Saturday, August 3, 2013

Timubo Cave, Camotes Islands, the Philippines: want to go swimming in a cavern?

Where in the world can you have the unique experience of swimming in the crystal clear waters of a cavern?  I don't know of any other places, but if you live in or travel to the Philippines, Timubo Cave on Camotes Islands  is the place to go for this one-of-a-kind and refreshing adventure.   The Camotes Islands are located in the Camotes Sea, east of the island of Cebu and southwest of Leyte Island, very "laid back", picturesque, and peaceful, non-touristy, and very accessible to residents of or tourists in Cebu City.  We drove northeast from Cebu City about an hour to the ferry in the town of Danao (passing along the way Papa Kit's Marina and Fishing Lagoon),  then took the ferry, which can carry cars, to the dock on the western-most of the Camotes Islands (San Francisco Island).  I'll write more about our trip to Camotes in later posts, but for now I'll focus on Timubo Cave.

Timubo Cave is located in/near Sonog town on San Francisco Island, Camotes.  I wouldn't know how to tell you how to get there on the island, because my sister-in-law's friend's son graciously drove us there, but I am certain that the place is quite well-known as a local tourist attraction or landmark, enough so that almost any resident of the island could tell you how to get there.   When we arrived, we paid the entrance fee, which I believe was 15 pesos per person (about 35 cents US at the time)  -- a real bargain for being able to stay there and enjoy swimming in the cave as long as you want during their hours of operation.  I've always loved swimming and being in the water, and our daughter inherited those genes, so we knew that we would be here for quite some time and would certainly "get our 15 peso's worth"!

We then proceeded to the mouth of the cave, accessed by steps going down and some interesting signage telling about how the waters of the cave have long been used as a source of drinking water for the locals of Sonog.

Our daughter at the entrance to Timubo Cave
Once we entered the mouth of the cave, we continued maybe another 50 yards into the cavern following the stairs and downward-sloping path that leads to the pool of water at the bottom.  Although the cave is dark, the path was lit well enough with lights that you do not need to carry a flashlight.  The path was relatively safe but slippers, so you have to be careful especially if wearing "flip-flop" sandals (which are commonly referred to as "slippers" in the Philippines).  My wife slipped and fell on the path (between-the-toes part of her slippers popped out), but fortunately she was fine with no injuries, and landed on her behind.   So if you do visit here,  be sure to hold the handrail.  And check out the stalagmites and stalactites.
Descending into the jaws of the cave - stalagmites and stalactites

Hold on to that hand rail... a word to the wise!

There's a kind of an "eye of the needle" type of passage right before you get to the bottom level, where you cross a little underground stream...

Constricting point along the path - the cave mud on my white shirt is from when my wife fell

Then finally we got to the bottom, where the pool where you can swim was waiting for us.  There's a little landing with rocks that serves as a "beach" where you can put your towels and shoes etc., and on the right side there is a small grotto with a shrine for the Virgin Mary and several "no smoking" signs. 

Grotto shrine with Virgin Mary statue, Timubo Cave

Take a guess who was the first one into the water...

Chillin' in the cool waters of Timubo Cave
Since this is in the Philippines in the tropics, the air temperature in this cavern was not nearly as cold as the ones in the U.S. or Europe etc., which are about a constant 56 degrees F (13 degrees C) -- this one was probably around 78 degrees F (26 degrees F).  The water temperature was refreshing, but not cold - just a little cooler than the cave's ambient air temperature.  And it was crystal clear, with no signs of algae or any visible fish, crabs or other creatures in it... didn't see any bats either, although there are some very dark areas of the cave that I couldn't access well.  

My wife and daughter fleeing the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" rising up behind them
Enjoying the water

Mermaid in Timubo Cave

This photo doesn't do justice to the clarity of the water

Without camera flash shows better the darkness (even with lighting) of the cave

Looking back toward "the beach" - my sister-in-law's friend's son with a rider on back
Piggyback rider

Mommy near the grotto

While this is fresh water and not salt water connected to the sea, there must be some kind of an air interlock to the sea that exerts a piston effect with the moon's pulling of the tides on the ocean, because there is a high tide and a low tide, as indicated by the sign.  You can go pretty far back into the cave, but the part that is lighted is not extensive (see the first pic below, which shows the dark and narrow passages).  The water is generally quite shallow (5 feet at deepest in low tide, and 6 feet at high tide), so it's quite suitable with appropriate adult supervision for children who are unafraid of the water and confident/decent swimmers... very close supervision of course for small children.  For about half of the time we were down there (we stayed quite a long time), we had the whole cave to ourselves, which was kind of cool.
This is looking down the darkest part of the cave, where it really starts to get narrow

Looking back to the "beach" on the shore

Family pic in Timubo Cave

Beautiful clear water

My sister-in-law and my wife "sunbathing" at the beach, Timubo Cave

This is another chamber of the cavern farther from the shore

Finally, when we were ready to leave, our daughter wanted to say hello to the goat which was tied near the parking lot.  I told her that he would probably try to butt his head into her legs or belly, which he did, although gently.  So before we left, she spent a little bit of time making friends with this cute little guy.

A little head-butting action from the friendly goat at Timubo Cave

We had a great time at Timubo Cave; it's a family-friendly attraction and a unique natural asset where you can partake in a refreshing swim in an unusual environment... all for P15 per head!  I would highly recommend it for any tourists and visitors to Camotes Island.  I hope to post more on Camotes soon, thanks for reading and please stay posted!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Part 1: Zip line and rock climbing at Papa Kit's Marina and Fishing Lagoon, Liloan, Cebu

If you're in Cebu City and looking for something really fun to do in the area, I'd highly recommend a short trip to Papa Kit's.  A few weeks ago my wife and daughter and I, along with my sister-in-law and her friend, left Cebu and drove to Papa Kit's Marina and Fishing Lagoon in Liloan, Cebu, which is on Silot Bay probably about an hour or less northeast Cebu City depending on the traffic.  Papa Kit's is located just off the coast, is in an area that is starting to transition already toward a rural province area, and is on a large piece of land surrounding a salt water lagoon.   Their facilities and attractions feature an 800 meter long zip line (not sure if that is counting one way or round trip), fishing facilities (and a nice restaurant where you can have them cook or grill what you catch), and an (artificial) rock climbing wall.  The lagoon as well as the zip line towers, fish ponds, etc. can be seen quite easily on Google Maps if you zoom in on Liloan and find Papa Kit's in the satellite view mode. It appears that they also have several units of condominium-style lodging, but I didn't investigate that further.   We had a great time, and I found it to be a nice and peaceful place.  We went on a weekday, so the place was pretty quiet and not too many people were there, although I've heard it can get pretty busy on weekends. 

When we arrived in early to mid-afternoon, we paid 100 pesos (about $2.25 U.S.) per person to get in through the gate and park (50 pesos of which is refunded as a credit for their snack shack or in their restaurant), then we parked the car near the zip line and rock climbing wall.  Our daughter and I tried the rock climbing wall, which I truly thought I would be able to climb all the way to the top (maybe about 50 feet in height).  There is an enticement/incentive, that if you can climb to the top, you get a free zip line ticket.  We've done this type of thing numerous times before and really had fun with it, so I figured we'd do pretty well.    But we're not rock wall climbers or rock climbers by any means.  I thought I could make it to the top.  My daughter and I put on our safety harnesses and quickly went to the wall.  However, once I got on the wall, I noticed that the fake plastic rocks that you use as hand grips are very thin in terms of how far they protrude from the wall, not letting you get a very good grip with your hands... I think  the ones we've experienced back in the States are for the novice climbers, and the hand holds are made of a spongier material that is more forgiving and protrudes out from the wall a little further.  They're also pretty far apart -- and I am 6'1" with long legs and arms. Not to mention we didn't have on proper shoes (my daughter even went barefoot).  OK, enough with the excuses!  I tried and tried, but soon my hands started cramping up and getting weak... coupled with the heat and humidity (this was early in our Philippines trip and I was still getting acclimated), I gradually burned out and probably only got about 20 feet up the wall.  A humbling but slightly disappointing experience.  Same thing with our daughter - she thought that the rocks were too far apart from one another and she couldn't get a good grip on them either.   

So all in all we had some good sweaty fun and father-daughter bonding, even though I couldn't make it to the top of a tower I know I could have otherwise conquered with the "cushy"  version of handholds (sour grapes ha-ha!).  But don't let me discourage you!  You might be able to make it to the top and get a free zip line ticket.  Even if not, or if rock wall climbing is not your cup of tea, there's plenty of other fun stuff to do.

She's a chip off the old block!  No need for Daddy to coach her.

Making a fool of myself -- or maybe a monkey!

Father-daughter bonding
After our daughter and I gave it up and cooled off a bit from the rock climbing exertion, we were ready to have everyone else who hadn't suited up already to get their safety harnesses and put on their helmets for the zip line.  My wife was up for it, as well as her sister's friend.  My sister-in-law opted not to go and kindly served as our photographer.

Receiving the final blessings from the safety checker guy in our crotch-grabbing harnesses

Ready to rock and roll - my wife, me, our daughter, and my sister-in-law's friend
We next made the climb up the tower that would give us enough height and velocity to get across the big lagoon on the zip line cables - 800 meters.  I can't remember how many flights of stairs we went up the tower, but it had to be at least 60 feet tall. 

No turning back!

Once we got to the top, there were attendants whose job is to safely clip you onto the zip line and tell you when it's your turn to go.   Then you sit down on seats up at the top and wait your turn to go -- it's a great view. 

Papa Kit's 800 meter zip line!

View from the top looking at destination across lagoon
View from the top looking southwest.  If you click on the photo and enlarge and look very closely, you can see the skyscrapers of Cebu City about 1/4 of the picture in from the left at the base of the mountain
Ready to zip!

Zip line daredevil

What's the bucket for? Maybe I shouldn't ask.
Second thoughts???
Then just a little bit of time to get positioned and dangle... 

Getting ready to go down "dual"

Pre-flight checklist - wings "check"

Ready to roll

Then finally, liftoff!

Of course there was no screaming from our 9-year-old daughter

My wife's turn 

One thing I really regret is that I didn't take a camera with me to get some shots mid-flight... oh well.  It was a very smooth and relaxing ride, and the breeze from traveling so quickly down the zip line cable felt really refreshing on a hot and humid day.  Once we got over to the end of the zip line on lower platform on the island in the middle of the lagoon, we climbed another tower to board the next zip line that would take us back to the mainland from the island (it ends up at a platform a short distance away from the tower shown in the photos above).

Next, we took a little break at the snack shack to replenish some of those lost fluids and salts with some good cold water, chicharron (fried pork rinds), and siopao.  They do have a restaurant, too, but we didn't go there until it was time to eat dinner.

Snack shack seating area at Papa Kit's

My sister-in-law, our daughter, my wife, and I rehydrating at the snack shack
I asked them for their brochure/flyer, which I took a photo of and inserted below, and I realized after the fact that they also have some other activities I was unaware of, such as the aqua sports.  But we were there mainly for the zip line. 

My well-folded copy of the Papa Kit's rates brochure

So this is where I'll leave off until next post, where I'll cover fishing at Papa Kit's and dining (on those very same fish we caught) at their restaurant.  Until the next time... thanks for reading!


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