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Bucas Grande - Peace, Serenity and Tourism Challenges

Bucas Grande Island is an emerging tourist destination that is part of Siargao group of islands in Surigao del Norte. The main reason for its fame that is running on momentum is the Sohoton Cove that provides a level of adventure and awe as the small boat carefully glides through a small opening during low tide.

But seriously, stakeholders should stop promoting Sohoton cove for marketing pitch because of the carrying capacity issue. The place has so much more to offer that it should be marketed as Sohoton Bay to include islands, other lagoons and beaches. 

Make the cove as part of the destination and not THE destination so that visitor expectations can be managed in increasingly frequent chances of not getting into the cove.
Inside the cove and after the entrance is a huge lagoon that is navigable only by small boats.
For those with a keener sense of adventure, go down from the boat amd enter this cave.
The guides will provide flashlights and a helmet for safety.
And on top is a platform where you can do a 20-ft jump into the water. 
This is one of the places where you will be brought by the guides. A small cave that gets filled by water during high tide. Swim inside, and really get that surreal and exciting feeling.

There are, so far, only two places in the world where you can find non-stinging jellyfish in good numbers. One is in Palau, and the other is in Sohoton Bay. This is already outside the cove. It's a good thing that locals detected early that large numbers of tourists affect the population of jellyfish that they do not allow anymore peope swimming in the lagoon. You have to enjoy looking at them on board a small boat paddled by a local.
Yes, Bucas Grande has more to offer than just the cove. I could easily say that BG is like a combination of El Nido and Coron in Palawan by the similarities of attractions that are found in BG and either El Nido or Coron (lagoons, islands, beaches, scenes, etc.)
On the way to the jellyfish sanctuary, the boatmen may have to pull the boat due to the shallow water level.
Maybe about 90% of people who have visited BG have only seen 10% of what the area offers.
Small caves like this Bolitas chamber offer a good dose of adventure to casual visitors.
A visit to Tiktikan Lake is going to a movie setting that showcases serenity. Of course, it would not be this way anymore when more people visit the area. In that case, timing is essential to avoid the hordes of tourists.
Isolated beaches that can become picnic areas are quite common in Sohoton Bay. It is highly seasonal, though. Amihan winds make some of the beaches inaccessible. Perhaps nature's way of limiting development in the area?
Limestone pillars and islands are a dime a dozen.
This is the flower of Mangkono or iron wood. A very rare and prized type of wood that has been wiped out in many parts of the Philippines but remains aplenty in Bucas Grande.
Riding a habal-habal with wings (skylab in other parts of Mindanao) is a transportation option. But when service vans become common in BG, you can only watch amd wonder when you see locals riding this one.
What makes BG quite a unique destination is that it sits on a huge deposit of metals that are drooled on by mining companies. This river is dominated not by limestone rocks, but by massive boulders aka iron ores.
Beyond the lagoons, beaches and islands is this huge mangrove forest where you can literally get lost inside. Amazing forest!
20 minutes away from the town proper of Socorro is the Kapihan (no, not named after coffee, but the fruit of rattan) where a zipline has been constructed. This also provides a scenic view of the landscapes and seascapes in the area.

This one we discovered by accident. Reminds me of Tapyas Hill in Coron. we were on the way to a watershed and took a rest. And lo! This awesome view of wave after wave rolling to the shore 24/7. Really a good place to get some great view.
What makes Bucas Grande more special? This is where the spirit of Bayanihan is actually practiced. Helping neighbors without asking anything in return. After seeing all the big houses in the town proper of Socorro, i thought that it was a typical area supported by "foreign aid" - where a lot of locals are based abroad and send money to improve their house. It turned out that I was completely wrong. 

Every month of July, many in the island implement their culture of Bayanihan. Carpenters work on houses for free. Those who cannot build a house, contribute money to help feed the workers. Carpenters based in other area like Cebu, make the effort to go back to BG and help out. If they cannot go back, they send money.

It has been going on for so many years and under the radar of the entire country's society, but they do it not for anything but just to help out. This should perhaps be one of the main reasons why you should visit BG. To learn the simple art of giving and helping.

Of course, BG is not represented by the big houses alone. Much of the area's community are still living the rural way with limited wants and needs.
Bucas Grande is a very special place. Not only for tourism but also for a way to learn so many other things. Humility, serenity, environmental challenges, and even the threat of us tourists possibly putting a lot of strain in the area.

It is quite a hard decision to embrace tourism. But the other development option that has been eyeing the entire island is simply not acceptable - flattening Bucas Grande for mining.

To reach Bucas Grande, take a van from either Surigao City or Butuan City to Hayangabon, then take a boat to Socorro or Sohoton. Best if vehicles are hired.

Another option is to take a plane from Cebu to Siargao, then ride a commuter van to Dapa port (20 minutes) where you can take a boat to BG (best if hired).

*The main reason why I was able to explore much of Bucas Grande was I was part of the UP-Planades team that helped formulate a tourism plan for one site for TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority)  which is helping BG be properly developed into a well-managed tourist destination. All the opinions in this blog are simply mine and do not concern both UP-Planades and TIEZA.


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