Drizzling Sunday morning threatened my only chance to witness the cobalt blue water of Enchanted River that I imagined for years. I ensured my guide though that we will be pushing through with the trip no matter what. We waited for the downpour to normalize for us to drift the almost 25-minute travel time from Hinatuan proper.
Rain didn’t spare me so I decided to leave Marky’s Hostel to start my day exploring Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur. I’m glad that habal-habal in the province have some sort of a roof/cover for the driver and passengers because it’s an added convenience on rainy weathers like what I’ve experienced. Enchanted River is located 12 kilometers away from the main highway and most parts of the road were paved.
I was the third one to write in their logbook and on a Valentine’s Day, I really planned to arrive in the area before horde of tourists crowd the vicinity and picnic areas of the destination. Since it was still raining, I was hesitant to go out of the shed because I have no dry bag for my camera. Thanks to my driver/guide, I left my sling bag and SLR, and braved the rain equipped with the GoPro.
First peek at the lagoon of the most famous river in the country and I was enthralled by its innate splendor. Without the crowd, you can feel oneness with nature just by staring at the glaring water of the river. Rain continued to pour and murky water from the mountain started to dominate the unique color of the river. As the color of the water slowly turned to aquamarine, tourists also piled up and mobbed the natural pool. It was time to try the island hopping activity.
A friend who visited Hinatuan few months prior to my trip mentioned that you can also do island hopping from the river. I was surprised because how can you get out from the river to the sea? The information was confirmed by a fellow traveler staying in Marky’s Hostel and that the water in the river is actually brackish. And by this, the passage, where fresh and salt water meet, serves as a way in visiting these attractions.
While waiting for the feeding time, at noon time, you can hire a boat at Php150 per hour that can hold up to 4 persons to visit these destinations. These attractions are mostly resorts and fish cages: C-Fish Cage and Sandbars Resort, Margaret Peak Resort, Sibadan Fish Cage and Resort, Pacific View Resort, Tinago River, and Sand and Pebble Beaded Vanishing Island.
Going out of the river to the sea made me recall my experience in Surigao Del Norte when I visited Day-Asan Floating Village where our boat channeled the gaps between mangroves. Stilt houses and locals doing their early fishing were the sights that welcomed me upon exiting the channel. The boat then sauntered into the direction of Sibadan Fish Cage.
Sibadan Fish Cage is famous for a sting-ray, named Brenda, which is unfortunately in captive. The ray is being held in a net, situated in the middle of the stilt resort, together with other fishes. They allow visitors to feed Brenda and even swim with the massive fishes in the net. Swimming with the stingray is at your own risk, of course. Entrance fee is Php10.
Aside from that as an attraction, Sibadan also offers fresh seafood to their guests at affordable prices, haven’t tried though. They have rooms for double, and groups of 4 to 8 people who plan to have an overnight in the place. Huge waves and strong winds held me for about 20 minutes before my boat finally docked again on their platform.
Pacific View Resort, located in Pangasinan Island, was the next destination on that day. I was hesitant to continue due to what happened in Sibadan but my boatmen assured that waves are only harsh in Sibadan. Thanks to their convincing powers, I got the chance to marvel the powdery sand of the island facing the Pacific. A long wooden bridge will greet you and get you to the island. An entrance fee of Php10 is being collected.
The other side of Pangasinan Island is perfect for swimming. The shallow water, up to few meters from the shoreline, is still at knee to waist-deep during low tide. If I was blessed with a better weather, I could’ve spent more time on the island. When I sensed that all tourists already went back to their boats, I immediately followed the way back and settled on the small boat to Enchanted River. I paid Php275 for the 1-hour and 30- minute tour. The rate is pro-rated so if you only spent less than an hour, you’ll not pay for the whole Php150 island hopping rate.
Water of the Enchanted River goes back to its cobalt blue and clear water during high tide. Every 12 noon, a tourism staff asks everyone swimming in the river to get out of the water. Tourists stay at the sides to give way for the fish feeding schedule. At exactly noon, the river turns into a theater stage with all tourists seated in an auditorium watching the fishes of different kinds and colors swirl and jostle to get their food. You will be amazed by the tons of fishes swimming and be curious where did they come from.
Hinatuan Travel Tips
- If you want to avoid the crowd and take a photo of Hinatuan River without photo bombers, I suggest you leave Hinatuan Proper around 6:30AM.
- If you don’t know how to swim, life-vests are being rented by the tourism at Php15 per hour.
- You can get Hinatuan River and Tinuy-an Falls habal-habal tour at Php1500, either from Bislig or Hinatuan. For Hinatuan River alone, you can get a Php300 rate for the roundtrip fare from Hinatuan Proper and back.
- Entrance fee is Php30 and you can bring your food with you without corkage. Cottages (not free), grilling stations, and shower/comfort rooms are available.