When the invitation came for me to conduct another Team Building workshop with an awesome group of people (my second team building with them in less than one year), I never had second thoughts and I accepted. Then came another good news – part of the activity will be a visit to Britannica Islands in Surigao del Sur and the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, also in Surigao del Sur. I was super excited!
So, after the formal team building activities, we were ready to see the beautiful sceneries of Surigao del Sur. First stop was the Britannica Islands. From Nasipit where we had our team building, we had to travel 4 hours to reach Britannia Islands. The long road trip was worth it! The place was simply breathtaking!
Then, after 2 hours of island hopping, we traveled to Hinatuan to see the Enchanted River. It took us almost 2 hours to reach the place at the speed of 100 to 120 kph. Then again, the trip was worth every minute, because the Enchanted River was, true to its name, enchanting!
According to the people there, the Enchanted River has a depth of more than 200 feet. It looks like a funnel – wide on top but narrowing as it goes towards the bottom. Then, according to the people manning the place, beneath the river is a dome-like space as big as 3 football fields, of course still filled with water.
This is the deep portion of the river. In the middle, they say, nobody has yet reached the bottom. There are those who said that National Geographic came here and tried to measure the depth of the river and they were only able to reach 200 feet … they could not go deeper for lack of equipment. Now whether that’s true and documented or not, I don’t know. We tried to do some research in the Internet about this enchanted river but there’s not much to find.
The water is a mixture of salt water (from the sea) and fresh water (from the river), and people there describe the water as “brackish”.
For those who are afraid to swim in the middle portion of the river, the sides are not as deep and intimidating. But mind you, they are still deep, around 10 to 12 feet. That’s where my children had their first dip in the cold waters of the river.
Here are some interesting facts about the river:
Fish abound in the river, and they swim with the people, barely staying a few feet below the swimmers;
Every 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the fishes are fed. You will know if its 3 o’clock because music will be played and it is a signal that swimmers should stay on the sides of the river and not swim until the feeding is done.
The place closes at 5 pm, more likely because the place is managed by local government employees.
There are caterers in the place who can provide visitors with fresh sea food at an affordable price, of course with additional fee as charge for cooking.
Entrance fee is 60.00 per person, and the life vests can be rented at 10.00 each.
The road going to the Enchanted River from Hinatuan proper is a dirt road, more like a race track for motocross. It goes up (pretty steep), and as can be expected, when one goes up, it goes down – and still steep! The only way you can get to the Enchanted River are as follows: 1) if you have a private car – preferably something that can maneuver over rocky dirt road with lots of sharp uphill climb and steep downhill drop; 2) Habal habal – a single motorcycle; 3) or you walk! The last option is not advisable – it is a long way from the main road.
We left the place around 5:30 in the afternoon and passed by Barobo and San Francisco on our way to Butuan City. We arrived in Butuan City around 9 in the evening – that’s roughly 4 hours of travel, but this time, on a friendly speed of 70 to 80 kph.
Was the long trip worth it? Definitely! Will I go back to Britannia Islands if opportunity allows? Yes! But I’d take the advise of the friendly resident my hubby had the chance to chitchat with: it’s better to stay overnight and enjoy another place very near the Enchanted River (I can not just yet recall the name of the place). In that place (I’d update this post later with the exact name), a family of 10 (he even said 20) can rent a room for less than 2 thousand pesos per night. Sea food, he said, is very affordable, and you can either cook the food yourself (sugba or kilaw) or you can ask those that manage the place (I think it’s a resort) to cook them for you, of course for a fee.
Bring an ample supply of sunblock lotion, a wide-brimmed hat, lots of drinking water, your sunglasses, and your digital camera (with batteries that are fully charged). Bring also light snacks – chips, peanuts, and biscuits will do.
Wear your swimsuit (but of course wear something above it when you’re not swimming yet) and bring also a scarf.
Leave at home your valuables – they will spoil your vacation if you carry them along. For your mobile phones and other gadgets you can’t live without, place them in water resistant pouches or bags (zip lock bags will do) so they won’t get wet in case the waves (when you take the boat ride when island hopping) get into your boat, or in case you drop them accidentally as you walk in the thin boardwalk towards the motorized banka’s.
It will be foolish not to swim when you get to the islets – the water is so cool and clean and the sand so white … so be sure not to forget to bring your towel with you.