Surviving Caramoan

Trip Start Jul 06, 2010
Trip End Jun 28, 2011

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Villa Juliana

Flag of Philippines  , Bicol,
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lonely Planet describes Caramoan as the Philippines best kept secret.  Well, we wish they would have kept it a secret and not told us about it.  We've been, we saw and we conquered and we have NO idea what all the fuss is about.   Apparently in 2008 the French shot their own version of the TV show "Survivor" here.  It was so successful that Israel, Bulgaria, Turkey and Serbia followed their lead and starting next month the Swedes will also start shooting their own Survivor show in Caramoan.  The American version is rumored to also be coming to Caramoan, but the locals say it probably won't happen because the Americans want a bigger resort facility for their crew, a private hospital, etc.  Really?  Are we surprised? Although, a competitor DID die of cardiac arrest during the Bulgarian version.

Anyhoo, everyone we met in Caramoan went on and on about how this place is suppose to be the "next Borocay".  What?  If this is the next Borocay, I'm not sure we want to go to Borocay.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Let's tell you about our adventure. 

First off, Caramoan is a secluded peninsula with terrible road access which is probably why it's a good location for the Survivor TV shows.  To get here is quite the adventure.  First you need to take a minivan crammed full of people (11 seats for 12 adults, 2 children and all their luggage) from Naga to Sabang for about 1.5 hrs.  Then you ride the shoulders of a porter who wades in the ocean up to his chest to get you onto a boat that takes you from Sabang to Guijalo.  At first we thought they were joking about riding their shoulders, but all the locals were doing when in Caramoan..... 

Next you ride the boat for 2 hrs and try your best to avoid all the vomit spray from the sea sick passengers sitting in front of you.  Once you reach Guijalo, you are then transported from the big boat into small canoe like boats which take you to shore.  Once at shore you take a tricycle to the town of Caramoan.

Once in Caramoan you have the privilege of staying in several mold infested hotels for an outrageous sum of money.  It didn't seem to matter how much money you forked over, all the room walls were covered in mold and furnished with foam mattress.  So we choose the cheapest option of the lot ($18) and hunkered down.  OH, and did we mention we were the ONLY tourists in town.  But it didn't seem to matter.  Those hotels would rather sit empty then lower the price of their rooms by even one peso.  Maybe it's the price of Caramoan that makes it the next Borocay?  Not sure....

Anyway, you can't really blame them too much for the mold situation.  It was so humid here that Wendy's glasses were constantly fogging up and our swim suits refused to dry out.  No wonder the mold is everywhere.

Now Caramoan is suppose to have fabulous beaches.  So after choosing our hotel, we hired a tricycle to take us to the beach ASAP before it started to rain (we had a small window of opportunity).  The tricycle driver told us the road was bad, but we figured, how bad could it possibly be?  Well, it was pretty darn bad.  Potholes and mud everywhere.  In some spots it was almost impassable.  We arrived bruised and battered after the grueling ride to a beach that was just a place to hire a fishing boat to take you island hopping where we were told the beaches were much nicer.  Why didn't they tell us this before we left?  The beach was nasty but we went for a walk anyway, and we chased away by a pack of dogs.  It was too late in the day to hire a boat, so we had a beer instead and prepared for the grueling ride back to town.

After a sleepless night (we had to sleep with the light on to keep the giant cockroaches at bay), we awoke to a tiny bit of blue sky and made the best of it by getting our guesthouse owner to arrange for a boat to take us out island "hopping".  For the bargain price of 1,500 peso's ($35) our boat driver was suppose to take us to 4 beautiful beach islands and one snorkeling spot.  Well that was one big fat LIE!  That boat driver took us to one nice beach, one fishing village on a beach then brought us back to the port giving us some lame excuse that it was too "dangerous" to go anywhere else.  What a total rip off!  Such a scam!

In an effort to "save the day".  We then paid a tricycle driver to take us to Gota beach (where they filmed the Survivor shows) which was allegedly a beautiful beach and should have been included in our island hopping boat ride.  It was OK, but hardly worth the 600 peso ($14) entrance fee!!!!  Sure, some of the old Survivor sets were still there, but that hardly justifies the entrance fee.  All in all, a shit day.  Nothing like being screwed out of some serious money to make you sour.

We then returned home to find our guesthouse owner had decided to move our stuff around so he could paint the furniture.  What?  We were staying in that room!   In fact we are the only people staying in the ENTIRE hotel!!!!  Now we had to breathe in paint fumes AND mold! And just to add insult to injury the bastard left the door open to paint and the room was now infested with mosquitoes.  We could have changed rooms, but we really liked the toilet "seat" feature that our current room had.

It was another sleepless night of roaches and mosquitoes.  We awoke to high winds and torrential downpour but our tricycle driver said there was no typhoon warnings so "no problem" the boat would run.  And so we embarked on another adventure of tricycles, boats, human porters and minivans to make our way back to Naga.  The only difference in this adventure was that the torrential downpour meant the boat was covered in tarps to keep us dry, but also ensuring that several brain cells died from all the carbon monoxide trapped in the boat from the engine room.  In all honesty, we are surprised we didn't suffocate and die.

All in all we are left with the nagging question of WHO is Caramoan being targeted to?  It is too expensive for backpackers.  And the accommodation is too basic for people with money.  I guess the island is looking for rich tourists that don't mind staying in terrible accommodation far from a beach.  If we find these tourists, we will be sure to tell them all about this place.
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Vee Pee on

So I am not clear. Would you return to this paradise?

James on

I came from the US and went here a year ago. I had a very nice experience about this place. People are nice, the islands were all breath taking. No wonder, survivor chose this place.

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