Five Reasons to Explore Calbiga Caves in Samar
If Boracay and Bohol are the bubbly cheerleaders and party girls, Samar would be the tough-as-nails mysterious bad boy with a past. This unassuming island in the Eastern Visayas region, within the central Philippine region that is often battered by typhoons that have made its residents only the more resilient. Samar is place where adventure seekers can experience something out of the ordinary. It offers many fascinating secrets hidden behind its rugged exterior.
The main draw of Samar is its amazing network of caves hidden beneath the region’s lush jungles, including the biggest cave system in the country: Calbiga Caves. As caves around the country have long been reputed to be lairs of mythical creatures, they don’t attract the same crowds as beaches and waterfalls, but with interest from foreign spelunkers, locals are starting to see the tourism potential of caves.
It’s home to the largest cave system in the Philippines
The Langun-Gobingob Caves in the town of Calbiga (more popularly known as Calbiga Caves) in Samar province is the largest cave system in the Philippines. It’s reputed to be the second largest in Asia and the world’s third largest karst formation, measuring seven kilometers long with an area of 900 square kilometers.
Calbiga Caves are made up of 12 different caves, including Langun, Gobingob, Lurodpon and Bitong Mahangin. It’s a massive complex with unique rock formations, subterranean water courses, and natural springs inhabited by cave crickets, bats, blind crabs, blind fish, and the occasional snake.
There are caverns as big as football fields, some with ceilings that could rival cathedrals, there are natural pools, gardens of stalactites and stalagmites, countless tunnels and crawlspaces, and a mountain of guano. One of the most exciting parts involves descending down a vertical cliff and rappelling down into a chamber 40 meters below with the aid of climbing ropes.
While you can do a day hike to visit Calbiga Caves, some extreme spelunkers even stay two or even three days inside the system, just to explore all the different chambers.
Getting there and back is an adventure in itself
The town of Calbiga is about 1.5 hours from Catbalogan City in Samar. To get to the caves, you have to take a bus to Calbiga, then hop on sturdy motorbikes – the local mode of transport that regularly ferries up to four or even five passengers. At the jump-off point in Brgy. Panayuran, you can continue on foot through amazing views.
It takes an hour-long hike through pastoral fields, thickly forested trails and unique flora, and clambering over steep (almost vertical) paths just to get to the entrance of Calbiga Caves.
During day hikes, visitors get to traverse through the main chambers, spending about four hours inside the caves, then exiting at a different point and heading to another village, which is another three hour ascent back through barely visible trails flanked by high foliage and thick forests. At the end of the trail is a rewarding view of the sunset overlooking at hill.
You get professionally led tours from the locals themselves
Caving tours are organized by Trexplore The Adventures, and adventure outfitter led by cave master and Speleologist Joni Abesamis Bonifacio, who has been acidly exploring his home province of Samar for the past two decades. Joni has led countless caving expeditions with international spelunkers responsible for discovering previously unknown cave systems.
Trexplore employs locals to serve as porters and additional guides, giving them an alternative source of income. They take care of all the equipment, transportation requirements, permits, food, and even photography so you can enjoy the experience to the fullest.
You get a taste of local specialties
While caving is an epic adventure in itself, Trexplore makes sure to infuse their tours with native food specialties. This way, foreign and local tourists can savor unique treats in the region during the caving experience.
Our energy boosters while hiking included binagol, a local delicacy made of grated talyan root ( a type of root crop similar to taro) steamed in a coconut milk, condensed milk, sugar, and cooked like sticky cake. We also got to try corioso, crunchy butter cookies imprinted with intricate designs, which are another specialty of Samar.
Caving offers an adventure unlike any other
As you’ll be spending most of the time underground, it’s an activity you can do in either sunny or wet weather.
Caving offers a different sensory experience. In the darkness, you’ll have to rely on your other senses, which seem heightened. Subtle sounds become more noticeable, the soft trickle of water dripping down from rock formation, the squishing of slick mud beneath your feet, the flapping of bats wings from the cavern’s ceiling.
The scenery in Calbiga Caves is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. With chamber upon chamber as large as coliseums. the light from our headlamps barely made a dent in the dark. The surreal underground landscape really brings images of the Underworld to mind – it’s one of the most unique extreme experiences you can experience.
At the end of the day, you can say you explored the Underworld and lived to tell the tale.