It was the clearest pool of water I've ever seen - a natural spring of shimmering azure and emerald water.
When the light got harsh in Tinuy-an Falls, we decided to check out the "Enchanted River" in the nearby town of Hinatuan, less than an hour away from Bislig. I was already prepared on what we may see there: crowds, but the photos I've seen of the crystal clear pool piqued my interest. Not much to shoot there probably and it was already close to midday.
A packed parking lot and a long queue at the gate greeted us. It was a Monday (I was praying for a smaller crowd), but the place is brimming with tourists. Just about every tourist in Surigao del Sur would probably drop by Enchanted River once during their visit.
But as soon as I got a closer look at the attraction, I began to realize why people would gravitate to this place. Most visitors' first instinct would probably be to throw their belongings in one corner and jump right into the water. As soon as we got a table, it was exactly what we did. "Inviting" would be a huge understatement.
No one really knew as to when folks started calling this place "Enchanted River". This used to be a log pool during the PICOP days (largest paper mill in Asia). There was a time when only the locals knew of this place as it’s well hidden within a forested area. The name probably stemmed from superstitious belief that fairies and other supernatural beings inhabit the place. Several years ago the local government started developing the place as a tourist attraction, and it’s now one of the most popular tourist traps in the province.
The river flows for about 600 meters out to the Hinatuan Bay. Just further down from the main swimming area, you'll find outrigger boats for hire to take you island hopping.
By 12:00 noon, a daily ritual ensues. A few minutes before noon time, the swimmers are asked to leave the water. As if on cue, a mirage of fishes (some large ones would probably be a couple of kilos in weight) started to appear. A bell is rang and several resort staff come to the edge of the pool with diced squid and octopus. The next few minutes are an interesting feeding frenzy scene.
I could image the time when this place was a quiet swimming hole. During that period, this place must have really been enchanting. But it’s good to know that the local government is taking steps to make this place sustainable. For example, during the peak season when the crowd size really swells, the resort management would limit the number of people inside. Others would have to wait outside until some group leaves. The resort staff is also mindful of properly disposing trash and would immediately check on areas occupied by leaving guests. They would also offer to dispose of your trash for you.
The local government should however be careful with the extent of the "development". I have seen photos of the place (around 2007) before the concrete structures were built and a lot of people would certainly prefer that state than the current one.