|The bewitching waters of Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur|
From Bislig City, I ventured farther north to Hinatuan town. After settling down in a cheap lodging house, I immediately hired a habal-habal to take me to the biggest tourist draw to this part of Surigao del Sur. The Enchanted River is the exit way of a mysterious underwater cave system that overflows into a bay. True to its name, the mouth of the underwater cave is painted in the unworldly – oftentimes eerie – shifting hues of deep blues and greens that depend on the amount of sunlight and the changing tides. And the river water was so clear one could easily admire colorful reef fishes from above the surface!
|Riding a bangka (outrigger canoe) downriver…|
While I disliked how a significant part of the surroundings have been overdeveloped with concrete and metal railings, the river itself still manages to, well, enchant. After some minutes of hesitation, I spent the most part of the day swimming and cannonballing in this gem of a place – a bewitching sapphire abyss of cold spring water that ebbs into the Pacific.
|The water was so clear, you can photograph fishes from above the surface!|
At exactly noon, the lifeguards requested all the swimmers to get out of the swimming hole for the daily fish feeding. A hymn praising Hinatuan town is played on loudspeakers, and schools of coral fishes appear near the water’s surface as if on cue. After noon, the tide suddenly recedes, causing a current to flow out of the cave, strong enough to carry swimmers down the river. As a safety measure, roped buoys have been installed downriver for people to hang on. As the tide changes, the color of the water also transforms from a turbid green to crystal blue.
More off-the-beaten track adventures lie beyond the river. The Enchanted River is also a jump-off point to some island-hopping around the offshore sights of Portlamon village, which I will talk more about on my next post.
|Don’t miss the seafood stalls at Enchanted River!|
HOW TO GET THERE: I rode a bus (PHP 47, 30 minutes) to Hinatuan from Bislig City, but most people access the town from Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. The access road to the Enchanted River is along the highway before the town proper, which is located off the main highway along the coast. The cheapest sleeps, however, are in town.
From Hinatuan town, you can hire a habal-habal driver to take you to Enchanted River (entrance fee: PHP 30) in Brgy. Talisay for PHP 150 per way (good for 1-3 persons). Habal-habal drivers hang out near the bus terminal. Swimming goggles (to see the fishes) can be rented cheaply for PHP 20 for the entire day.
WHERE TO STAY: Maryland Lodging House along España St. in Hinatuan town proper has spartan rooms starting at PHP 200 for a single fan room. Mobile Phone: +639078689808. Email & Facebook: email@example.com
WHERE TO EAT: Don’t miss out on the seafood stalls outside the Enchanted River, serving some of the tastiest seafood I’ve ever tried! And at affordable price at that. If available, order some crab, which Hinatuan is known for. I enjoyed mine in chili sauce. So good.