We couldn’t just let the summer pass without scratching one item from our bucket list. The Bucas Grande Islands have been on our list for a time. We’ve seen many photos of other people or travelers who have been to the place and we were amazed. A beautiful place, especially when its not in another country, is too hard to pass up. (Haha) But it wasn’t that easy. It’s not in another country but it’s not exactly near either. You’d have to travel by bus or rent a van for hours. So patiently waited for the opportunity to come.
Summer of 2015, we finally had the chance to experience Bucas Grande. One of our friend invited us and we came up with a group we call the “Beshies” and availed a tour package. It took time for us to invite other friends of ours because we had to meet the required number of people to avail the package. We were able to fill up all the slots, inviting other office-mates and friends. It didn’t matter much if we didn’t personally know the other people who were going to be coming with us. It was like, as long as we could fill up all the slots, we’re good. Alas! our excursions is a go.
We took off at 3AM on the first day so that we would reach our destination by lunch time. It was a very long and bumpy ride. The driver drove at a high speed which left me wondering if he realised he was carrying passengers and not just baggage. He literally just went over bumps on the road and just reduced speed if there was a possible collision. It wasn’t smooth sailing but at least we got there sooner that we expected.
Like the other trips I’ve had, it doesn’t always turn out the way you plan it to be. Our tour guide told us that the weather would be great even the news and weather apps said otherwise. It was raining when we got there and the sky was gloomy. Like all the happiness was sucked into the clouds. We had no other choice though but to continue. We were already there. There was no turning back.
We road a boat from Hanyanggabon port to get to the Bucas Grande islands. It was like an hour or more of mildly rough boat ride because the waves were big and the was strong. I’m not fan of being in the water, in this type of weather. We positioned ourselves at the back end of the boat so that it wouldn’t dive in case we hit a big wave. Oh and the motor was so loud that I was partially deaf after the ride.
After a long time of waiting, we got a glimpse of the island. Our excitement sparked as we saw the staging point of the actual tour. We grouped ourselves into two groups, got our gear and road on the boats. We chose the first boat because it was big and it was unlike any other boat that was there. Like all eight of us plus two guides and the boatman was included.
The guide said “music maestro” then the boatman started the engine and the tour started. We floated in the middle of many islands that resembled a big maze. We passed through submerged caves which served as access paths to get around the islands. We were simply amazed of the scenery that was around us.
The first stop was the underwater cave. We got there a bit late and the tide was already high so the entrance was really submerged. The guides helped us dive so we could get in safely. Mercy was one of the first ones who got in. I’m not really surprised by that. She usually does things first before I do. Almost all of us got in and we saw the luminous water lit up by the sunlight. There isn’t much to be found or seen inside the cave. The only thing you’ll see is the reflection from the water.
After that we took the time to swim. The water is clear by the way although it would have been much clearer if it wasn’t gloomy that day. So not too much photos were taken that part of the day. (Haha) Just a bunch of group pictures and selfies. Some of the photos here are actually from the tour guides. It’s part of their package that we get to have our pictures taken with a DSLR camera.
The next stop is the another cave. What’s so special about this cave? If you don’t want to jump then don’t even bother going in. The entrance is not that easy but good thing the guides brought some flashlights. There are large rocks beneath the water that can either stumble you or scathe you. Then it leads up to a pathway outside where you will have no other choice but to jump. The guides won’t let you come if you wouldn’t jump because the way up is very hard and slippery, what more on the way down. Plus there are no lights so better safe than sorry.
Before going in the cave you can already see the ledge where you’re going to jump. It doesn’t look scary at first glance when you’re looking from below but when you’re on top its another story. The others really took time before jumping since it looks way higher from above. After that we headed back to the jump off site and transferred to separate small boats. Then we were off to the jellyfish sanctuary.
The site is not too far from the staging point but you’d have to paddle your way to it. The boatmen where very accommodating. The boatman that was with me shared some information regarding the jellyfishes we were about to see. I learned that summer is usually when their numbers are many; there are two types of jellyfish there; they don’t sting; we can touch them but shouldn’t take them out of the water and we’re not allowed to swim with them anymore.
Upon reaching the sanctuary we had to get off the boats and carry the boats across a barrier of rocks. Normally if the tide is high the boats can just pass through. The sanctuary that they are pertaining to is a like a cove where all the jellyfish are found. Jellyfishes have a short lifespan. There were already few when we got there. However, we still got to see and encounter some. It was our first time, Mercy and I, to touch a jellyfish. Its soft and squishy. Hey, Jelly. One should be gentle when touching such kind of fish because they are very fragile.
That was pretty much the last part of the tour. We passed the barrier and then we rowed back to the staging point. We stopped by a coral wall and Mercy and Jad snorkelled for a while. It was so deep I couldn’t see the floor. Just a wall of corals. After that, we decided to race back to the staging point. Sad to say my boatman was not up for it and there was no point in racing already.
According to our itinerary we should be heading next to a beach resort where we will be spending our night. However, according to our guide, the resort was already fully booked. So instead of a resort, they told us that we will be spending our night on another spot. We travelled for more than two hours wondering where were gonna spend our night. Then we arrived at Socorro Island. We followed the guide then we noticed them kind of leaning to or heading towards a (drums roll) yeah, an inn. Way to crush your expectations.
I’m not demeaning all inns but the one we stayed in was way different. No proper entrance. It was more like of a boarding house. Well at least the rooms were clean and we were lucky enough to get the room with the comfort room inside. The air conditioner, not so much lucky.
So after we settled and got our things in place we went out for dinner. We expected that our dinner was already ready. Why? Because our tour guide said so. We went to the nearest diner but turns out they don’t have any food left. The next diner had food but not enough rice. It was like all the places we went to eat, the people that should be attending to customers, don’t give a damn. We had to barbecue our own food and eat banana balls because there was no rice available.
We really felt scammed and since we were feeling it, we thought of calling the resort to confirm if they were really fully booked. Turns out they were not. They don’t have a single customer and they would love to have us as guests. We were so pissed at our guides but we didn’t have any choice. So went back to the inn to drink and sleep it off.
The next day we woke up early, prepared ourselves, ate crappy breakfast, then went to the dock. It was a sunny day, finally. We were off back to the Bucas Grande islands to visit some islands while waiting for the tide. It was necessary because we wouldn’t be able to get to our destination. Our target was to go caving in Crystal Cave and Bolitas Cave.
We visited two islands prior to going to the caves. First was the ‘Marka A’ island. The guide said that the name was coined from its shape when viewed from above. There not much to see or do on the island except swim and take photos. The island can only be visited when the tide is low so we didn’t stay long and headed to the second island which name I couldn’t remember anymore.
We stayed a bit longer on the second island because we really had to wait for the tide to rise. So to kill the time, we took the chance to take photos. As many photos as we could under the heat of the sun.
By noon the water level was already high so we headed to the cave. We wore our proper gear (by proper gear, I mean a helmet and a flashlight. haha), took some photos and started our hike. At first I thought it would be a long hike, but no, the cave was just five minutes away from where we started our hike. I’m not really a fan of caves. I mean, for one, there are no lights, there’s bats, and there’s weird water all around. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go in one though. The inside of the cave was quite cool. There are many rock formations and crystal like fragments on the walls.
The next cave was very small. Bolitas got its name from the small stones found inside the cave. I originally thought its the reason why its named Bolitas. I mean, I barely made my way inside the cave. The pathway is very narrow that only six of us, including the cave guide, dared to go in. Before actually going in, I already knew it was going be very hard. I went in last so I could take my time going in and not half way through I already thought “what have I gotten myself into?” I thought I was going to be stuck. However, after some crawling and sliding, I made it in and we made it out.
That was the last part of the tour. We headed back to the port where the van was waiting. We had our lunch at a nearby eatery before actually going home. Another nine hours or so of travelling, a perfect time to sleep. This trip was by far the farthest me and Mercy have been to in the northern part of Mindanao. It didn’t quite turn out as how we imagined it but it was memorable. We stepped on to new places we didn’t originally think of as part of the adventure. A simple reminder that adventures are not always how you plan it to be. You just have to go out there.