I’ve always liked caving. There’s just something in caves that awaken my thirst for adventure. I’ve gone caving in China and Thailand but I love the caves in the Philippines most. The caves are left in their natural state and you don’t get the feeling of being in an amusement park.
Surigao del Sur, my home province, definitely has a lot of these natural resources. My own hometown, Tandag, has a couple, but it’s still closed to the public. Too bad actually, as Danakit Cave is one of the most beautiful caves I’ve been to in the Philippines!
When I went home last month, I made sure to go caving in Lanuza, a town just an hour from the city of Tandag. While not so deep, their Campamento Cave (“Camp Bell”) is worth exploring for its varied cave formations.
According to Lanuza Tourism Officer Glenda Joy Felix, there are around 100 caves in Lanuza alone, but only three are open to the public, all named Campamento. The first one where we went to was called Campamento 1, which is the easiest to explore with no equipment other than a flashlight needed. It’s also the nearest from the poblacion.
Campamento 2 and 3 on the other hand, are for advanced cavers, and require ropes and other caving gears. Unfortunately, the town has none (attention investors!), so it’s only open for those who will bring the gears themselves.
I remember feeling extremely disappointed when I heard that. Of course, I would enjoy caving no matter what level the cave is, but I would have loved to explore the more advanced ones.
From the municipal hall where I met with Ms. Felix to the cave itself was less than 10 minutes. A few meters from the cave entrance was the Silop Spring where you can take a dip afterwards if you wish to rinse off.
There are three guides from the Tourism Office, two of whom were just finished guiding a group of medical doctors from Madrid, Surigao del Sur when we arrived. The ladies looked sweaty but exhilarated; the cave seemed to have met their expectations very well.
To reach the cave entrance, one has to go up a steep slope of around a hundred meters or so. A railing is provided for support, but the steps remained all-natural. I was worried that the cave had been “developed”–concrete steps inside as well as electric lights, ala China’s Silver Fox Cave, but fortunately, the local government let it alone.
Campamento 1 takes around 30 minutes to walk through, with a total of 256 meters of cave full of beautiful curtains and draperies, columns, and other stalactites and stalagmites.
Unlike other formations I’d seen (like in Danakit or in Sumaguing Cave in Sagada), a lot of the formations here are milky white. Really quite beautiful!
As always, there were bats on the ceiling near the entrance, but there wasn’t much bat guano nor were there any cockroaches which were aplenty in the caves in Norzagaray, Bulacan. For those who are afraid of spiders though, look at where you’re going to step or what you’re going to hold as there are some crawling around as well. (Of course, this is a cave right?)
There are two chambers in Campamento; one ended after a few meters, while the other ended in the area (below) where there was a skylight and a way going down into the next level. According to Albert Mahinay, one of the guides, from this area up to the end is another 300 meters.
I was all for exploring it, but unfortunately one needs to rappel and the tourism office doesn’t have any gears, so we had to stop here and go back. To say I was disappointed is an understatement!
In any case, I enjoyed Campamento, no matter how brief the experience was. There are many columns like this:
…as well as beautiful draperies…
…that are perfect for picture taking.
I have my eyes closed in the following photo but I didn’t bother to have another one taken. The other guide, Joy Maquiling, found it difficult to focus enough, and I was glad she managed to get one!
Afterwards, all sweaty but not the least bit tired, the guides and I went back to town to cool down with a glass of halo-halo. I was supposed to go around town first before going home, but as it had started raining, I decided to go back to Tandag instead. I loved caving in Lanuza, but rather than whet my appetite, it only made me long for more.
The rate for the whole tour is P500 for every group of three, including guide fees, transportation, gears, user’s fee, and snacks.
How to go to Campamento Cave in Lanuza
Lanuza is around an hour from Tandag City in Surigao del Sur (Cebu Pacific flies there three times a week) and around four hours from Surigao City. If you’re coming from Tandag, you can either take a van (P70) from the Balilahan Bus Terminal, a bus (P60), or jeepney.
The terminal in Lanuza is right across the town hall where you’ll meet with the Tourism Officers. A guide is needed to explore the cave.
Other Things to Do in Lanuza
If you have time to stay in Lanuza, do. There are a lot of homestays and you can choose depending on rate (P150 per day onwards) or amenities (aircon, fan, Wifi). Ask Ms. Felix for her recommendations.
There are many other things you can do aside from caving in Lanuza, including:
- Surfing–Lanuza is starting to get known for its surfing activities. Join the National Surfing Festival held annually which will be on November 3 to 8 this year. Best time to surf is from November onwards.
- Snorkeling at the Marine Park and Sanctuary
- Swimming at the Magkawas Falls
For more information, get in touch with Glenda Felix, the town’s Tourism Officer, through their website Lanuza, Surigao del Sur or by mobile at +63939.916.9512.
I would love to go back to Lanuza in November, to join their surfing festival and perhaps go snorkel in their Sanctuary. I’ll make sure to stay at least a day; time to look for small backpacks in Zalora as my old Hawk one is just too big for an overnight trip!
Do you like caving? Would you come visit this cave if you had a chance?