I’ve been traveling the world since high school, and living abroad in Central America and Asia for the last eight years. With that comes a lot of tourist attractions, day trips, and little adventures in nature. But I have never experienced something cooler than I did today at the Sohoton Caves here in Siarago Island in the Philippines.
Guide to Exploring the Sohoton Caves
I’ve actually been to Siargao before last year, and I did what most tourists check off their list: surfing (or trying to surf in my case), island hopping to three of small islands off of Siargao, and visting the Magpupungko tide pools. But this week, returning to Siarago with a couple U.S. friends to show them around, I arranged a trip to a lesser known excursion, although it was even more incredible – the Sohoton Caves.
There’s a good reason they’re not overrun with the typical Siargao tourists, as we saw only a couple of boats of travelers and visitors all day, and only one other foreign couple: it takes a while to get there.
In fact, our little typical Filipino boat took about two hours to get there, although it felt like much longer because of the ear-splitting racked of the engines (seriously, bring ear plugs – and a sweatshirt and rain jacket). But once we got there, it was damn incredible.
The Sohoton Caves are actually located on Bucas Grande island off the southern tip of Siargao, in the Natural Bridge Natural Park (quite a ridiculous – and very Filipino – name). I was told you could stay overnight there and see a ton of amazing nature exploring the park, but we just scratched the surface since we were there for a few hours.
But still, the thick, lush green jungle on either side of the waterway that led from the ocean inland, weaving around waterways, natural canals, and decreasingly-saltwater lagoons, was unspoiled and marvelous. We first stopped at a floating structure with wooden piers where we signed in and paid our various park, environmental, guide fees, etc. It wasn’t cheap, but well worth it.
They put us in separate smaller paddle boats and brought us out to a lagoon that was packed with stingless jellyfish. We couldn’t swim with them (to protect the fragile sea creatures), but it we could hold them in our hands underwater. And we did get to jump in the water and swim on the way back.
We switched boats to a bigger paddle boat that we could all fit in (three tourists), and headed through more jaw-dropping beautiful canals to the caves. There’s about a 40-meter section where you go under stalactites that’s intense, and you can see bats congregating on the ceiling. Emerging from that vista worthy of Natural Geographic, we then ended up at one of the best caves. However, the entrance is usually totally submerged unless it’s the lowest tide.
So, what we did to get in them was insane – one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. With the help of a guide in the water with us, we actually had to just go underwater and swim the length of the underground access tunnel, and only come out – and up for air – once we were inside the cave. I didn’t have flippers, a mask, (I recommend bringing those unless you’re really brave) or a flashlight or anything. So, it’s just swimming underwater into complete pitch blackness totally directionless and not knowing when you’re far enough in the come up for a breath! Insanely scary!
But it was also equally exhilarating when we all got inside the cave, and the guide showed us around with a flashlight as we floated. There is even phosphorescent algae that lights up like neon when you disturb the water.
Once back outside (the subterranean swim is much easier on the way out because you’re not panicking), our boatman took us to a spot where you can jump off a 12-foot rock ledge into the water. However, we declined since there was a line of people waiting and we originally thought it was 12 meters, not feet!
The ride home was exhausting, but we broke it up by stopping at Naked Island and Guyam Island on the way back, not far from General Luna in Siargao. I’m still amazed and pretty damn impressed by what I saw at Sohoton, and I’ll definitely stay overnight and explore there more next time!