There’s a swimming hole on an island in the Philippines that is so blue and so clear that you have to visit it to convince yourself the photos of it aren’t Photoshopped. This stretch of the Hinatuan River is called the Enchanted river and it’s steeped in folklore. There are stories about fairies and elves being responsible for its incredible colour and other stories about fireflies and mystical happenings around the river.
The river flows into a deep pool that was once used for logging. The crystal clear aquamarine waters are a mix of fresh spring water and sea water that seeps in from where the river meets the ocean downstream. The water is so clear that you can see to the bottom. For a long time, there was a rumour that no one had ever been to the bottom and so no one really knew how deep the pit was. But that’s not true — it’s 80 feet or 24 metres deep. There’s an underwater cave down below that only adds to the mystique of the place. Divers have made their way inside, down a narrow passage that leads into a spacious chasm.
There are fish in the pit, but they mostly go unseen until noon every day when the locals feed the fish scraps, drawing them up to the surface. There’s a small entrance fee to get in, but you’re free to swim, though visibility in the water decreases a bit when there are lots of people in there moving things around. You can rent a life jacket and you can even take a boat downstream to where the river meets the sea.
Quick facts – Enchanted River
Best time to go: Weekdays
Worst time to go: The Enchanted River can get really busy around Christmas time.
Average hotel price: $15 (Yes, $15!!!)
Do arrive early. The site closes every day at 5 pm.
Don’t expect a smooth ride in. The road to the river is rough and bumpy, but worth it!
Top 5 things to do at the Enchanted River
- Bring a mask and snorkel to get an even more incredible view of the river from below the surface.
- Rent a boat and cruise out to where the river meets the sea.
- Stick around for the fish feeding every day at noon.
- Grab some seafood for lunch from one of the food vendors on site.
- If you’re not a strong swimmer, rent a lifejacket and float in the shallow area just down from the deep pool.
Closer to home
The Sooke Potholes might be the best freshwater swimming on Vancouver Island. Tens of thousands of years ago, a glacier carved deep rock pools into this waterway, which are now full of water from the Sooke River. There are various pools to choose from and lots of hiking trails in the area, about a half hour from Victoria.