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.
Some of the huts
View from our hut and our hut.
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.
Pork lechon / hog roast
The kitchen at one of the islands (Tao base), that also had a farm.
Some of the farm animals / dinner
Our first unlimited shower - a stream and a bucket.
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.
James having his morning coffee
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our travel companions and amazing crew