Among the islands of the Philippines, are some extraordinarily beautiful places to visit. Some take a bit of an effort to reach them, because they are quite remote, but in a way, that is what makes these places so attractive to us.
We have visited these caves on several occasions, without ever actually entering the caves themselves, because we are more interested in the orchids which grow around the caves, than the limestone formations within the caves.
Fortunately, Sohoton Caves are located within the boundaries of a National Park, and the taking of anything, apart from pictures, is prohibited. We also note that there are rangers roaming the area.
Back then, the first port of call on a trip to the caves was to the office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Basey, to register and pay for the boat trip, fees and guides into the caves. If the weather was sunny, and the water smooth, the ride to the caves took about 90 minutes. After Super-typhoon Yolanda, changes were made to bring down costs of gasoline for boats and speeding up the travel time to the caves. One still needs to go to the DOT office in Basey, but they will arrange a ride to a barangay, nearer to the caves, and your journey via boat starts from there. In addition, after the cave tour one can rent kayaks and enjoy a marvellous short ride up river (flanked by breathtaking rock formations, flora and fauna) towards the Natural Bridge, which itself is an awe-inspiring wonder.
Upon arrival at the caves, there are people to assist you from the boat, and to direct you to the caves, if you so desire to see them. There was a walkway, attached to the huge limestone rocks, and this went along the side of the river. We would guess that the walkway was about 5 to 10 meters above the river and the branches of the trees, which grow on the rivers’ edge, could be observed perfectly and more importantly the many orchid species which grow upon them.
We have observed plants of Dendrobium crumenatum, and we have seen it in flower. One time when we went there it was our lucky day, because we were fortunate enough to find a most delightful color form of Flickingeria fimbriata, in bloom. This genus produces flowers which only last for a single day, so we were in the right place at the right time. This plant was also interesting in that it was growing on the limestone as a lithophyte, rather than in the branches of the trees where it usually resides. Also, growing on the branches of the trees are beautiful plants of Aporum merrillii, with its saw-like leaves, and tiny white blooms. On the same branches are plants of an Oxystophyllum species. The growth habit of this genus is similar to that of Aporum merrillii but the leaves of the Oxystophyllum are much more acutely pointed.
We have also observed a colony of the miniature vandaceous species, Pteroceras philippinense, growing here, with its short lived, yellow flowers, bearing red markings at the base of the floral segments.
In our opinion, a trip to Sohoton Caves is a day well-spent, out in the fresh air, being surrounded by the majesty of Mother Nature. Even if orchids aren’t in flower, the sheer number, and diversity, of other plants such as alocasias, ferns, begonias, etc. is inspiring enough to come back and explore some more. What else could one want?