A Travellerspoint blog

Coron, Palawan

Whilst being on dry land for the evening was a treat, the hustle and bustle of Coron town was not. And neither was the incredibly loud and terrible karaoke outside our room, which we were confined to most of the evening due to James managing to obtain a minor case of sun-stroke. It was to be expected, given both the guys had experienced a case of it already. James was just lucky it was after the five days on the boat trip. The next day, still feeling fragile, we took a trike out to one of the resorts and spent the afternoon by the pool. A well-deserved and relaxing day.
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That evening we walked the 700+ steps up Mount Tapyas to watch sunset over the island before meeting up with some of the people from our boat that evening for dinner and drinks. The top of Mount Tapyas offered spectacular views out across the town and to the many neighbouring islands that surround the island of Busuanga.
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The following day we headed out for a day of diving. Our first dive was at Lake Barracuda. A very different dive to usual in that it was both sea-water and fresh water with hot streams up to 39 degrees. Whilst initially, it was a little discomforting and we were concerned about being that hot for 45 minutes at 22 metres deep, it soon changed and we were in the cooler stream. The scenery looked a bit like the moon under water. The hot temperatures mean that there isn't much sea life there except some small catfish and prawns.

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No wet suit was needed in the 39 degree water.
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Next we headed to some wrecks for two wreck dives. The wrecks we explored were a Japanese cargo ship (Olympia Naru) and a naval aircraft ship (East Tangat Gunboat). Both wreckages were sunk in 1944 by the American navy during the Second World War. As our first wreck dive it was both amazing and at first a little nerve wracking diving inside the wreck. In the naval ship you could still see the perescope and the remains of the kitchen and boiler rooms.
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Our last evening on the island we took a trike out to the hot springs. An evening activity, due to not wanting to sit in 39 degree water during 30 degree weather. The springs were worth a visit, however, the journey there was hair raising. We took a trike with two others we met on the Tao trip. A motorcycle with a cart attached is not supposed to carry the weight of 4 people plus the driver in any situation, let alone on this road. It was quite possibly the worst maintained road in all of the Philippines. On three occasions going up a hill did we had to get out and walk and on the fourth when it conked out, I jumped out of the trike in fear of rolling back down. The trikes wait for you at the springs to take you back to town. I'd opted to jump in with Ivor and Phil for a slightly newer more robust looking trike (with music) and after attempting to go with our other trike James and the others ended up with another driver as his trike had burst a tyre and he also had to hitch a lift back with them on another trike. So, in summary, it was worth the trip but if I was to do it again I would choose a sturdier looking trike.

On our final day in Coron we moseyed around the town and had some farewell drinks with Ivor and Phil. Our hopeless hostel booked us an airport transfer that would barely get us there in time, however, we did make it only to find out the airline had over sold the flight and there was only space for one of us and he next available flight was in a few days time. Eventually, they worked it out as another passenger gave up their seat in return for some free flights. So we were pretty lucky and very grateful to said passenger. Finally, we were able to board and headed back to Manila for our final day in the Philippines.

Posted by Time Well Spent 13:50 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Tao Philippines

New Year's Eve saw us set sail on our 5 day island hopping tour with Tao. We had 22 people and 8 staff on board the boat and about 200km to cover. Each day consisted of exploring islands on route to Coron from El Nido. Tao have a number of base camps on the way, which is where we would stay each night. The accommodation is a basic hut and the shower situation consists of a bucket of water, although one camp had a strong water source and we were treated to a hose on the fourth and final night.

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Some of the huts
View from our hut and our hut.
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James climbing a coconut tree

Part of the crew included a chef, called Magic Mike, who would make sure we were all well fed and watered each day. Here we had some of the best food we've had in the Philippines. Much of the food was sourced on the way, either by fishing off the boat or purchasing fish and livestock from nearby villages. James even managed to catch a tuna. Some of the meals we ate included squid, calamari, ceviche, hog roast (lechón), pork shoulder, banana pancakes and a heap of fresh fruit and vegetables. It was unbelievable.

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Pork lechon / hog roast
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The kitchen at one of the islands (Tao base), that also had a farm.

Some of the farm animals / dinner
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Our first unlimited shower - a stream and a bucket.
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Each day we'd stop somewhere for snorkeling off the boat and the corals were amazing. I don't even know what all the species were that we saw but I was both lucky and unlucky enough to encounter two sea snakes. We also saw turtles, clownfish, lionfish, clams, and many, many more.

Our first night at camp was New Year's Eve and the crew had even bought along a few fire works that were set off to mark midnight, at least we think it was midnight, we didn't have watches or electricity most of the time and certainly no signal so checking your phone for the time wasn't an option either.
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James having his morning coffee
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There were a few sore heads the following day but we pulled up ok. That day, however, saw our first channel crossing as the sea was incredibly choppy. After an hour or so of holding it together, sea-sickness got the better of me and I ever so tactfully vomited over the side of the boat. The crew were on hand with ginger tea and honey, supposedly a good cure for sea sickness. Anyway it seemed to work and I was back to normal in time for lunch and a snorkel.
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We also became ship wrecked one day when the propellers for our boat got caught in some fishing nets and bent. Luckily another Tao boat, going the opposite direction was near by and able to pull us to camp (an amazing desert island), which was also luckily near by.
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Our boat being towed.

The crew hen took of the two propellers and went to work that afternoon fixing them with a piece of wood to hammer it straight and a beer bottle to check it was straight. It was impressive. And we got to spend the afternoon exploring the island, playing cards and drinking beer before the sunet. All in all, being ship wrecked wasn't too bad.

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On the final day we did some snorkeling at one of the sunken Japanese shipwrecks before lunch and heading to Coron town where the trip would end. That day James finally caught a fish after 4 days of trying. In fact four people did! And apparently they've never had so many caught on the boat before and our captain had to tell them we couldn't stop to pull in any more as we wouldn't make it back in time. The fish caught we fresh tuna that we had as fresh sashimi and a delicious ceviche they rustled up.

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It was sad when the trip had come to and end, however, I think everyone was looking forward to be spending a night in a proper bed and having a flushing toilet and shower (that wasn’t a cold bucket of water). It was definitely one of the best trips we have ever done and really hope to come back and do it again some time. Tao Philippines also have a sailing boat that does 6 days, so maybe we'll do that next time.
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Our boat
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Our route
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Our travel companions and amazing crew
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Posted by Time Well Spent 22:32 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

El Nido, Palawan

After our evening in Puerto Princessa we took a hire van up to El Nido, a rural beach town that has become a hub for tourists island hopping. It was a 5 hour drive along windy roads. We arrived early in the afternoon and after a spot of lunch, stuffed squids and calamari, we hired some kayaks and paddled out to a nearby beach. The sea was a little choppy but we made it there and back without capsizing.
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El Nido had electricity, however, this isn't always guaranteed and that evening as we were walking back to the room a lamp blew out a the town lost power. Many places have a backup generator but the town was pretty much plunged into darkness, along with our hotel, although oddly that was the only time our WiFi worked.
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On our final day in El Nido we took a dive boat out and went diving around the islands. After swimming out to the dive boat (it's too shallow for the boats to come into shore and only one jetty) we headed to the first and best site in South Maniloc. The visibility was 15 metres and along with a plethora of fish we saw an amazing reef of giant cabbages and a turtle! So, unless I saw two turtles on the next dive things weren’t getting much better. We did three dives in total that day and had lunch on the boat. A delicious feast of chicken, fish, muscles, baked eggplant and or course, rice; all cooked on a BBQ on the back of the boat.

That evening we headed to Tao Philippines to have our briefing and meet the rest of the people on our 5 day boat trip through the islands us to Coron.

Posted by Time Well Spent 22:22 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Puerto Princessa, Palawan

From Boracay, we took two short flights that took over half the day to get to Puerto Princessa in Palawan.

After arriving at the hotel we headed straight to the pool for some beers at the swim up bar.

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When the sun had set we hit the indoor bar. After a trike ride to an up market restaurant by the water that was fully booked we were sent in the direction of the local sea food market instead. We dined on a feast of seafood and rice during a humongous downpour (aftermath of the typhoon).

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After dinner stumbled upon some sort of outdoor casino set amongst makeshift tents and a very boggy ground. The games consisted of putting some money down on a colour or card number and throwing a ball (football to ping pong size) and if it landed on said colour you got a pay out. The odds were pretty good and we came away winning. Albeit by about $2(!). That was sadly all we had time for in Puerto Princessa.

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Posted by Time Well Spent 22:17 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Boracay

We Arrived in Boracay after a short flight, coach to the airport terminal from the runway that went through the town(!), trike, ferry and another trike. We pitched up at Pito huts that would be our base for the next four days.
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The ferry ride.
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Our hut

It being Christmas Eve we headed out to explore and hit the bars for some drinks. We had a lovely dinner at Tito's and then things escalated to more beers and some nasty shots.
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The following day (Christmas Day) was a late start. Partly due to last nights festivities and because of the rain. As it happened we seem to have fled a typhoon that hit Manila and some of the more northern islands. Not knowing what happened to Ivor and Phil that night we didn't expect to see them too early. We were up at 11 and went to explore, that meant finding a cup of tea and banana pancakes with a view. That evening was a quiet affair with an early dinner where we tried the local delicacy, Lechon. Basically a hog roast.

We were all feeling a lot more perky on Boxing Day and headed out early to explore the island and walk up Mount Luho. It wasn't a particularly taxing walk, it is only 100m above sea level, but it was steaming hot. The view was worth it, with panoramic views of the island.
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After walking a bit further and realising we had no idea where we were going we jumped in a trike to Puka beach and spent the afternoon napping and swimming before taking a trike back to the main strip to try True Food on the sea front for a curry, which was delicious.
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We then walked to the northern end of the island along the beach and around the cliff face in a carved out path to catch sunset at Spider bar.
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On our final day we started with a scuba dive, as the sea conditions had finally improved from the effects of the typhoon. We took some crackers down and fed some fish as we reached the bottom which saw hundreds of brightly coloured fish swarm us and occasionally mistake a hand for food. The scenery was pretty special.

We went back to Puka beach that afternoon. After some snorkeling off the beach we hired a boat to take us to snorkel at crocodile island, which was arguably more amazing than the scuba diving, with so much reef and sea life to see. We then took the boat back during sunset and arrived just in time to grab a beer and watch the sun disappear from the sea.
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The next morning we left early to tackle the trike-boat-trike-coach back to the airport. It was surprisingly much quicker on the way back.

Posted by Time Well Spent 22:09 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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