Sohoton

In my last post, I wrote about our short weekend trip to Siargao and how we did nearly nothing there. This is the “nearly” part.

 

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Sohoton Cove

is 2-3 hours away by outrigger boat from the Cloud 9 surfing enclave of Siargao. At first we weren’t sure if our trip there would push through — among our family, only my sister and I were interested in going, and the price the resort quoted for the boat (PHP 5,000 or USD 105) was a bit too steep to be shared between just us two. However, resort staff helped us find one other person to share the boat with, and we ended up paying just PHP 1,500 each, so…yay!

Tips from a local and a fellow traveler:

LOCAL: According to Gemma, my college friend who lives in Surigao, the going rates for boats to Sohoton from Siargao are: PHP 5,000 – PHP 6,000 for boats that can accommodate 10-15 persons / PHP 4,000 for boats good for 5-10 pax / PHP 3,000 – 3,500 for boats good for 1-4 people. (Keep in mind it would probably take longer for smaller boats to reach Sohoton.)

FELLOW TRAVELER: Denise Lim — you may remember her from when she was featured here in SGMT — also says boats good for 10 people are usually priced at around PHP 5,000. She suggests another option: a speedboat that departs from Romantic Beach can also accommodate 10 people. It’s a bit pricier at PHP 6,000 but it only takes around 1 hour to reach Sohoton. (As someone who has been on the 3-hour per way boat ride on a non-speedboat, I would say the extra PHP 1,000 is worth it.)

Cloud 9 Siargao to Bucas Grande

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Why go to Sohoton?

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It’s different. It’s not the usual white-sand-palm-trees tropical island experience (though you can drop by any number of white sand beaches on your way). Take a look at this Google Earth view of Sohoton Cove:
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Map_Sohoton_Google Earth view

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It’s a veritable maze of islets — domes of dense tree-filled rocks seemingly dropped out of nowhere into blue-green waters so clear, they sometimes look shallow because you can see right to the bottom. Nestled in this network of green: subterranean waterways, caves full of crystals and the world’s smallest bats, and a lagoon home to numbers of stingless jellyfish. Otherworldly is how previous visitors describe the wall-to-wall green and the quiet that permeates the place. The Spaniard sharing our boat wouldn’t stop sputtering about how it was one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen. My sister said it’s possible the El Nido karst formations will underwhelm me now that I’ve seen Sohoton. Afraid of setting expectations that might prove too steep later on, I will just say: Sohoton is definitely worth a visit.

Tip: If you want to skip the 3-hour boat ride from Siargao, you can stay nearer to Sohoton Cove, such as at Club Tara Island Resort (though it’s worth weighing its proximity vs. the better quality of stay you might get elsewhere). You can search for other hotels in Surigao del Norte HERE.

Besides, it’s fun! Take a look at these Sohoton tour highlights to see what we did there:
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The tour

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First of all, I have to give props to the local government unit in charge of the Sohoton area. They had a smooth system in place, with a neatly organized staging post and helpful, alert staff. The guides and boatmen took good care of us — making sure we knew exactly what to do, promptly fitting us with life jackets and hard hats whenever necessary, even offering to take photos without being prompted (so that won’t be a problem for solo travelers, even shy ones).

The actual Sohoton tour is P500 per person — that’s outside of what you pay for the boat to take you from Siargao or Socorro to Sohoton itself — and it includes a bunch of adventures.

  • Two boat rides — one in a motorized outrigger boat and another one in a smaller paddle boat
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  • A partially submerged cave where, during or near high tide, you have to dive underwater a bit to get to the entrance. The sunlight seeping into the cave through the tiny opening makes the water inside the cave [pseudo]luminescent. Slap the water and the ripples will glow in the dark.
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  • Another cave with crystals and bats that the guide told us were the smallest in the world. Even adult size, they were cute and not at all scary. To get out of the cave, you have to climb up the rocks (and a few stalagmites, sorry) to get to a small opening, then dive from a wooden platform to the water. The diving platform isn’t very high but jumping off it was still fun! (See us diving in the video.)
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  • The jellyfish lagoon. Peak season for the jellyfish is April and May, but we still managed to see a good number of them. Swimming with them is harmless to people — they don’t sting — but the jellyfish themselves are sensitive to sunblock so the practice is now forbidden. (Even if the boatmen say it’s okay to dive into the water at the jellyfish lagoon, please don’t do it.)

Photos don’t really do Sohoton justice — or mine don’t anyway — because the 360° surroundings is such a huge component of the experience but nonetheless, here are a few images to hopefully whet your appetite.

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Approaching the entrance to the cove
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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Cove_01

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The mostly dome-shaped islets that form the Sohoton network:
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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Cove_02

SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Cove_04

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Our attentive guides
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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Guides_01

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Our boatman said that, with the number of people who have visited Sohoton, their faces have probably been transmitted to the whole world by now. Have to say, with a creatively assembled hat like that, it’s hard to resist taking a snap of him.
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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Guides_02

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Look how clear the water is…
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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Jellyfish Lagoon_02

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At the jellyfish lagoon
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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Jellyfish Lagoon_01

SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Jellyfish Lagoon_Brown

SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Jellyfish Lagoon_Bluish

SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Jellyfish Lagoon_Clear

SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Jellyfish Lagoon_Shadow

 

If you are ever in the Siargao / Surigao area, take the time to visit Sohoton Cove, you won’t regret it.

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SGMT_Philippines_Siargao_Sohoton_Cove_03

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Note: Sohoton Cove in Bucas Grande, Surigao del Norte is a marine protected area sometimes referred to as Sohoton National Park. It’s not to be confused with the Sohoton National Park / Sohoton Caves & Natural Bridge National Park in Brgy. Guirang, Basey, Samar. I couldn’t find government documentation as to which place is officially called Sohoton National Park — or even whether they are actual national parks or just, you know, called that because they deserve it and because it sounds nice — so that’s why I simply refer to the one in Bucas Grande, which we visited, as Sohoton Cove. It is also sometimes known as Sohoton Lagoon or Sohoton Caves. I asked my oceanographer sister which term is more appropriate and she figured Sohoton Cove, which is also how it’s marked in Google Maps. Anyway. Whatever it’s called — go!

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Sohoton
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9 thoughts on “Sohoton”

    • Thank you! You know I really hope you find yourself in the Philippines one of these days/years. They’re trying to establish a “highland trail” here in Cebu, maybe when that’s finished you can come over and try it. The environment will be a lot different from your nature walks there but I think you’ll be able to appreciate it.

      • OoooOoo a highland trail! That is so enticing! I’m sure someday, I hope, I’ll find myself there. I don’t know how anybody could read your blog and see the photographs alone and not be drawn into visiting. And this particular visit you had looks dreamy & tranquil. The jellyfish are really something. The only jellyfish I’ve ever seen in the ocean are the fat clear blobs that sting:/ Which are super neat to see of course but also a source of terror for me as a child swimming in the Atlantic=) I think I thought jellyfish were some gigantic threat (like quicksand!). Beautiful nature showcased in this post. (This is Susan (at the library) but that’s probably obvious now.)

      • I followed your new blog. It’s a bit sad you had to leave your old one because of some creepy person but new beginnings are nice too…

      • Thanks! I’m happy to see the “smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains followed you”!
        Ugh–when I started my other blog I was friends with a person I decided to ghost about 2 months later and they STILL read my blog, almost two years later, and then make juvenile comments about it. That’s one reason. I just don’t like it.

    • It is something isn’t it? It was the only thing I “did” when we were there — we were otherwise just being lazy — but it was fun.

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