Boats enter the cove through a low-hanging cave. Sohoton is Visayan for "to go under"
|To exit Magkukuob Cave, one has to jump off a cliff!|
South of the surfing Mecca of Siargao, at the Bucas Grande Islands, is a national park that's slowly making a name in the tourist circuit for its unique seascapes. Not to be confused with the natural bridge and cave system in Samar of the same name, Sohoton National Park of Surigao del Norte consists of several emerald lagoons surrounded by broccoli-like karst islands. They're similar to the ones in Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan but more densely covered in foliage.
As our knowledgeable tour guide pointed out, some of them are covered in magcono (ironwood), which yields one of the hardest timber, and, surprisingly, also red and yellow pitcher plants, dangling over the water! I've always thought these carnivorous flora were only found inland in higher elevations.
The only way to enter the main cove by boat is through a low-ceilinged cave, a process which gave the park it's name, sohoton, which is Cebuano for "to go under". The cove harbors some islets and is bordered by dense foliage and rock formations, such the Dagongdong Rock Formation, a tall, white cliff face believed to be the home of engkantos (forest spirits); and a strange rock shaped like a horse's leg.
|Satellite image of Sohoton National Park from Google Earth|
Magkukuob, on the other hand, has more impressive stalactites and stalagmites, which one has to climb up through to get to the cave's exit, located some 20 feet above the water, explaining why it's nicknamed the "Diving Cave". As the most exciting part of the tour, one has to jump off a wooden platform and plunge into the lagoon to return to the boat!
|Horseshoe Rock Formation|
Entrance to Sohoton National Park
A cheaper option, especially if you are a small group, is to go via Socorro town in Bucas Grande Island. From Siargao Island, take a ferry at Dapa pier to Socorro (PHP 100, 1.5 hours). First trip leaves at 8:00 AM daily. At Socorro, hire a bangka (outrigger boat) to Sohoton National Park. Depending on the capacity, boat rates are between PHP 1,300 to 2,000. We hired a boat for P1,700 (up to 8pax, return) from Charrie Quiriban +639198223128.
Upon arrival at the visitor's center at the park entrance, one has to pay several fees to tour the sights, including hiring another smaller boat to explore the cove:
• Entrance fee: PHP 25/pax
• Environmental fee: PHP 25/pax
• Life vest and helmet: PHP 40/pax
• Docking fee: PHP 100-200, depending on the size of your boat
• Table charge (optional, if you're eating at the visitor's center): PHP 50
• Pumpboat: PHP 500, up to 8 pax
• Tour guide: PHP 330/boat
Our small group of three people spent a total of P1,130 (P377/pax) to tour the park for an hour or so. For inquiries, contact Nesan Canta +639214285854 or Vincent Tamayo +639308028704.
|Sohoton National Park offers impressive snorkeling near the mouth of the cove|
BEST TIME TO SEE THE STINGLESS JELLYFISH? Unfortunately, one of the highlights of Sohoton Cove, the stingless jellyfish likened to the ones in Palau, were not around during our visit. Apparently, they are seasonal and move from one part of the cove to another; the staff said they were around from March to October.