Descent Into The Bito Depression, Samal Island.

I had already visited the Bito Depression Samal Island before, but that was on my mountain bike and only at the top near the school so all I could do is to peer into it's mysterious depths hundreds of feet below. But I was sufficiently intrigued that I resolved to return and if possible make the descent to explore it's depths another day. Read about my first visit HERE.

The Bito Depression is a large deep circular hole in the ground with very steep walls which is in fact the open end of a canyon in which the River Hagimit flows. It is located in Barangay Guilon.

There are three ways you can hope to descend into The Bito Depression, one is via ropes and abseiling from the top, this if fine if you have the right equipment, are experienced, and have a team behind you. The second way is the rough descent which the local kids use, this is accessible after a short walk down the path at the right behind the school. I have tried this way and my advice is if you like life don't bother, but again it might be fine for adults with ropes etc.

The third way is the way I went today, basically follow the riverbed in. After looking at the site on Google Earth and talking with the locals I found a nice easy path down to the riverbed some distance from the depression itself. Once on the riverbed you then turn right and walk about a kilometre back into the actual Bito Depression. The walk down to the riverbed through the trees is a cakewalk, however the walk along the riverbed is not, at first it is fine, you will see a few rocks, but as you advance the rocks grow in number and size. Small rocks to twist your ankles and larger rocks you must clamber over and be frightened about falling from. But hey I made it and I am 65 years of age!

After about 45 minutes or so of clambering and minor climbing you will come into the depression itself, this final part is the worst as you will encounter some very large rocks blocking your way, but look about, take care, there is a way through. Finally you will be rewarded by the sight of the towering cliffs above you as lesser mortals look down from the top. I had imagined a sandy bottom with the bat cave facing you horizontally, this is not the case. The ground here is very uneven and at the very end the bat cave is visible, a large vertical mysterious black hole in the floor of the depression like the plug hole in a sink with the bats circling round in it's depths.

Although called the Hagimit River on the map normally this is just a dry river bed most of the time, but when there is sufficient rain I can imagine the torrents of water rushing through and disappearing into the depths of the earth at the cave at the bottom of the depression which is the only exit for the water flow. I am told that the waters emerge again at the Hagimit Falls.

There are things to see here. Where there are bats there are pythons, these are harmless and if you go quietly you may see one, large bright tropical birds are in evidence flying along the river bed and you can also hear the Kookoo call of the lizards now and again. The remains of a few chicken carcases are in evidence amongst the rocks which points to the presence of wildcats, they have no doubt carried the chickens from the cock fighting farm above as the birds I saw were ringed. The wildcats themselves are always elusive.

Once you have reached the end you have no option but to rest a while and go back the way you came, but have a look at the rocks and river bed and the surroundings as you go back, it is all limestone and ancient coral. Look carefully and you will see many sorts of seas shells including the giant clam shell, some still embedded in the rocks waiting for water erosion to release them, and other on the river bed itself. Evidence that many thousands of years ago all this was under water.

About half way back keep your eyes open for an ancient balete tree on your right, there may be evidence of a camp fire on the river bed and discarded rubbish from past human presence in front of it { If it is not now washed away } which is what we saw first. Climb up a little and around the roots of the balete tree you will see a couple of small hidden openings down into the depths of the earth, when you peer into the larger one you will see a ladder leading down. What this is all about I can only guess, clearly not gold mining because of the limestone and coral composition of Samal Island. However balete trees are always associated with various legends and such so this could be another dig for the fabled General Yamashita's wartime gold and this tree could be a landmark. Perhaps someone that likes pot holing and caves? Local kids? Who knows, as a foreigner I have no idea?

You should however take care round such places because if it is a secret excavation in search of General Yamashita's gold the people responsible for it are not going to be very pleased with you paying too much attention to it. After they may think that you have come to steal the gold bars they are digging for { Which most likely do not exist anyway} and this could make them very upset indeed. Just a thought, so be vigilant if you are going to check this out.

Directions : { Fine by normal car, good road surfaces all the way, not good by bike because you will be quite tired after the trek into the depression }

1. Leave the roll on roll off ferry terminal and turn left towards Babak.

2. At the first roundabout take the first exit marked Pena Plata, climb the hill and then go straight until you pick up the T- junction at the main road, proceed towards Pena Plata.

3. At Pena Plata look for the sign on your left for The Town Hall, take that and go up the hill.

4. At the top of the hill the road forks, take the right fork and proceed for about mile until you see a sign which says " Welcome Guilon Elementary School " turn left at this point and you have arrived at the top of the Bito Depression. There is a green area lined by trees and shrubs immediately on your left where you can park and the depression is visible through this vegetation, you can glimpse the bottom of it from here.

5. Having seen your destination for the descent go back the way you came a short distance until you see a fighting cock farm on your right. Park your car opposite and enter the farm but keep to your left, follow the path past one house and then when you see a second house in front of you with a fence in front of it look for the path to descend to the river bed on your right. Descend to the river bed and then turn right and follow the river bed till you get to your destination. { See my photos below for the fighting cock farm and the first and second houses I mentioned. }

Precautions :

1. Check the weather forecast before you go, you do not want to be on the riverbed or in the depression itself if there is a flash flood.

2. Have suitable footwear for trekking and have enough water to keep yourself hydrated, you will sweat.

3. Don't go there on your own in case of mishap.

4. If you are a foreigner have someone with you fluent in Bisaya who is confident in handling local people, you are going to be crossing private land to get to the riverbed, so it is possible that the local inhabitants may not be overjoyed to see you or may want an explanation. However given the nature of the Philippines people a bit of politeness and diplomacy will pretty well always overcome this.

See the photos I took that day : HERE