Until Yolanda ravaged it in 2013, Eastern Visayas was relatively under the radar. Except for the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park and San Juanico Bridge, most tourists were not aware of the stunning array of activities that awaited them in this coastal region down south.
Accessible via a 40-minute plane ride to Tacloban, Eastern Visayas is composed of the island provinces of Samar, Biliran, and Leyte–all of which are interconnected by over-water bridges.
Surrounded by seas on all sides, the region offers adrenaline-pumping watersports and activities fit for adventure seekers. Check out some of them below.
1. Go on a Boat Ride that Torpedos Wildly in Samar
The Ulot River may have been one of the oldest navigational thoroughfares in the Philippines, but the extreme boat adventure that takes place here is relatively new–and one that is fast attracting adventurous fans.
For only ₱1,825 for a group of five (₱365/person; safety gear, vests, and guide included), one gets to “boulder jump” and experience the raging rapids of Ulot River.
The blood-pumping 10-kilometer Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure takes you from the jumpoff in Barangay Tenani in Paranas, Samar through the river’s raging rapids while on a wooden boat called torpedo–also the name of the community organization that manages the ride. This six-seater boat is without outriggers and is deftly maneuvered by one or two expert guides using only a wooden oar.
The one-hour ride is as wet as it is awe-inspiring as you’ll be passing through whirlpools, small waterfalls, and forests where endemic birds and eagles nest (“ulot” is Waray for monkey, which is the foremost diet of the Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagle. The eagle was first recorded in Ulot River.) The ride ends at Deni’s Point, where you can dive from the boulders into the rapids.
How to get there:
From Tacloban, board a van or bus to Catbalogan (₱120). Tell the driver to drop you off at Barangay Tenani. Look for the sign on the road that says Olot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure. The jumpoff point is located about a hundred meters from the road.
Prepare to get soaked from head to toe. It is recommended that you wear quick-dry clothes and shoes or trekking sandals with good traction as the boulders at Deni’s Point tend to be slippery. Don’t forget to waterproof your things too!
You can bring lunch or have the locals cook packed meals for you for ₱150 per person.
2. Try the Sweet Life in Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
Fancy being cast away on a virgin island? Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte fits the bill to a T. Located five to six hours away from civilization, Kalanggaman Island is a tranquil, off-the-grid retreat where nights are spent camping under the moon and stars, and days combing through a white, chalky sand bar that seems to stretch infinitely.
There is no signal on the island, so you can spend the day snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking Kalanggaman’s sparkling blue waters undisturbed.
How to get there:
From Tacloban airport, take the four-hour van ride to Palompon. Go to Palompon Liberty Park and arrange for the Kalanggaman Ecotour. Ride a boat to Kalanggaman Island. The trip takes about 1.5 hours.
The island is best visited during the summer season.
3. Visit a Hidden Waterfall in Biliran
Set amid the dense Caibiran forest, Tinago Falls is a magical experience on its own. Swim and be awed by the towering limestones and trees as the cascade plunges 80 feet down into a cold, refreshing basin. The falls leads to two other basins, and you can dive from the top of the third basin for extra fun!
Entrance fee is ₱20 for adults and ₱10 for kids. There is a huge parking space outside for those who have cars.
How to get there:
Ride a jeep or taxi to the Tacloban bus terminal. Take the van to Naval. Travel time is around 2.5 hours. From Naval, take a van or bus to Caibiran. The ride takes about 45 minutes.
Bring your own food and water since there are no stores around and it’s a long drive through an empty road. Avoid traveling here during the rainy season. Cliff jumping was once permitted here, but since vines and mossy plants have not yet been uprooted, doing so isn’t allowed as of writing.
4. Swim and Kayak in Unknown Depths in Ormoc’s Lake Danao
Once called Lake Imelda, Lake Danao takes the shape of a guitar and the depths of the unknown. Guides here will tell you even divers who attempted to determine its exact depth weren’t able to do so mainly because it has so many twists and turns, and that’s part of what makes it mystic and enigmatic.
Experts say that it is a volcanic dent like that of Tagaytay’s Taal Lake–and like the famous city, it rests high at 650 meters above sea level and maintains a cooler temperature than the rest of Ormoc.
You can thus expect a cool bath in its waters and breezy kayaking. Complete your Lake Danao experience with a picnic on a floating hut surrounded by towering mountains.
How to Get There:
Coming from Cebu, you can take the slow or fast craft ferries to Ormoc City. Daily trips are available (ranges from ₱430 to ₱800).
If you’re coming from Tacloban, simply take a bus to Ormoc. From the Ormoc City Public Market, ride a jeepney, habal-habal, or multicab to Lake Danao (around ₱25 to ₱50). The ride takes around 30 minutes to an hour.