Rugged and largely undiscovered, Samar Island is a destination that will appeal to those who love the great outdoors. It’s the third largest island in the Philippines composed of three provinces: Samar (Western Samar), Northern Samar and Eastern Samar.
From caves, waterfalls, and rock formations, there’s a lot to see and discover in these three provinces. If you’re planning a trip to the Eastern Visayas Region, here are five natural attractions you may want to include in your itinerary.
1. Rock Formations
Samar has a long and rugged coastline, some of its islands surrounded by spectacular natural rock formations formed by pounding winds, raging storms and ruthless waves. One of the best places where you can see these natural wonders is Biri Island in Northern Samar.
The six main rock formations, namely Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, Caranas and Pinanahawan, are surrounded by rocky and sandy beaches as well as lush mangrove forests with dwarf mangroves and crystal clear waters. Read more about how to get to Biri Island here.
Aside from Biri Island, you can also marvel at impressive rock formations in other coastal areas of Samar Island. In Marabut near the boundary of Western and Eastern Samar, rock formations jut out of the ocean like tall towers on the sea.
Mapanas on the Eastern coast of Samar facing the Pacific Ocean also boasts of its own stunning rock formations. It’s here where you can find Pinusilan Natural Lagoon, a natural swimming hole where seawater is drawn in.
Samar has been dubbed the “Caving Capital of the Philippines” because of the number of amazing cave systems on the island, many of which remain unexplored.
One of the most popular eco-tourism cave attractions that’s been developed for tourists is the Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park (SNBNP) located in the town of Basey. The park gets its name for the local term “sohot” which means to pass through because guests ride a boat along a stream that flows under a natural stone bridge connecting two mountains. The site takes visitors to several cathedral-like caves, rivers and waterfalls with clear waters.
Those who want to experience a more extreme caving adventure should head to the town of Calbiga and explore Langun-Gobingob Caves, said to be the largest cave system in the Philippines. The cave is located within the Samar Island National Park or SINP, a 333,000-hectare protected natural eco-tourism system spanning the whole island of Samar.
With massive chambers as large as coliseums and spectacular karst formations, exploring all the chambers of Langun-Gobingob Cave can take several days. For hassle-free spelunking trips (including day hikes and multi-day tours with cave camping), get in touch with tour operator Trexplore from Catbalogan City. Read more about Langun-Gobingob Cave in Calbiga, Samar here.
Dubbed the “City of Waterfalls,” Calbayog is home to many beautiful natural waterfalls worth visiting. The most easily accessible ones include Bangon-Bugtong Falls, a 60-meter high cascade, and the multi-faceted Tarangban Falls which is just found nearby. Lulugayan Falls in Calbiga is another picturesque waterfall that’s becoming more popular with tourists.
However, if you want to see a stunning waterfall that’s rarely visited by tourists, get ready to embark on a long journey to the remote town of San Jorge. The challenging hike will bring you to Pinipisakan Falls, a four-tiered waterfall right in front of the mouth of Sulpan Cave. A more accessible waterfall near the jump-off point in the community is Blanca Aurora Falls, which is a popular swimming spot for locals.
Before roads and highways were built on the island, locals relied heavily on the river systems that snake around the island for transportation.
Ulot River is the longest river in Samar Island, stretching over a distance of 90 kms. It used to serve as a navigational highway between the provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar in the years when there was no road network. Nowadays, the extreme adventure aboard Torpedo boats is what attracts travelers to this river.
The Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure picks up guests from the jump-off point in Barangay Tenani in Paranas and takes them through a 10-kilometer long winding route along the river’s whitewater rapids. In a rocky area known as Deni’s Point, guests can jump into the water and get swept along by the current until they reach the point where the water is calmer.
The Torpedo boat (which is actually an acronym that stands for Tour Guides & Boat Operators for River Protection & Environmental Development Organization) is a six-seater wooden boat without outriggers that is maneuvered by guides using wooden oars. On the way back, there are shallow portions where boatmen need to get down and push the boat on the rocky riverbed against the current and rapids.
Though Samar Island has over 800 km of coastline, it’s not really known for its beaches on the mainland. But hopping on a boat to explore smaller islands nearby will bring you to more scenic spots for swimming, snorkeling and diving. For instance, the beach in Borongan City, the capital of Eastern Samar, has a wide black sand beach. Nearby, you can also visit Divinubo Island and Ando Island, both of which boast of white sand beaches, vibrant coral formations, flourishing marine life, and sparkling clear blue waters.
The town of Guiuan located at the southernmost tip of Samar Island is surrounded by numerous islands and islets such as Manicani, Calicoan Island, and the historical island of Homonhon which also have their own secluded beaches worth visiting. The whole area is protected as part of the marine reserve known as the Guiuan Protected Landscape and Seascape.
There’s so much more to discover in Samar Island! For more travel stories, visit www.traveling-up.com.