Be enchanted by the Enchanted River

It had been raining on and off the past few days but we've agreed that no matter what, rain or shine, we're going. So at around 5 in the morning, with the sky all dark, moonless and starless, we set out for the Enchanted River in Surigao del Sur.


Hinatuan, on the northeastern part of Mindanao, is a second class municipality with about 40,000 people. It's divided into 24 barangays and includes barangay Talisay where this amazing wonder of nature is located.

What's behind these greens?

The Enchanted River at high tide.

Being a coastal town, Hinatuan offers some of the freshest seafood this side of Mindanao. And as one of the government's waste management efforts, Hinatuan is totally plastic-free. You'd have to have your own shopping bag or make do with old newspapers for packaging.

Old newspapers for wrapping your seafood. 

Best for kinilaw, sinabaw or sinugba!

The Enchanted River

I've first heard about this place a few years back from some friends. And ever since, I've been wanting to go. Unfortunately for me however, I wasn't able to. Not before most of my friends and my friends' friends, and their friends from places much farther away got to see the place for themselves. Hah! How unfair was that! Agusan del Sur being the family's hometown, Hinatuan is quite pretty near. So every time someone asks me about it, or merely mentions it in a conversation, I kinda flip out!

But not anymore!

I finally got to be enchanted by the Enchanted River for real!

This is actually a medium-sized very blue basin-like part of the river that has such crystal-clear water that you can actually see the depths below. When I first saw it I wondered where the water's coming from since the 'basin' is right next to a hill. As it turned out, water gushes out from beneath the mountains. And so the unseen part of the river is an underground one and what we see and refer to as the Enchanted River is the visible end that leads out to sea.

Steps leading back up from icy river water.

It may seem really shallow because of the water magnifying things but I tell you it is not. In fact it's very deep. Early dive attempts to  determine its depth did not turn out successful right out. Although divers got to explore the underground part later on, it was eventually prohibited due to safety concerns.

Steps down to the river.

A ringing bell at 12 noon signals lunchtime. Two-legged ones are asked to leave the water so the finned ones can enjoy their feeding time as well.


Wait, there's actually more!

The River itself is so much worth the long trip but there's actually more! You can head out to sea via small motorboats or what's locally known as bangka and go island hopping! Visit a fish pen/restaurant a bit - just a bit - far out into the Pacific where you can eat lunch, belt out in videoke, or spend the night. 

Old bamboo walkway to the waiting bangkas. 

Heading out to sea.

Fish pen no. 2

These sea-turtles (locally known as pawikan) were eventually given their freedom to roam the ocean.

Smaller ones were also available.

Frolic in the waters of more islets.

Souvenir shop in one of the bigger islets.

And even go enter and exit on opposite sides of the mountain and play caveman!

Unfinished structure near the cave's mouth.

Seaside shanties as seen from the bangka on the way back from island hopping.

Pretty scenery.


So how to get there?

If you're coming from somewhere beyond the island of Mindanao, several airlines such as Cebu Pacific, PAL and Air Asia have daily 60 to 120-minute flights to Butuan City in the northeast, Surigao City in the east northeast and Davao City in the southeast.

There are available vehicles for hire that can take you directly to Hinatuan for a fixed price and drop by Bislig's Tinuy-an falls along the way. Or you can board Bachelor Express buses from all three locations to Mangagoy, drop by the junction to the Enchanted river marked by a huge signboard and take a habal-habal ride to the spot.  Travel from Davao city usually takes about 4 to 5 hours, from Butuan city - about 2 to 3 hours and from Surigao city - a little more than 3 hours.

No need to worry if you don't have baon (packed lunch/food) for there are several stalls located right before the resort where you can buy and have food cooked. Or you could shop in the local market and cook your food yourselves. Like we did. 

That's kinilaw in the round container, sinugbang  (grilled) fish and sinugbang pork.

And what's the budget?

Vehicles for hire - usually vans with driver included, can range from 2,000 Php (about $50 USD) and up depending on where you're starting from and how long you're going to be using the vehicle. Fuel and driver allowance (i.e. meals) are or are not included depending on what you've agreed upon with the operator/owner.

Food from the booths near the Enchanted River usually costs about 20 Php (about $3 USD) depending on the dish you ordered. A plate of rice good for 3-4 persons is around 60 Php.

Entrance fees are 30 Php for adults and 5 Php for kids 4ft and below.

Cottage fees range from 100 to 500 Php (about $2 to $11 USD).

Life vests, goggles, and life buoys are also available for rent at very minimal hourly rates.

Motorized boats or bangkas for island hopping are at 160 Php per hour and accommodates 4 persons.

The Enchanted River is open daily from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm. For more inquiries, you can contact the Hinatuan River Management at (+63) 920-259-5554 or the Hinatuan Tourism Officer at (+63) 919-460-0855.

Window into the river.

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