maru, this wreck is widely covered in corals and marine life, from schools of seabreams to circling big-eye trevallies, to huge numbers of scads and fusiliers.

Make a final dive in one of Coron’s reefs or one of the shallower wrecks to make this trip one for the books.

Head back town for some tasty ramen and a cold beverage at Buzz. You can also visit Tita Esh for a more low-key vibe and some filling pansit canton or a heart-warming bowl of mami.

Day 4

It’s island hopping day! Make sure not to leave Coron without taking a trip to Coron Island. Rent a private boat with a tour guide or book a tour through an operator.

Kayangan Lake, but not from the usual viewpoint. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Coron Island offers a lot of white sand beaches and clear waters, with lunch that’s served in one of the small huts they have set up for the same purpose on the beaches. Do not miss out on Kayangan Lake or Twin Lagoon; go snorkeling in Siete Pecados or Twin Peaks.

A stand-up (or in this case, sit-down) paddle boat is a good way of exploring Coron’s neighboring islands. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard in town if you’re feeling edgy before leaving and explore the island as you paddle along. This is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of the island in a very eco-friendly way.

Relax and enjoy the evening with a good view and a cold gin and tonic from either the View Deck or Suites 4:13 before heading out for dinner and summoning a good night sleep.

Who is Lisbeth Jensen?
Lisbeth is an instructor at Reggae Dive Center in Coron for over four years now. She is passionate about the environment and has used her work to participate in conservation efforts in Busuanga.

The Basics
Get there. Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron three times daily. Flyskyjetair.com

Dive tours. Reggae Dive Center offers fun dives to Coron’s many shipwrecks as well as PADI dive courses.
Mobile: +63928 835 5657, +63906 316 1454
Reggaedivecenter.com

Head to Freediving Coron if you want to enjoy these same dive spots without the need for heavy scuba gear.
Mobile: + 63915 172 6809
Freediving-coron.com

Words: Lisbeth Jensen; Photos: Catalin Craciun & Daniel Soriano
Featured photo by Catalin Craciun

No More Articles