A Hundred Islets off Surigao
Claver is the last town in Surigao del Norte that visitors pass by before reaching Surigao del Sur. I like its scenery when I first visited three years ago. Behind the poblacion (town proper) is the Iron Mountain, which is along the border of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. Facing the town is a cluster of islands of different sizes.
During sunny weather, the mountain's brick-red soil glistens while the isles seem to beckon. Both are eye-catching sights, and I was lucky to see them again. They can be viewed from the town wharf, which I did while waiting for the boat that would take me to Bucas Grande Island. It was a humid afternoon when the boat arrived.
I felt confused when I first saw Bucas Grande. Located behind Siargao Island, it was hard to tell if Bucas is an island with numerous islets or simply a cluster of islets. I got more perplexed when the boat was meters aways from the isle.
Bucas is inaccessible by road. I saw floras endemic in Caraga; I spotted a few magcono woods and pitcher plants not far from the guest house. I didn't see any mammals, but the occasional sounds of primates suggest that wildlife abounds.
The water is about twenty feet deep within the isle's territory. While resting in the guest house. I stared at the verdant mounds. They could be islets close together. They could be rolling hills that define the isle. They could be both. Miro Ajoc, the island's barangay captain, couldn't tell either. What he's certain of, though, is Bucas has more than a hundred islets. He then pointed out that it was low tide; he suggested that we go to Suhoton Cove, Bucas' most popular destination.
A few hundred meters from the guest house is a partly-exposed passageway. It's the path to Suhoton Cove. Stalactites were a few meters above our heads while the boat passed through; a huge one shaped like a horseshoe greeted us as we entered the cove. Suhoton is a big lake surrounded by numerous islets, many of which resemble Bohol's Chocolate Hills. As I observed the tranquil surroundings, Miro told me that there are a number of caves within the area. We went to Crystal Cave, which is partially submerged. The faint sunlight was enough for me to see and gape at the cave's ceiling. Milky white. Smooth. No stalactites. We stood on a boulder in the middle of the small cave in order to see the bottom of the cave. The water is about ten feet deep, and there no traces of shells and rocks. The white sands seem to glow. It's an otherworldly place - too bad my digital camera isn't waterproof.
Dusk set in as we left Suhoton. As the boat traveled back to the guest house, I witnessed what Bucas Grande looked like in the early evening. A canopy of stars lit up the isle and the sea. The noises made by insects were in unison. It was one of a kind.
Like a dream
A half-day tour isn't long enough to see the entire island, but it's more than enough to see other areas not far from the guest house.
Miro first took me to a lagoon teeming with non-stinging jellyfish. He claimed that only Palau and Bucas Grande have jellyfish of this kind. Then we went to Bucas' own version of Hundred Islands; some have pocket white beaches, which we checked out. Tiktikan, one of the isle's numerous lakes, was our next destination. We rested and enjoyed the view from the open hut that was perched on a slope above the lake.
I left for the mainland after lunch. As Bucas became obscure, I realized that the entire trip was like a dream. I wondered if there was another isle like it.
(First published in Zest Air Inflight Magazine on November 2009)