Camiguin Island – more volcanoes than towns

Camiguin Island is an island province in which there are more volcanoes (seven) than towns (five). There hasn’t been an eruption since the mid 1950s, despite the island having the most number of volcanoes per square kilometer than any other island in the world.

As we approached the island in the crappy old ferry back in 1998, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was really an unspoilt wilderness and a place I had never heard of.

The island itself is 23 kilometres long and 14.5 kilometres wide and is very mountainous, with the highest elevation reaching over 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Old Spanish documents indicate that the renowned explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Miguel López de Legazpi landed in Camiguin in 1521, and 1565. The first major Spanish settlement was established in 1679.

Camiguin, for such a small insland, has so much history, including a lot of tragedy. From 1871 to about 1875, earthquakes began to be felt on the island, giving birth to Mt. Vulcan. This continued erupting and pouring lava into the sea whilst at the same time, gaining in height and width.

During this calamity, the town of Catarman was decimated. This led to a portion of the town to sink beneath the sea. Some areas in the town of Bonbon subsided, sinking the cemetery of the town to below sea level. This place is commemorated by a huge cross which was erected in 1982.

With hot and cold springs, waterfalls, historical church remains, volcanoes and White Island 5kms offshore, this island has everything. It truly is a fascinating place to visit.

Whilst there, I met an Aussie guy from Sydney who had been living in Camiguin for several years. He had become very localized and was living off the proceeds from renting out his taxi license in Sydney. This netted him about AUD400/week, which when concerted to Pesos, was more than enough to live on in Camiguin, even back in 1998.

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Me on White Island looking back to Mt. Hibok-Hibok, the biggest volcano on Camiguin Island. This is one of several volcanoes on the island, and last erupted in 1953 and it is still considered active. It’s pretty intimidating when you think about the power this beast has.

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Alma with the sunken cemetery monument in the background. In 1871, Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted and destroyed Catarman, then the capital. A portion of the town sank beneath the sea and the cemetery got submerged as a result. Today, all that remains of old Catarman are the ruins of the ancient Spanish church, a convent and a bell tower.

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Beach view on the eastern side of the island. As Camiguin Island is volcanic, unfortunately, the sand is a brown/gray color and isn’t the most attractive to look at. It’s a pity because other than the colour of the sand, Camiguin has some of the most spectacular beachfront I have seen in the Philippines.

Katibawasan Falls is a spectacular 250-foot waterfall that cascades down to a pool surrounded by orchids and ferns. Nature at its best. This waterfall is stull my favourite and the tallest I have experienced. Totally awe-inspiring.

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White Island is an uninhabited white sandbar located about 1.4 kilometres off the northern shore of Mambajao. It is one of the most spectacular sandbars in the country.

How to get there

The best way to get to Camiguin is to fly to Butuan, then take a bus and then a ferry. Philippine Airlines (PAL) fly to Butuan from Manila once daily and the flight takes just under 90mins.

From Butuan, you can then take a bus to Balingoan port which is approximately 100kms, or a bit over two hours drive away.

From Balingoan Port, the ferry ride to Camiguin is about one hour. There are two ports but the preferred port is Benoni, as it is nearer the capital town of Mambajao. From there you could get a tricycle to your end destination.

Dezza´s Tip

A coastal road of 64kms in length encircles the island of Camiguin. You can hire a van to take you the whole way around for around P1,000, taking in Sto. Nino Cold Springs, Katibawasan Falls, Ardent Hot Springs, Gui-Ub Church ruins of Mt. Vulcan and the Cross Marker of Sunken Cemetery, to name but a few attractions.