|Foggy view of Ilihan Crater at Mt. Hibok-Hibok, an active volcano on Camiguin Island|
From its coralline isles and boulder beaches, the island rises abruptly to sleeping mountains of fire blanketed in foggy foliage, the last refuge of endemic animals such as the Camiguin forest mouse (Apomys camiguinensis) and Camiguin hanging parrot (Loriculus camiguinensis). With a total land area of roughly 240 square kilometers, Camiguin is the smallest province in the Philippines after Batanes. Despite its small size, the island has four stratovolcanoes, each composed of several volcanic domes and cones. This striking topography draws comparisons with Hawaii, consequently attracting not only beach-lovers and scuba divers, but mountaineers and hikers as well.
|Gorgeous view of White Island during the ascent to Ilihan Crater on Hibok-Hibok Volcano|
|Hiking through a dense jungle of pandanus palms and rattan towards Ilihan Crater|
|Pitcher plants at Mt. Hibok-Hibok|
After exploring the coast, we set our sights on Mt. Hibok-Hibok, an active volcano that rises 1,332 meters above sea level. A self-confessed couch potato, my friend Sharon Salazar dared herself to join our full-day scramble across the volcano – her very first major climb. “I wanted to prove that I can do anything that I want, as long as I set my mind to it,” says the Puerto Princesa-based physician.
Meandering past pandanus palms, ground orchids, and thorny rattan vines strewn with air plants and moss, it was a steady ascent from Barangay Yumbing to Ilihan Crater, the site of the last eruptions in the 1950s. Decades of rain and fog have now transformed the crater into a verdurous bowl of elephant grass and edible pakô ferns. Traversing through the grassy terrain flanked by a shallow lake, we climbed back up to a rocky viewpoint along the crater rim lined with pitcher plants and Medinilla pendula, a pink-flowered shrub found only in the Philippines.
“My favorite part was using both our hands and feet to climb up the rocky parts,” says Sharon, “I was like a kid in the playground.” Seated on a stone pinnacle, we admired the landscape below after the most challenging leg of the trail. As the clouds sailed away, the crater lake reappeared staring right back at us like the hazel iris of a giant eye.
HOW TO GET THERE: There are direct flights to Camiguin from Cebu. Hikes around Mt. Hibok-Hibok and the rest of Camiguin can be arranged through hiking guides like Ronald Rabile, Mobile: +63 9106593349.
WHERE TO STAY: An artsy, eco-friendly haven in Mambajao town, Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge is a bohemian tree-hugger’s oasis – one of my favorite guesthouses in the Philippines! Accommodation starts at only PHP 300 for a backpacker dorm bed. Landline: +63 88 3870273 Mobile: +63 9199999877, or +63 9173264474. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org