Visitors to Caramoan, a must-see destination for many jaded travelers, have more reason to rejoice as community-based tourism takes root in this stunning town which has been Bicol’s best-kept secret.
Tourists who have to contend with the perennial problem of decent accommodation can now look forward to more lodging facilities as townsfolk have decided to nurture tourism as catalyst of economic development.
Thanks to the famed Survivor reality TV series, this once obscure but stunning town in Camarines Sur topped the bucket list of hordes of tourists because of its natural allure. Situated on the province’s eastern seaboard, Caramoan is an archipelago town jutting out into the Pacific Ocean and composed of the mainland and a dozen charming islands.
The island chain takes pride in their powdery white sand, crystal clear waters, awesome limestone cliffs, lush marine life and rich biodiversity.
Realizing its potential, the Provincial Government under Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte built the Gota Village, a world-class lodging facility in a cove in the mainland. But due to its global popularity, Gota and two nearby islands are closed to the public for most of the year for the various Survivor international editions which come one after the other.
According to Mayor Constantino Cordial Jr., tourist arrival has grown phenomenally after Survivor was shown on TV in 2008. Todate, the town receives some 1,000 tourists daily during peak season and 700 during lean months.
He said that the municipal government still has to catch up with the demand for new tourist facilities, which residents are trying to help fill by offering homestays and bed and breakfast to guests.
Among the existing lodging facilities in the town include CMC Villa Caramoan, Sights and Sand, Rex Tourist Inn, Golden Hub, Riverview Vacation Inn, La Casa Roa, La Playa Resort and West Peninsula Villas. The latter houses the support staff of Survivor.
Department of Tourism regional director Maria Ravanilla said that about 50 families now offer home stay to augment the room inventory.
She noted that stakeholders in the flourishing tourism industry undergo a series of skills trainings and accreditation seminars from by the DoT regional office to ensure a systematic approach to their community-based operations.
The growing industry has provided income opportunities to locals who have trained as tour guides, as well as boat operators who offer island-hopping tours, ranging from 1,500 to P2,500. They have also received training on first aid and life-saving techniques from the local government and the Philippine National Red Cross.
Because of tourism-related revenues, the town attained its second-class municipality status in 2009, two notches up from its previous fourth class.
Cordial said the Municipal Council will soon pass a local Tourism Code to provide comprehensive guidelines to ensure the industry’s sustainability. The town currently collects an environmental fee of P30 for every tourist, which goes to solid waste management and the municipal general fund.
He said the town is also currently developing the Hanopol River Cruise situated on a hilltop dam which offers serene environs ideal for picnics, boating, fishing and other close-to-nature activities.
Caramoan can be reached by a two-hour boat ride from the ports of Sabang or Talisay both in San Jose town, about a 90-minute drive from Naga City. Its main entry point is Guijalo port, five kilometers away from the town proper.