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!|
|Satellite image of Sohoton National Park from Google Earth|
There are also around a dozen caves in the area, some of them largely unexplored. Two along the water’s edge called Hagukan and Magkukuob are popular with tourists. The first one, Hagukan, is named after the snoring sound (haguk in Cebuano) the water makes as it passes through its entrance when the tide is high. One has to swim into the entrance of the cave, covered in shellfish. Sunlight from the outside brightens up the cave through the turquoise water.
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|
After leaving the visitor’s center, we stopped by the mouth of the national park for some snorkeling. The coral formations were impressive, hosting colorful fish. We spotted a crown-of-thorns starfish snacking on table coral!
Entrance to Sohoton National Park
HOW TO GET THERE: One can go to Sohoton National Park from Siargao Island or from mainland Surigao del Norte. Day trips from General Luna or Cloud Nine in Siargao Island to Sohoton National Park costs at least PHP 4,500 (up to 10 pax, return). Some resorts (like Jadestar Lodge) may include a side trip to the islands of Dakô, Guyam and Naked. This is great if you’re pressed for time, but I believe these islands deserve a separate day tour.
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|
WHERE TO STAY: There are a few high-end resorts located within Sohoton Cove, like Hidden Island Resort and Club Tara Island Resort. But the budget-conscious can opt for cheaper stays at the town proper. The last trip back to Dapa from Socorro was 1PM, so we spent the night in town to catch the first trip next morning at 6AM. Island Vacations Country Inn, a newly built hostel few minutes walk from the pier, offers clean dorm-style AC rooms for only PHP 250/pax. Address: A. Taruc corner Burgos Sts Socorro, Surigao del Norte. Mobile: +639199897331. Free wifi zone (unavailable during our visit).
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.