The Camotes Islands, Cebu

Camotes IslandsLegend has it that Spaniards who arrived here came upon some natives farming. When asked what the island’s name was, the natives replied “camotes” (sweet potatoes), thinking they were being asked what they were harvesting. This is just one of the charming things about the Camotes Islands.

The Camotes Islands are made up of the islands of Pacjian, Ponson, Poro and Tulang. Collectively, they are called “The Lost Horizon in the South” because of their unspoiled beauty. And once you sink your toes into the fine white sand here, it’s easy to see why. Beaches like Santiago Bay and Mangodlong, with glistening waters and relaxed shores, are excellent places to swim and sunbathe undisturbed.

Further inland, Pacjian is home to the serene 700-hectare Lake Danao. Dubbed “Lover’s Lake” for its seclusion, Lake Danao is the biggest natural lake in Cebu. Enjoy a boat cruise, hike and picnic, or go bird-watching to catch species like the purple heron and the Philippine wild duck.

Raring for some adventure? Check out Bukilat Cave in Tudela. Beneath its rough exterior lie imposing stalagmites and stalactites, as well as an icy-cold pool believed to originate from an underground spring. This entire cave system is illuminated by natural skylights.

Another stunning subterranean secret is the challenging Timubo Cave in Sonog, where you need to make your way down a winding staircase to reach the clear waters within.

Life here may be slow-paced, but the islands do hold several festivals. The Tagbo Festival in January celebrates the founding of the town of Poro, through a re-enactment of the reconciliation of two warring tribes.

The Soli-Soli Festival, held every third Sunday of March in the town of San Francisco, is a creative tribute to the soli-soli plant – a source of livelihood for the locals. This festival also serves as a thanksgiving to the town’s patron saint.

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