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Free-Diving the Enchanted River of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur May 6, 2013

Free-Diving the Enchanted River of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur

GPS waypoint: N8 27.515 E126 21.274
Location: Brgy. Talisay, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur

Talked About
After arrving the day before and securing lodging first at Sibadan Fish Cage, I was now at the much talked about Enchanted River. Most of Mindanao's natural treasures are unheard of outside its borders. This is one of many. I only heard about Enchanted River when I set foot in Davao City. And I kept hearing about it from locals from various towns and cities I've passed through.

map location Enchanted River

Enchanted Spring
To my amazement, it's not even a river. It's a deep and wide spring, about 85 feet deep with so much water coming out of it that it formed a river to take the water into the sea. It's oval shape is about half a basketball court at its widest and a third of that at its narrow side. Surprisingly though, you don't feel the current...there is practically none. Before the spring, there is no river as it is completely enclosed by land. The water starts from the spring. They should have called this Enchanted Spring. From the surface, the clear deep blue can be seen to where it's deepest. It's like a big hole in the ground. Outside that hole is the shallow area where people can actually stand up and frolick.

Urban Legend
Legend has it that the spring itself is truly enchanted - it's not just a name. I've heard a few accounts (none of them first-hand though). I heard that back in the day, fishermen went to the spring and laid down their nets to come back the following day for the catch. When they returned, they found their nets tangled up on the tree tops! Another account said you cannot fish in the spring - you simply cannot catch fish, despite the huge abundance. Another account said it is only possible to catch fish if you ask 'permission' from the spirits guarding the spring.

Free Diving
I've questioned the logic of bringing with me the bulky snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel and fins) that I seldom use while traveling. But there are instances where all that inconvenience pays off. This is one such occasion. After snorkeling a bit on the surface, getting a sense of bearing and familiarity to the terrain below me, I took the first plunge down. The water was cold (but I forgot to taste if it was fresh, brackish or salty). It's probably mostly fresh water because my bouyancy wasn't like that in salt water. It took longer for me to come up. I must have reached close to halfway before coming up. From the surface, the bottom seems smaller, but as I got deeper, I noticed an overhang that concealed part of a bigger bottom. The opening narrows as it gets deeper, with the bottom about half the size of the surface area. I wanted to go deeper and actually see the cave opening, but I wouldn't have enough air to go back up...sigh! The sight was spectacular. The clarity of the water was impeccable. The fish population was healthy. Lots of big fish and a few schools. I took a few more dives until exhaustion...but whoa! What a treat!

Feeding Time
There is a scheduled 12 noon feeding time where people are asked to stay away from the water. The bell is rung, and like Pavlovian dogs, the swarm of fish come from nowhere for a feeding frenzy. There is also a fee-based 3pm feeding at P100/person. But I was advised to catch the noon feeding since the fish are hungry and go for food like gangbusters.

Tinuy-an Falls
Usually, a trip to this region is bundled up as a 3-destination itinerary - Tinuy-an Falls, Enchanted River and Britania Islets. My next stop was supposed to be Tinuy-an Falls. But it was raining hard the past 2 days. The 15km dirt road may be slippery and the water would be murky. I was also losing time. I was advised that Tinuy-an Falls is perfectly safe during the daytime...but it's best not to be there when it gets dark. This I heard from more than one person. I heed such warnings. I thought it best to visit Tinuy-an Falls some other time. But the itinerary is posted below in case you plan to visit after Enchanted River. With this change in plan, my next stop is the mini-islands of Britania Islets.

Ending Thoughts
The Philippines is blessed with so many natural wonders - white sandy beaches, tropical island getaways, pristine coral reefs, magnificent mountains, unexplored caves, etc. However, there are a few rare wonders that are truly unique (not just in the Philippines, but perhaps the world). I could think of Barracuda Lake in Coron, and after seeing Enchanted River, I would place this as one of the best and unique in this country. I don't know of any other spring that goes down 85 feet down with crystal clear water, you could see the bottom from the surface. There's so much water coming out of this spring that it spawns a wide river to take the water out to the sea. At its bottom are caves that remain largely unexplored. Add to that, the big fish that call it home. And to top it all, there is the legend that the spring itself is enchanted - guarded by the fairies of the spring.

--- TheLoneRider

ps - If you want me to objectively cover your resort for this website (beach resort, mountain resort, island resort, etc.), email me.

Enchanted River Fees:

  • entrance - P30 adults, P5 kids below 4 ft.
  • tent type rental - P200
  • booth type rental - P150
  • big nipa hut rental - P150
  • small nipa hut rental - P100
  • rubber table with umbrella - P100
  • life jacket - P15/hour
  • river cruising - P160/hour

How to Get to Enchanted River from Butuan

  1. at the Butuan Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Mangagoy (Bislig) but ask to be dropped off at Dugmanon Junction for Enchanted River. The Tagbina Terminal is your sign that you're close. If you reach the Hinatuan Terminal, you missed the junction. P189 a/c bus, 4 hours.
  2. at the junction, take a habal-habal, P150 if you are alone or P50/pax with other passengers, 12 kms of graded dirt road

Travel Tips for Enchanted River:

  • tell the habal-habal driver to make a stop to the food stalls first. You can place your order which they'll be cooking and delivering to your hut at Enchanted River. The food stalls are about 50 meters away before you reach Enchanted River.
  • sample rates as of this writing: crab P400/k, malasugi P280/k, shrimp (pasayan) P230/k, talakitok P200/k, liplipan P200/k, pugita P100/k, pandawan (or dolphin fish or mahi-mahi) P150/k
  • cooking fee is P30 for the first kilo and P15 for every additional kilo
  • they'll give you a card which you put on top of your hut table. They'll look for that card when delivering the food.
  • bring snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel and fins) if you want to see the bottom of the crystal clear spring...see the big fish too! At 85 feet deep, you can free dive.

How to Get to Tinuy-an Falls from Enchanted River

  1. from Enchanted River, take the habal-habal back to the main highway - 12 kms, P150/trip or P50/pax
  2. from the highway, take the bus going to Mangagoy (Bislig). Ask the bus conductor to drop you off the junction for Tinuy-an Falls
  3. from the junction, take a habal-habal - 15 kms, P500/2-way trip (I'm not sure about P500 but that's what I was told)
  4. tip - leave Tinuy-an Falls before it gets dark
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(along the Surigao coastline from Surigao City to Surigao del Sur)

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Reader Comments:

Beberlie GuinitaranBeberlie Guinitaran
(June 8, 2013) Buti ka pa, nakapunta ka na sa Enchanted River. Oh, how I wish I could go there.

NandinniNandinni Philippines
(May 16, 2013) Wow! You been there na? Wahhhhhh!!!! I got no time to read all your cold spring and waterfall blogs for now. Wanna ask, what's the best among all? Been to fresh waters this summer and I think I got to visit the top 5 based on your judgement.

"top 5 based on your judgement" -- Marie Roman
(May 18, 2013) Top 5...hmmmm. Top one is Enchanted River - that's a bucket list entry. I believe Tinuy-an Falls would be a good second, even if I didn't get to see it. The rest, you can string along as you coast the Surigao del Sur coastline - Britania Islets, Dayao and Dinakit Caves of Tandag, Lubcon Falls, Campamento Cave, Magkawas Falls, Silop Spring, Lanuza Sanctuary, Hubason River, etc.

Todd GrannisTodd Grannis
(May 11, 2013) Awesome doode... I shared the link with a friend already.

May 6, 2013

»» next story: Island Hopping the Britania Islets of San Agustin, Surigao del Sur
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