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!



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