Located in the northeastern part of Mindanao, the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur has gained much popularity for the last four years. Unlike most, if not all rivers, it has magical, crystal clear, turquoise to midnight blue tint, captivating the tourists with its astounding beauty. It's 12 kilometers away from the main highway, and the limestone, rough road can give you a bumpy, dusty and undulating (in some parts) ride. It’s not that bad though; the place is readily accessible by motorcycles, vans and even trucks.
Stories have spread about its mystic nature. During our first visit in 2011, we heard that long before visitors have explored the area, otherworldly beings were spotted by locals. Some people also babbled about a foreign diver who was unable to reach the bottom of this brackish river; thus, nobody knows where the source of the cold water flowing to the Pacific Ocean is (Wikipedia says this is a myth, though). If you take your goggles with you, it would seem like there’s a cave beneath the bluest part of the river, and that you’re actually swimming at its entrance.
During our second visit, the van driver shared that nobody has ever caught a fish in the Enchanted River. However, there was once a man who didn’t have a fishing boat. With his net, he went to the river at dusk and fervently prayed to God for some blessings for his family. The following day, he was grateful to bring home a huge net of fish. When the other fishermen in his community saw this, they wondered where and how everything happened. Upon hearing the man’s story, the others did the same thing out of selfishness. To their dismay, their nets were ruined and found hanging on the surrounding trees the day after.
Activities at the River
With the number of tourists visiting the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, the noise and congestion decrease the eerie feeling you can possibly get. Some people freely dive into the abyss, others stay in the shallow area, and many opt to watch swimmers along the riverbank. The most awaited part of the visit is the fish-feeding at 12:00 noon, when 13-inch long snapper fish seem to know it’s chow time once the music is played. They immediately gather near the stairs, waiting for fish feeds. You can observe the same behavior at 3:00 p.m., when a guest pays for P100.00 for a special feeding schedule. These fish, as seen in the picture above, lurk in the deeper part of the river when it’s not eating time.
If you plan to stay at this tourist spot for a day, you can also try island hopping at Hinatuan Bay. The management has fortunately standardized the cost per boat per hour (P160.00 for five people), ensuring fair price treatment to all visitors. The boat station is located close to the mouth of the Enchanted River, just follow the pathway eastward and you won’t miss it.
In 2011, we went to Sibadan fish cage and were able to hold a heavy sea turtle. We also stopped at Ponta Cave but we couldn’t explore it as we were running out of time. The boat ride will let you glimpse at fisherfolk communities in Hinatuan.
Other Useful Tips
Here are other travel tips when visiting the Enchanted River in Surigao del Sur:
- For a more relaxing experience, visit the blue river on a weekday during Philippine school months (June to March). On weekends, the place is really congested, and it’s difficult to find a hut for your things.
- Bring a mask, a snorkel and if possible, an underwater camera. The sight underneath the surface is a must-see; non-posers wouldn’t mind having a number of selfie shots underneath.
- If you’re an unconfident swimmer, and you’re visiting on a weekend, bring your own life vest. During our second visit, I had to wait for almost an hour to be able to rent a life vest (P15.00 per hour). For life vest rental, an ID is required.
- You can bring your own food and eat at the picnic huts, but you also have the option of having your meal cooked at the nearby stalls. Since the Enchanted River is part of a coastal area, you can expect fresh fish, crabs and other tasty seafood.
- Try to get to the river before 6:00 a.m. or take a look at it when all the people have left at 5:00 p.m. As seen on the other picture below, the water is so clear you can actually see what's beneath it. Amazing!
How to Get to the Enchanted RiverFor both visits, we went to Enchanted River by rented van as we were with a big group, but the popular place can now be reached by public transport. Below are the directions according to my friend, Carlo.
- From San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, take the bus or van going to Hinatuan.
- Get off before Hinatuan proper, at the junction to the river. Just tell the bus driver; they know this spot well. You will see a big signage, so you won’t get lost. You will also pay your entrance fee here.
- Take a habal-habal (motorcycle used for public transit) to the river. As of May 2013, cost ranges from P50 to P200 per person, depending on the number of passengers taking the ride.
The Enchanted River is open from 6:00 am until 5:00 p.m. every day. Beyond that time, you will be swimming with the spirits!
Just kidding. :D