Scattered at the east of Camarines Norte, Siete Pecados is an island-hopping gem. Also called the Mercedes Group of Islands, each stop in its route has a distinct feature.
“I want Mercedes to be known for something that we own,” says tour guide Harold Apolinario.
Locals also impose conservation efforts and maintain a healthy marine ecosystem within Mercedes by establishing fishery reserves. There are also regulated area for fishing.
Apuao Pequeña and Apuao Grande Islands
Apuao Pequeña and Apuao Grande are two islands adjoined by a sandbar.
Apuao Grande is the larger of the two and has beach cottages with amenities for rent. Tourists would usually set up their tents in this island as the area is ideal for overnight camping and beach bonfires.
Meanwhile, the 40-hectare Apuao Pequeña is filled with pine trees, a good spot for camping and just relaxing by the beach. Fruit bats can be seen flying around the island.
“The first ever Bicol Hammock Festival was actually held here at Apuao Pequeña where we also showcased environmental protection and conservation,” says Apolinario.
Near to Apuao is Quinapaguian Island. While it is often skipped among the seven islands, it is still worth visiting. Expect to be welcomed by lined seashells and branches of driftwood by the shore.
Sometimes, you can have the whole island to yourself. Tourists would definitely enjoy spending a quiet time on this island.
Malasugui is the smallest island where tourists would spend time taking photos. It is famous for its sand bar facing the west suitable for scenic sunset views.
This rocky island is a haven for mangrove trees. Canton prides itself with caves where travelers can do spelunking during low tide. Some may also try kayaking all the way to the cave’s entrance.
“Locals love to share myths and stories about the islands. Canton Island is considered as one of the most mysterious,” Apoinatio says.
Divers, the tour guide continues, would try to explore the cave. But as they go deeper and farther, their underwater safety lights would always, inexplicably, turn off.
“That’s why it remains unexplored,” he shares.
Canimog is Siete Pecados’ biggest island. If you look at the island from afar, especially during the boat ride from the jump-off point, you would see that it is shaped like a crocodile.
It is the closest island to the mainland and houses Bicol’s oldest lighthouse. Filled with fruit-bearing trees, it is also home to wildlife such as fruit bats and wild boars.
Upon arriving at the island, you will see a 104-step stone staircase above the pebble beach.
Climbing up will lead you to its peak where an almost 100-year old lighthouse sits. It used to be petrol-powered, but now runs on solar.
The furthest of the seven islands, Caringo is also a marine sanctuary inhabited by a small fishing community. Locals recommend visiting if you are into snorkeling.
The jump off point to Siete Pecados is from Mercedes Fish Port. Boat rentals can be arranged with the tourism office of Mercedes, travel agencies and tour operators accredited by the Department of Tourism Office in the Bicol region.
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Bicol. Click on this link for a comprehensive list of agencies.
Explore Camarines Norte responsibly by making sure that you comply with the province’s health and safety protocols, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
For the latest travel information about Camarines Norte, you may visit their official website or Facebook page. You may also review updated safety protocols and requirements on Philippine destinations at www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel