Archive for the 'Palawan' Category

02
Mar
15

Philippines : PP Underground River


The Ultimate Underground River

Welcome to Palawan, the Philippines’ last frontier and home to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and also one of the World Heritage Sites in the country.
CSC_0231It is the world’s longest navigable underground river at 8.2 kilometers with a lot of amazing natural structures inside.

 

Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave.

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DSC_0207Avoid carrying plastic bags in the open as the monkeys tend to think they are food items and they could grab them. Otherwise they are harmless unless you touch them.
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At the cave’s opening, a lagoon with clear waters is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water’s edge.



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Up to 10 persons are allowed in a boat.  If you opt to have more privacy during the boat tour, you can nicely request the tour operators ahead of time to have your group take the entire boat.  This would also depend on the crowd waiting.  Our group of 5 people was allowed to take the entire boat.

 

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Upon entering the cave, the only light that you would have is the headlight of the boatman/tour guide. Unless you have your own powerful light, it is very difficult to rely on the boatman’s headlight for sights that you would like to capture on camera.  Most of the time even camera flash is not enough.  As we did not bring our own light, I tried my best to capture the sceneries where the headlight was currently focused.

 

Here are some of the things we captured:
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A female fish head with eyeliner.

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Tom and Jerry.
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Lady in boots and a panda.
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A giant garlic.
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The biggest chamber of the underground river is known as the cathedral which is halfway into the tour. (Credits to Geb Bunado for the cathedral photo.)
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Here you can find the giant candle among other statues.

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You can also spot Pegasus resting.

 

 

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You will then pass through the “highway”.

 

Normally, some few more meters after passing through the highway the tour will end.  However, if you request the boatman/tour guide to take you to the sea cow fossil, then it would be another mile beyond the normal tour route.  And we did exactly that!
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We were able to see the recently discovered fossil of the 20 million year old Sirenia, commonly know today as the Sea cow or Dugong, of the Miocene period which is plastered on a limestone wall.  This became the highlight of the underground river tour. On the way back, you will pass the same route that you had earlier and you will have another chance to take those photos again.

 


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Finally, we were out of the cave.
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It was an experience of a lifetime with my parents and friends visiting this natural wonder right in our home country.

 

 

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Goodbye PPUR!

 

I would like to share some things to consider when visiting PPUR.

 

when to go

To avoid extremely choppy boat rides, you need to visit the Underground River from December until May.

 

how to go

PPUR can only be reached via Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa.  Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia have one-hour flights from Manila to this laid back capital city that is the jump off point to many of Palawan’s other natural attractions like Honday Bay, El Nido, Taytay, Tabon and San Vicente.  You can check my blog here on the best places to go in Palawan.

From Puerto Princesa, there are a lot of vans that would take you from the airport to Sabang Beach in less than 2 hours.  From Sabang Beach terminal, a short walk away is the port where boats are docked that would take you to PPUR.  You need to get a ticket ahead of time as there is a limited number of visitors allowed per day. There are packages from travel agencies that would offer the PPUR tour for 1,200 pesos including the van from the airport to Sabang and back. You also need a licensed tour guide to go with you.  At the port you need to wait for your name or your group’s name to be called when you’re ready for boarding the boat.  The entire PPUR tour starting from the Sabang Beach port and back could be done in around 2 hours.
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This is the area where boats would load the passengers going to the Underground River.

 

 

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This is the future plan for the Sabang Wharf.

 

what to do

Sabang Beach is the gateway to the natural wonder.  You can either base yourself in Puerto Princesa or stay for one or two nights in Sabang Beach.  The few things you can do around Sabang Beach is to visit the Underground River, hang out at the quiet beach or ride the nearby zipline. If you are checked in at the two major resorts in Sabang Beach, they have a lot of resort facilities that you can use. I prefer staying just one or two nights in Sabang Beach because I would rather go back to Puerto Princesa area and spend time in nicer Dos Palmas in Honday Bay with almost the same rate.
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This is Sabang Beach right in front of the resort where we stayed which is discussed next.

 

where to stay and eat

If you opt to stay around Sabang Beach for a while and just want a really simple place to stay, you can select from the many inexpensive lodging houses lining the beach.  If you want a nicer place to stay, you can choose between the area’s only two major resorts, Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa and Daluyon Mountain & Beach Resort, a few steps away from each other.

 

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I have chosen Daluyon because of its more natural feel, native charm, eco-friendliness and slightly cheaper price than Sheridan.

 

 

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The air-conditioned rooms are all sea-facing and they are simply amazing where you can open the doors and windows for a more relaxed and airy feel.

 

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Cabana 102 was perfect for us.  They also have a three-bedroom suite that can accommodate 6 persons with private pool and dining area.

 

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Its common adult and kiddie pools at the back of the resort have the mountain view.

 

Sheridan is more contemporary.

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The resort has a really huge pool.

 

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If you like a modern place to stay then Sheridan would suit your needs.  Since our breakfast at Daluyon was complimentary, we tried having our lunch at Sheridan one time and the food was good.

 

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We also had some afternoon drinks at Sheridan too. There are other smaller and cheaper restaurants lining the shore that are alternative dining options and we enjoyed them too!

If you have any questions about this trip, you can leave me a message in the comment section with your email or you can email me directly at eaniban@yahoo.com.
18
Dec
14

Philippines : The Best of Palawan


My love affair with Palawan started late.  Before I stepped on what is considered as the Philippines’ last frontier, I was frisking on the beaches of the more famous islands in Asia and the Caribbean. I was practically ignoring a spectacular island right at home that could easily trump all the other islands in the world with its diverse natural beauty, underwater and above water.  In 2011, I finally visited one of Palawan’s famous destinations, Coron Island, and I could vividly remember tears in my eyes as the plane was about to land at Busuanga airport as I was overwhelmed seeing a stunning display of nature from above. After that I became resolute on visiting more of the numerous jaw-dropping sites in one of the world’s most breathtaking islands. After Coron, I then visited El Nido, San Vicente, Honday Bay, Sabang Beach and the Underground River. I have always wanted to go back and explore more.

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Travel + Leisure readers voted Palawan as the best island in 2013 (click here).  In the following year, Conde Nast Traveler readers voted Palawan as the top island in the  world (click here).  The island, located on the western part of the Philippines, is truly getting international attention lately and I am torn between sad and joyous.  Sad because the island’s current popularity could bring in throngs of visitors that could possibly lead to environmental decay of the area if utmost care is not given; joyous because my country is in the spotlight and tourism would boom which is good for the economy. Oh yes, the Philippines probably need more tourists as it is still getting less than 5 million visitors each year, a pathetic figure compared with that of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

With everything said, I am presenting this article to showcase the best I have seen (and to be seen) in the island of Palawan arranged below based on geographical area.

1.  TUBBATAHA REEF 

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reef has a higher density of marine species than any other place on earth.  It is the undisputed jewel of the spectacular Coral Triangle with its unbelievable biodiversity. The reef provides shelter for more than 25% of all known marine species including 7,000 species of fish and 400 species of coral.  This is a must visit for scuba divers. Please click here to read one of the blogs on Tubbataha Reef. Photo c/o http://www.jajajajamby.com

 

2.  LINAPACAN 

Scott SporlederSituated between the Coron and El Nido, Linapacan is the least known of the three destinations but its remote location and pure state earned it the world’s clearest waters.  Please click here for more details.

 

3.  CORON & OUTLYING ISLANDS

Coron is known for its stunning underwater sceneries especially its scuba and wreck diving sites.  And that is not all, Coron is blessed with islands boasting of world-class white sand beaches, lagoons and lakes. Somebody wrote: “Ominous walls of jungle-covered black karst erupt from the surrounding turquoise seas. Jagged and spectacular, Coron Island is the ultimate karst showpiece. As mountainous as Yangshuo, as labyrinthine as the Stone Forest, mid-ocean like Halong or Pang Nga, and as razor-edged as the spiky tsingy of Madagascar, Coron trumps them all. The place is pure magic.”

Please see my blogs on Coron here and another one here.

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Malcapuya Island – For me this island has the best beach in the Philippines for now. It can be reached via a 2-hour boat ride from Coron town.  It is pristine, lovely, unadulterated, tranquil.  The underwater scenery is also spectacular. One of the reasons why it maintains its natural beauty is that no boats are allowed to dock on its shores. The docking area is located at a rocky area at the back of the island a few minutes walk to the main beach.

 

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Huma Island – One of the newer private-island resorts to open in Palawan is Huma Island Resort occupying the entire island. With over the water villas each with private jacuzzi, the resort offers a Maldives-like atmosphere. Photo c/o Huma Island Resort.

 

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Kayangan Lake – Reputed to be the cleanest lake in Asia, Kayangan Lake has clear waters with visibility several meters deep. A short climb to the top of the mountain brings you to a picturesque view that is uniquely depicting Coron.  That usual photo (not shown here) is actually not Kayangan Lake (shown above) yet but  just the waterway one will be passing on the way to Kayangan Lake’s entrance.

 

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Ariara Island – Ariara Island is a private-island retreat for the high-spirited individuals accommodating up to 18 guests of the same group on the island at any given time. It was #1 in a Vogue UK list of top holiday destinations for being the most decadent for group holidays.  Please check here for the article. Visit http://www.ariaraisland.com.

 

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Lake Barracuda – Lake Barracuda is one of Coron’s primary attractions. It is of more interest to divers for its unique layers of fresh, salt and brackish water and dramatic temperature shifts, which can reach as high as 38°C. It’s accessible by a short but tricky 25m climb over a jagged rocky wall that ends directly in the water.

 

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Bulog Dos IslandThis is a neighboring island of Malcapuya.  The tiny castaway island became easily an option for me as a location of an intimate beach wedding and so I thought.  The emerald waters surrounding it caught my attention.

 

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Banana Island – Just next to Bulog Dos and across Malcapuya Island is Banana Island which is usually more crowded as there are a number of lodging options in the island.

 

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Banol Beach – This is a popular stop for island tours during lunch.  With spectacular limestone formation and crystal clear waters this is one of the paradise islands nearer to Coron town.

 

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Black Island – A long boat ride from Coron town will bring you to an island that has almost everything you want in a beach destination – wide stretch of shimmering white sand, crystal clear waters, coral reefs, ship wrecks, limestone cliffs, and even a cave that has a natural pool.

 

 

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Calauit Island – If you want an African safari experience in the Philippines then visit Calauit Island Safari Park. In the 1970s around a hundred of eight species of African animals were brought to this island  and they have thrived since then and have been the main attraction of the eco-tourism destination.  It is a 4-hour land and sea travel from Coron town to this island.

 

 

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Maquinit Hot Spring – Located in the main island of Coron the unique saltwater hot spring is a familiar stop for the city tour.  With water temperature going as high as 42 degrees C, it is always indeed a therapeutic immersion in the hot waters of the spring that is emptied through to the seas from the man-made pool enclosure.

 

 

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Dimakya Island (Club Paradise) – One of the older and exclusive places to stay near Coron is Club Paradise. Aside from the luxurious resort, there are plenty of options for island hopping destinations. It is also near Calauit Island which is a 2-hour boat ride away.

 

 

4.  EL NIDO & BACUIT BAY

If Coron boasts of world-class underwater sceneries, El Nido presents a spectacular over the water views with its endless and majestic limestone formations and gorgeous beaches. The number of islands  with their own amazing little beaches rivals that of Coron and I find them better too because they are not too spread out and can be easily reached in less than an hour from each other.  Even the mainland has kilometers of pristine beaches.  Please click here for one of my blogs on El Nido  for more details on traveling to the paradise destination. For a set of pictures during my second visit, you can click here.

 

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Big and Small Lagoons – You get off the boat unto the clear waters around the Small Lagoon and you swim inside the lagoon that leads to an exciting cave.  The Big Lagoon (pictured) is more spectacular as the shallow clear waters are always inviting but no one is allowed to get off the boat.

 

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Entalula Island – The white sand beaches on this island are probably the best that I have seen in El Nido.  Some areas are for private use by El Nido Resorts and some can be used by the public.

 

02. Pangulasian Island - Resort Aerial View

Pangulasian Island – The private island has been named by Travel + Leisure as one of the best places to travel in 2014 (click here for the article).  The flagship property of El Nido Resorts is in Pangulasian Island.  It is easily the most luxurious resort in El Nido.  Other El Nido Resorts properties are in Miniloc and Lagen islands.  Please visit http://www.elnidoresorts.com/elnido/

 

 

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Snake IslandOne of the most unique topographies in El Nido is Snake Island’s white sand beach that crawls and sways from one island to another depending on the tide.  I have seen sand bars that go right from the island out into the open seas. This one connects an island to the mainland.

 

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Secret Beach – This is said to be the inspiration of Alex Garland’s book, The Beach, which was made into a movie and was shot in Thailand with Leonardo Decaprio as the lead star.  Alex visited El Nido years ago and was captivated by the “secret” beach. Indeed, it would have been a secret until after some locals found the beach by entering the small opening beneath the towering limestone formations in this part of Matinloc Island.  The small opening can be hazardous during monsoon season as the waves could pound you to the sides of sharp rocks. 

 

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Helicopter Island –  There are finer and whiter sand that I could find somewhere else but this beach has a certain alluring character that I could not explain.  One reason could be the wide shore the beach has. Probably another reason could be the clear celurian waters surrounding the island. Another reason is the stunning view of Bacuit Bay especially the rugged topography of its neigboring Cadlao Island.

 

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Corong-Corong Beach – This beach in the mainland is probably the best place to watch sunset in El Nido.

 

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Pinagbuyutan Island – Towering over Bacuit Bay, Pinagbuyutan Island is easily the most recognizable structure in the area.  This was the site of Survivor Israel during my first visit to El Nido and it was off limits to visitors. The second time I was in El Nido, it was not occupied anymore and I had a grand time enjoying its beaches which some parts were rocky and some parts were just soft, white sand.

 

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Nacpan Beach – I just recently discovered Nacpan Beach during my recent trip to El Nido and it was a beach-y revelation after traveling on rough roads for several miles from El Nido town.  A pristine, long beach with very few beach resorts,  I easily fell in love with this beach in the mainland.  We owned it for a few hours!

 

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Matinloc Island Shrine View – This island actually contains three famous El Nido sites:  Secret Beach (presented earlier), Talisay Beach and Matinloc Shrine. Above the shrine, a steep cemented stairs led up to a vantage point that has incredible views of the bay and the neighboring islands.

 

5.  HONDA BAY & AREFFERCI ISLAND

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Arefferci Island is one of the beautiful islands scattered on Honda Bay and the only one having a resort. It is where the private Dos Palmas Resort is located. You can visit the resort’s website here or you can browse through my photos here. Another notable attraction in Honda Bay is Snake Island with its amazing sandbar but it has gone private and it is not open to the public anymore.

 

6.   UNDERGROUND RIVER & SABANG BEACH

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The Puerto Princesa Underground River has been voted as one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature.  Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site it is the world’s longest navigable underground river. Lately, a fossil of the 20 million year old Sirenia, commonly know today as the Sea cow or Dugong, of the Miocene period is plastered on one of its limestone walls. We were blessed to have our Palawan-based friends to arrange for us to go beyond the normal tourist route and we were able to see up close the 20 million years old fossil. You can click here for my Underground River article. I have also created a photo collection here of the 7 New Wonders of Nature that I have visited and that includes the Underground River.

 

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Sabang Beach is the gateway to the Underground River.  It is the perfect place to base for a few days before or after a visit to the Underground River.  With two major resorts and more than a dozen small lodging, there is no shortage of rooms along the gorgeous beach. For a quick preview of a Sabang Beach experience, you can click here.

 

7.  SAN VICENTE

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This is one of the most remote places that I have visited in the Philippines, probably second only to Palaui Island in Cagayan province. No electricity and no hotels and we had to go through kilometers of rough road traveling from Puerto Princesa. The town is located between Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa and El Nido. We took a 4-hour trip to the town of Taytay and then a one and a half ride to the town of San Vicente. There are few places that offer home stay. San Vicente’s gem is Long Beach, a 14-km stretch of virgin beach considered the country’s longest. The area is so pure that we encountered dragonflies and dolphins along the beach when we were hiking half of its length.  The nearby Capari Resort, less than an hour by motorcycle, is indeed an option if you want contemporary lodging.  For photos of San Vicente, you can click here.

 

 

8.  PAMALICAN ISLAND (AMANPULO)

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A part of the Aman resorts chain, the high-end Amanpulo is the sole occupant in the island of Pamalican in Cuyo Archipelago.  Having its own air strip, it is only accessible by turbo-prop from Manila. With its 40 private villas spread out, some having its own private access to its own beach, the resort atmosphere is indeed tranquil and secluded. You might find yourself in the company of British royalty and Hollywood celebrities having a grand time. The island of Pamalican is surrounded by soft, white sand beaches and unspoiled coral reefs. You can check out a blog on Amanpulo by clicking here.

 

Did I miss your favorite destinations in Palawan?  Please let me know in the comments section below.

 

 

 

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Map of Palawan, Philippines

21
Oct
12

Philippines: El Nido


El Nido is Spanish for “the nest”.  The out of this world area of awesome natural wonders is located in the northern part of Palawan, considered as the Philippines’ last frontier.  Palawan is also the place where you can find the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. I have only started exploring the island province at the start of year 2012 with a carefully planned visit to Coron and its outlying islands off the northernmost tip of Palawan. Four months after my Coron trip, the El Nido trip was planned.

The Philippine populace has the impression of El Nido as an expensive hideaway only affordable by the affluent locals and dollar-toting foreigners. Yes, it would be more expensive if you would take the chartered flight from Manila direct to El Nido’s tiny  airport (~Php 14,000 two-way) coupled with a few days stay at one of El Nido Resorts’ stunning properties (starting from US$200-300 per night). However, I personally discovered that the expensive impression of El Nido was absolutely wrong. There is indeed a cheaper alternative to enjoy El Nido.

 

I took a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital city and stayed overnight at a hotel just near the airport.

The following day my friends and I took the 6am air-conditioned “RORO” bus from Puerto Princesa’s San Jose Terminal to El Nido.

We enjoyed stunning views on mostly paved but at times harrowing roads all throughout the trip. We reached El Nido 6 hours after we left Puerto Princesa, around lunch time.

We were in the company of a Korean couple studying English near Puerto Princesa who were to spend a few days in El Nido. We all checked in to the same homey place called Lolo Oyong’s Pensione House.  It was charging a room for 1800 pesos for 2 persons and 2200 pesos for 3 persons, breakfast included.

Under the searing heat of the mid day sun we walked two blocks from the hotel to the beach side or “aplaya” in local dialect.  This is where boats would dock and fetch tourists going for the stunning island tours.

We positioned ourselves at the edge of the Aplaya Bar & Restaurant….

 …just to have the relaxing view of the beach.

After we had our sumptuous lunch, we had some cocktails and just spent the day lazily on this spot.

Some tourists from Europe were just simply lazing on the beach interacting with local children…..

We also enjoyed the sweetest mango shake in the world, one that’s made of the world famous Philippine mangoes.  We went back to our hotel to rest and catch some sleep.

After we woke up, we had dinner at the beach side with all the romantic candlelights and torch fires. Afterwards we explored the nearby places and went back to our hotel with the next day’s island tour in our minds.

The following day was perfectly sunny and we were on to our first island tour.  There are four tours being offered by operators namely A, B, C & D.  Each tour, ranging from 700-900 pesos per person, would take a full day.  However, we combined two tours in one day due to our limited stay in El Nido.  This had the drawback of missing some of the itineraries of the tours.  You have to carefully select the particular sights you will visit and make an agreement with the boatman and tour operator what places you will skip if you opt for a combination.

The first island that came into view was the largest of them all in Bacuit Bay, the mystical Cadlao Island.  But this would not be one of our destinations on this day as we would visit Cadlao on our last day.

I was in a perfect, jolly mood to tour the famed El Nido!

SMALL LAGOON

 

Our first stop would be the Small Lagoon just behind those karst formations.

As we drew closer, I became ecstatic!

We arrived at a cove enclosed by rock formations.

The water at the entrance to the Small Lagoon was crystal clear and we got off the boat and swam to the small opening.

These are my travel buddies, Raffy, a local of Palawan and Thannya from Cebu.

We swam across the Small Lagoon and entered into a small cave which was the highlight of the Small Lagoon trip.

We left Small Lagoon en route to the Big Lagoon passing by the aquamarine waters with some guests from nearby El Nido Resorts on board the signature yellow kayaks.

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Entering the Big Lagoon was overwhelming. The water was free of any rubbish and was amazingly clear.

We would traverse the waterway to just tour around the area.   To save time we would not get off the boat to snorkel.

The lagoon seen from above is indeed spectacular.  [This photo only, courtesy of El Nido Resorts.]

The shallow clear waters were inviting but no one was allowed to get off the boat.

The waterway was only passable one way during low tide as other parts are impassable as the boats would touch the corals and rocks  beneath the waters.  We waited for about 10 minutes before we could get out of the lagoon into…..

….Bacuit Bay again.

We passed by more stunning sights around the bay.

One of them was the former tribal council of Survivor U.S.A.

Other sights would be the most common sceneries in El Nido: towering limestone karst formations with strips of tiny beaches beneath them. Our next destination would be Secret Lagoon.

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Secret Lagoon is located next to a secluded area that was occupied by Survivor Sweden.

White sand beaches and karst formations again!

The lagoon has been dubbed “secret” as one would need to swim through a small opening to get inside it. Entering the narrow opening, I carelessly stepped unto a slippery stone with a sharp rock cutting my left knee. It was just a minor cut that bothered me a little later after the boatman treated the wound with a medication for it to dry fast.

Inside it was a small lagoon that is enclosed by towering limestones.  I could not get the whole view of the lagoon and the limestones as I only had my waterproof camera in tow inside the lagoon leaving my better D-SLR inside the boat. We stayed for about 5 minutes and then we left for our next destination, the unique Snake Island.

On our way to Snake Island, we passed by one of the prime properties of the private El Nido Resorts in Miniloc Island.  This would be the first of the 3 El Nido Resorts we would be passing by during the day.

We also passed by Turtle Island that is now off limits to tourists.  Before, turtle eggs have been regularly stolen by tourists visiting the island so the local government closed it to the public to protect the turtles.

Before reaching Snake Island, we also saw another El Nido Resorts property in Pangulasian Island.  It was still being constructed after being burnt down the previous year to become the most expensive of all El Nido Resorts properties.  It also has the longest white sand beach of any El Nido Resorts.

SNAKE ISLAND

We arrived at Snake Island, again with so much enthusiasm on the unique island.

One of the most unique topographies in El Nido is Snake Island’s white sand beach that “crawls” and sways from one island to another depending on the tide.  I have seen sand bars that go right from the island out into the open seas.  This one seems to connect two islands.

To get the best vantage point, we climbed up to the highest spot of the island to see its tail from above.  It was amazing indeed!

We stayed at the top as we watched the environment changed its mood…. oh well, with Instagram’s help.

The view of the other side of the island was as magical as it could be.

We stayed for about 30 minutes atop the cliff enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

We went down in time for lunch.  We had the food prepared by the boatmen as included in the tour package.

The food: fruits, grilled chicken and squid.  Perfect!

The three of us requested our boatman to take a pic of us on the “snake” beach.  The “snake”  could have been more visible if it was low tide but still you could see the “snake” trace even if it was submerged.

And I took a shot with somebody else traversing the “snake” beach.

Afterwards, we just swam in the clear waters under the blazingly hot sun that I easily ignored  as I was making sure I was having fantastic & memorable shots in Snake Island.

CUDUGNON ISLAND

Our next destination would be Cudugnon Island.

I have always been mesmerized by island approaches most especially if the waters are as stunning as the one we saw as we were about to dock in Cudugnon Island.

The island has a short stretch of white sand beach.  This was not the highlight but…..

…a cave with a very small opening that one has to crawl to get inside.


I am not fascinated by caves so it was just a normal, boring sight for me except that it was the first time I saw a cave with an opening directly above it.

I could have just lazed on the island’s wonderful white sand beach but we had to leave soon for our next destinations on a full packed day in El Nido.

CATHEDRAL CAVE

We headed west to see another spectacular natural wonder, the Cathedral Cave.

The entire island is actually a big cave with the openings resembling like entrances to a gothic cathedral.  Regular boats could not get inside the cave because of its small openings so we just stayed on the boat and took pictures from outside.

LAGEN ISLAND

We headed west again and we stopped a while to snorkel off the shores of a private island called Lagen.

We were told not to go inland and just swim around the waters and enjoy the underwater scenery.

We brought food for the fish and they all went out to feast on them.

My favorite species in the area were the little blues I saw.  I just took a picture of them as they were just near the bottom of the sea and would not come up nearer the surface.

I am not yet an expert swimmer like my friend Raffy who enjoyed the sea life up close.  I dared not dive, much more swim without a life vest.

After snorkeling we continued to head south and we passed by the 3rd of the El Nido Resorts which is situated in the island of Lagen.

El Nido Resort in Lagen Island is a bit cheaper than the one in Miniloc but still way expensive for the common people. And on we continued to head south.

PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND

Approaching Pinagbuyutan Island was the most memorable experience for me on that day.

The island would become my favorite island in El Nido’s Bacuit Bay and would remain the island of desire for me as it was off limits to visitors that time as it was being used by Survivor Sweden.  Should I blame the producers of  the Survivor series why they like the Philippine islands so much from Caramoan to Palawan?

Here, I am showing a top view of the island which I definitely did not take.

Yes, Pinagbuyutan Island would just be in my mind for now until the next time I would visit El Nido in 2013.

Passing by the western side of the island it was indeed paradise desired.

I got close snapshots (well not very close actually) of the contestants of the famous TV series.

The personal frenzy died down as we completely passed by the island and we could only see it from its back.

SEVEN COMMANDOS ISLAND

Our attention shifted to the last destination for the day, Seven Commandos Island.

This is the usual last stop for the day tours and it gets pretty crowded before dusk.

The beach has a high slope that gives an unobstructed view of most of Bacuit Bay.

The most famous activity on this island is beach volleyball played by local and foreign visitors alike.

One could cap the day enjoying one, two or three bottles of great tasting local beers.

Indeed after touring El Nido for a day I would definitely say it a crown jewel of Philippine tourism with its diverse natural attractions…..and we were just halfway through the fun and sights of El Nido.  The next day we would be visiting more amazing sites such as the Secret Beach, said to be the inspiration of Alex Garland’s The Beach, Helicopter Island, Matinloc Island and of course, Cadlao Island.

LAST DAY OF TOUR

We left El Nido town at 830am on our way to the famed Secret Beach.  The usual sceneries of El Nido such as white sand beaches….

….and limestone formations caught our attention again.

SECRET BEACH

Our first destination was the Secret Beach.  This is said to be the inspiration of Alex Garland’s book, The Beach, which was made into a movie and was shot in Thailand with Leonardo Decaprio as the lead star.  Alex visited El Nido years ago and was captivated by the “secret” beach. Indeed, it would have been a secret until after some locals found the beach by entering the small opening beneath the towering limestone formations in this part of Matinloc Island.  The small opening can be hazardous during monsoon season as the waves could pound you to the sides of sharp rocks.  Since it was summer time when we visited the place, we easily got inside the beach area with ease.  Please click here to see how the grand entrance would be like.  I took the video using my underwater camera.

This was the entrance to Secret Beach as viewed from inside the beach area.

A place of perfect seclusion and calmness, this was the first view I got of the Secret Beach as we entered the area.

I needed to have that coveted snapshot, didn’t I?

Now this is the view from the beach itself. Still, some rock formations try to hide the white sand beach.

This was the view from the beach and on the right side was the entrance where we came from.

A group shot on the “secret” beach was inevitable.

Another shot of the beach.  It was already high tide so most parts of the beach was under water…..

…water that was so captivatingly clear.  I did not want to leave the place but we had to!

It was indeed an overwhelming experience.  If I had the choice to cancel the itineraries for the entire day just to spend time here, I would have rightfully done so.

TALISAY BEACH

Next stop:  Talisay Beach.  The approach to the beach was stunning with crystal clear waters fascinating me again.

With a short strip of white sand beach we would stop here for about almost 2 hours….

…to have lunch by the beach side. As we waited for the boatmen to prepare our food, some went to swim and snorkel around the area…..

…while we took pictures on the boat….

…on the rocks….

..and up in the air!  We had fun and then we were exhausted.

Finally our food was served. We left Talisay Beach 30 minutes after we were done munching on the healthy and sumptuous food.

MATINLOC SHRINE

Just around Talisay Beach, on the same island of Matinloc, we stopped to see the Matinloc Shrine.

We did not focus much on the Catholic Shrine but instead we went directly to the….

..docking area.

We still managed to get a group picture before everyone went their own ways to explore the shrine area.

At the edge of the docking area are karst formations and all, this is El Nido!

Still in the shrine area, a steep cemented stairs led up to a vantage point that has incredible views of the bay and the neighboring islands.

We pushed ourselves up and our efforts were not wasted.  It was a sight to behold.

We went down a few minutes later to take the almost one hour trip to another interesting destination.

HELICOPTER ISLAND

Our next destination would be Helicopter Island.  It was called as such because it looks like a half submerged chopper.

I fell in love with the beach.  There are finer and whiter sand that I could find somewhere else but this beach has a certain alluring character that I could not explain.  One reason could be the wide shore the beach has.

Probably another reason could be the clear celurian waters surrounding the island.

Another reason is the stunning view of Bacuit Bay especially the rugged topography of its neigboring Cadlao Island.

We posed  for that iconic summer group shot.

The main event of the island visit was the pictorial flirting of our friend, Queen Thannya, with two hunky French men who were equally stunned by the beach.

If Pinagbuyutan Island became my favorite island in Bacuit Bay, then the beach in Helicopter Island became my favorite beach.

CADLAO ISLAND

Our last destination would be the mystical Cadlao Island.  The activity options would be to snorkel and swim to the white sand beach.  We could not dock nearer to the beach because the area is so shallow with a lot of corals.

Some went for that long swim to the beach.  Some stayed around the boat diving and snorkeling in the pristine sea, so pristine that we chanced upon a sea turtle that played with us.

It was my first time to see up close a sea turtle that big!

And then it was time to leave.  That ended our tour combination of supposed to be four tours done in just two days.  We did not have any regrets that we only had that much time.  We were more than contented of what we saw and experienced.

As we approached El Nido town in the mainland, the view of the mystical Cadlao Island was imprinted in our mind as the last famous icon of El Nido that we experienced.

El Nido, see you again in 2013!

24
Jun
12

Philippines: The Top Beaches


I have always loved rankings of world beaches but when no Philippine beach appears on the lists, I would surely get disheartened. How could someone produce the list of the top 10 beaches in the world when in fact they have not seen all! They could have just come up with the title, “The best beaches we have seen so far!” Sometimes, you cannot understand why a beach in filthy Kho Phangan in Thailand is ranked higher than the immaculate beach in Playa del Carmen in Mexico. CNN produced a list of the world’s 50 best beaches and it created overwhelming disapproval when beaches in the Greek Islands, in Bermuda and in the Philippines’ Palawan were missed out. Also, Yahoo Travel featured an article ranking the Philippines’ best beaches and I thought it was not so properly done, placing El Nido at the top without specifically singling out any of El Nido’s famed beaches.

That’s why I came up with my own ranking of the Philippines’ best beaches.  This is supposed to be a counter post to the Yahoo Travel article and a counter punch to the CNN article that only had one Philippine beach. In this post I have ranked the Philippine beaches that are so underrated when it comes to world rankings. I have included in the list only the beaches that I have visited so far and those that are not private. At the end of this post, I have also mentioned beaches that could have been included on the list if I have visited them.  You can click on the hyperlinks that I have provided for more information and photos on the area or beach included on the list. Here goes the list of the top Philippine beaches that mesmerized me.

16. PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

el nido

Survivor closed this island for months and I missed stepping on its beach when I first visited El Nido. I was extremely disappointed because it was not easy traveling 6 hours by bus to reach the stunning Bacuit Bay only to find out that one of your target island destinations has been shut off to the public. Anyway, this island took my breath away during my first visit even when we were just passing by it. The white sand beach shimmered at the base of the limestone island towering high above everything else in Bacuit Bay. It was indeed a memorable experience to spend some time on this island during my second time in El Nido.

15.  BULOG (DOS), CORON, PALAWAN

Getting off the boat for a short stop at the tiny, inhabited island of Bulog Dos in Coron, I immediately blurted out that it would be a perfect site for a beach wedding upon seeing an abandoned, huge hut.  Definitely, there will be no gate crashers!  I had a hard time choosing this over its neighboring Banana Island but I chose Bulog Island to be in the list because of its small size, double beach of fine white sand and a sand bar that connects it to a neighboring island.

14. LONG BEACH, SAN VICENTE, PALAWAN

long beach2
Hailed as the next major beach destination in the Philippines, Long Beach in San Vicente, Palawan has an incredible 14 kilometers of unadulterated beach, reputed to be the country’s longest.  Lately, land prices have risen five times in value as the area gears up for development. An air strip is already being constructed as San Vicente is currently a grueling 4 hours drive away (some on unpaved roads) from Palawan’s capital city of Puerto Princesa and 2 hours away from the world famous El Nido. Although the beach is not as white as the other beaches on this list, it is included mainly because it is still naturally pure as we encountered dragonflies and dolphins when we were hiking some seven kilometers of the overwhelmingly long beach. And I am not finished yet :  we had the entire stretch of Long Beach to ourselves!  Talk about a really remote beach.

13.  SIQUIJOR ISLAND

Just an hour away from Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental is the island province of Siquijor. Known for its witchcraft, magic and sorcery tales the island surprises every first time visitor. Coco Grove Resort owns approximately 800 meters of the finest stretch of white sand beach in the island. Be careful though as eager sea urchins wait to prick your feet as the beach guards do not clean them away to preserve the abundant aquatic life surrounding the island.  Diving is also excellent. To top everything else, the unbelievable sunset is the best and most fiery I have experienced ever!

12. DUMALUAN BEACH, PANGLAO ISLAND, BOHOL

Bohol boasts of unique attractions like the world-famous Chocolate Hills and the smallest primate in the world, the Philippine tarsier. Dumaluan Beach is located south of Panglao Island in Bohol.  A great stretch of the beach is fronting one of the exclusive resorts in the island, Bohol Beach Club.  A better alternative than the crowded Alona Beach 2.5 kilometers away, Dumaluan Beach is also a great spot for romantic sunsets.

11. LAHOS ISLAND, CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR

Caramoan Peninsula is composed of gorgeous islands scattered around its bay.  Lahos Island is one of them and it is one of the islands used for the Survivor series shoots. In fact, Survivor has inked a contract with the local government to use the islands for 10 years calling Caramoan the Home of the Survivor.  Lahos Island’s short beach area is actually double sided and is accented by limestone formations at its ends. It is quite a trip to Caramoan. From Naga City in Camarines Sur, you can take a 1.5 hour ride to the port of Sabang.  From the port of Sabang, you need to take a 2-hour boat ride to the port of Guijalo.  From Guijalo you need to take a 20-min land trip  to get to the other side of the peninsula that is a short boat ride to the different islands of Caramoan.

10.  MALAPASCUA, CEBU

malapascua2
malapascua
The northern part of Cebu island, the most visited island in the Philippines, has a number of great beach holiday choices.  One of them is Malapascua Island which can be reached from Cebu City in 4 hours.  Although the island is more famous for its world-class diving, the white sand beaches lining its shores are equally amazing especially the other side of the island where there are no resorts. 

 

 

 

9. PUKA BEACH, BORACAY, AKLAN

PukaNot as spectacular as White Beach in Boracay, Puka Beach has fans of its own though. This is a very good alternative when you want to get away from the crowd in White Beach. I have enjoyed solitude on this beach many times.  Just a 15-min ride from White Beach, it has no resorts fronting its shores but only tiny souvenir stores and a long-standing restaurant that easily became my favorite base in the area.

8.  BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU

Taking almost the same north bound route of the 4-hour land travel from Cebu City to Malapascua, taking a left detour will lead you to Hagnaya Port. From there, Bantayan Island is a short boat ride away.  Compared to its neighboring island, Malapascua, a diving haven, Bantayan is larger and has more mainstream beaches with wider shores.

7. HELICOPTER ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

With scenic views of neighboring Cadlao Island and the rest of  the islands around El Nido’s Bacuit Bay, the beach at Helicopter Island is for me the golden beach of El Nido.  A regular stopover for one of the 4 El Nido island tour packages, Helicopter Island does not have the usual white sand beach but the clear jade waters are so irresistibly inviting.

 

 

 

6. SECRET BEACH, MATINLOC ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

Not a secret anymore to those who have visited it, the beach’s secret remains on where it is hidden. The only way to access the beach is by swimming through a very small opening beneath limestone cliffs that could be dangerous during monsoon season when the sea current is strong as the waves could bump you into sharp rocks when going through the small opening.  However, when you get inside, you could probably utter that you have never seen and experienced anything like it before! The short stretch of  white sandy cove at one end of the area enclosed by towering karst formations is said to be the inspiration of Alex Garland’s The Beach. Secret Beach in El Nido deserves to be in the top 5 for its uniqueness. It is a beach like no other.

 

 

 

5. ENTALULA ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

entalula2

entalula

I have visited Entalula Island only during my second visit to El Nido but the beaches surrounding this island truly took my breath away.  Glass-like waters, soft white sand and stunning views of Bacuit Bay were the factors why I rated this beach so high.  Some part of the island is private and owned by Ayala Resorts but there are still parts of it that is open to the public so I still included this in the rankings.

 

 

 

 

4. CALAGUAS, CAMARINES NORTE

Calaguas Island‘s Long Beach is mostly drawing local tourists who want an absolute beach getaway especially during the summer months.  The tough two hours trip on mostly choppy seas can easily be shrugged off once you get off the boat and set foot on the amazing beach. There is no electricity, no resorts and no potable or running water. You need to bring your own food and drinks, your own tent and your own sane self.  During Holy Week, the beach becomes alive with organizers bringing generators, lights and speakers for that once a year Reggae Night.

 

 

 

3. KALANGGAMAN ISLAND, PALOMPON, LEYTE

kalanggaman

One of the islands creating great impressions lately to first time visitors, Kalanggaman has gorgeous waters surrounding it, the clearest I have seen anywhere else. Its stunning main beach and two sand bars are worthy of the one hour journey from either the port of Palompon town in Leyte or Malapascua in Cebu. Palompon is around three hours drive away from Leyte’s capital, Tacloban City and one hour drive away from Ormoc City. Malapascua is 4-hour drive away from Cebu City. An overnight stay here is needed to experience the island spreads its wings like a bird when it reveals its two sand bars located at its eastern and western tips. Kalanggaman got its name from “langgam” which means bird in Cebuano dialect.  Like Calaguas Island, there is no running potable water, no electricity and no resorts so the tiny island can give you a perfect natural beach experience. A full moon experience in the island will surely be unforgettable too!

 

 

 

2. WHITE BEACH, BORACAY, AKLAN

bora2 bora

Boracay’s White Beach has been consistently making the world’s best beaches list and it has been the standard of a beach in the Philippines. I only gave the number 2 spot because of the massive crowd especially during peak season.  It is one thing to enjoy people watching but it is another thing to be annoyed by the noise and commotion of eager tourists. I either escape to Friday’s or Boracay Terraces Resort located at the end of White Beach or hie off to nearby Puka Beach to escape the crowd. I still love White Beach after all these years. What made it almost to the top position in my list are its incredible qualities that also propelled it to the top of the world’s best beaches list: the gentle slope, the amazingly clear turquoise waters and its signature sugar-fine white sand that is probably the finest, softest and whitest I have ever seen.

1. MALCAPUYA ISLAND, CORON, PALAWAN

malcapuya

Topping the list is a beach on an island located one and a half hours away by boat from Coron mainland in Palawan. Malcapuya Island has the best beach in the Philippines for me, for now. Pristine, lovely, unadulterated, tranquil.  The underwater scenery is also spectacular. One of the reasons why it maintains its natural beauty is that no boats are allowed to dock on its shores. The docking area is located at a rocky area at the back of the island a few minutes walk to the main beach.

So that’s how I have ranked the Philippine beaches I have visited.  What do you think?

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The following 4 beaches are surely to be included in the list if I have visited them.

SABITANG LAYA, CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR

 
Sabitang Laya has probably the best beach in the Caramoan Peninsula.  The island is triangular in shape with two sides forming a V-shaped beach meeting at a unique formation of black limestone.We missed this island during a recent visit to Caramoan. You just have to get the right timing that the island is open to public and not used by Survivor shooting (yes Survivor’s the culprit again!).  Survivor has rented the Caramoan islands for 10 years but during shooting breaks the islands are opened to the public.
 

PULO BEACH, PAMALICAN ISLAND, PALAWAN

A stunning island among Cuyo Islands in Palawan’s north east coast, Pamalican Island has been chosen by Aman Resorts as the site for its only property in the Philippines, Amanpulo Resort.  The island boasts of powdery, white sand beach lining its entire coast!  It is quite a challenge to reach this island as only chartered 19-seater planes can land on the private air strip and only guests of the exclusive resort can set foot in the island with room prices starting from US$1,000 per night.  This island resort is often visited by famous Hollywood and local stars. Naomi Campbell, Mariah Carey, Claudia Schiffer, Tom Cruise, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, and Diana Ross were among the past guests.

CAMIGUIN ISLAND

The island province of Camiguin is one of Mindanao’s paradise island destinations.  The volcanic island boasts of pristine white sand beach, cool waters and untouched jungles.  The island can be reached via Cagayan de Oro City with a short drive to Balingoan where you can take a boat to the island.

CALAYAN ISLAND, CAGAYAN VALLEY

Recently featured in Cebu Pacific Air’s SMILE magazine, Calayan Island is a stunning revelation.  Although it is a long journey to the island, the island is worthy of a visit with its clear waters, secluded coves and spectacular cliffs.
Philippine beaches rock, don’t you think so?
28
Apr
12

Philippines: Lovely Islands Of Coron


I was on my first journey to Palawan, dubbed as the Philippine’s Last Frontier.  We spent our first day inland and our second day within stunning sites just within Coron Bay.  Click here for the details of our first two days in Coron.

MALCAPUYA ISLAND

Our third day in Coron would be spent farther from the main island.  Early in the morning right after breakfast we hopped into the same boat we used the previous day.  It would be with the same tour guide and the same boatman. We had to leave early as we would be traveling for two hours to the outlying islands of Coron.  It was quite the dreaded choppy seas that we got into the latter part of the trip that made my parents feeling uncomfortable.   Thank God we arrived safely in our first island destination, the lovely Malcapuya Island. The island has probably the most beautiful and well-maintained beach that I have visited.

No boats are currently allowed to dock on the main beach.  Boats have to dock at the other side of the island from where the main beach is, just less than 3 minutes walk away.  It is no wonder why the beach seemed to have maintained its beauty and and the waters, its translucence. The first thing I did was to dash madly to one end of the island and took this shot.

Upon the rocks I carefully positioned my D-SLR to have a self-portrait not minding the blistering heat.

I went back inland to join my family.


The beach became our playground for a while.  There were only a few visitors in the island at that time as it was so early.

The beach has one of the finest, whitest sand I have ever seen.  This is said to be comparable to the sand in the paradise island of Boracay in central Philippines and I could say, it is!

Solitude is a reality here on a beach all to yourself.

At one end of the island was the cliff that has an amazing view of the beach in Malcapuya island.

As we ascended, the shorter alternative beach became visible.

At the top, the view of the main beach looked stunning.

The other side of the cliff was the equally stunning clear waters surrounding Malcapuya.

Later, when we went down hordes of foreign and local visitors slowly filled the place.

We positioned ourselves in one of the provided beach tents.

After dipping in the beach we were treated to a delectable Filipino food for lunch.  After everyone was full, we prepared to leave the place for the other islands nearby.

BANANA ISLAND

Just a mere 10 minutes boat ride away from Malcapuya Island is Banana Island. As we approached the island the turquoise waters caught my attention as usual.

There was no other place where we could dock so the beach was parked at the beachfront, westside.

A group of local male tourists were playing frisbee when we arrived.

Malcupaya is indeed sexier but Banana Island has its own charm.  There were actually more people here in Banana than in Malcapuya probably because of the available resorts.

The symbolic banana boat was on the beach.

We toured the island, posed for some shots and rested for a while until we left for our last island stop.

BULOG ISLAND

Just a few minutes away from Banana Island is the tiny Bulog Island.

Up close Bulog Island was absolutely stunning. My jaw dropped seeing the amazingly clear waters backdropped by the contrasting white sand beach.

With just a deserted huge hut nestled at the side of a hill, I was thinking this would be the perfect place for my wedding. Really!

We were supposed to just pass by the island but I insisted to our tour guide that we alight for a few minutes and step on the island.

A sand bar actually connected Bulog to another island which is inhabited.

One could actually directly walk to the neighboring islands during low tide.

On the rocks, I became the king of the island for a short while and then I gave up my crown when we left promising to be back with my wedding entourage!

Indeed the outlying islands of Coron blew me away. We missed some islands but our time was apportioned to only the best: Malcapuya, Banana and Bulog. MBB!



28
Apr
12

Philippines: Stunning Coron, Palawan!


My one year off from corporate life enabled me to embark on a traveling spree in the Philippines, my home country, and beyond.  It was already almost ending and I was resolute not to commit a major miss out not to include Palawan in one of my itineraries.  Called as the Philippine’s “Last Frontier”, Palawan is oozing with unique & diverse natural beauty, probably unmatched anywhere in the world! I have decided to visit Coron, a part of the Calamian group of islands in the north, which is one of the three popular tourist areas in Palawan. The other two are the capital Puerto Princesa (City) in the mid south and El Nido town area in the upper north between Coron and Puerto Princesa.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL, CITY TOUR, MOUNT TAPYAS, MAQUINIT HOT SPRING

We took a one-hour flight from Manila to Busuanga airport. This was actually one of the few touchdowns I would always remember that I was on the verge of crying, seeing the beauty of the entire area when we were still hovering above it as we were about to land.

I could saw secluded islands like this only in the internet, TV and magazines.  It was a real treat to have a vantage point to view one of the many outlying islets from the top.  This island is Dumanpalit Island.

Having seen the surrounding areas gave me that ecstatic feeling that I would be landing for the first time in one of the Philippines’ rising tourist destinations.

I was traveling with my 74-year old father, 69-year old mother and my 34-year old sister (one of 8 siblings I have).  We took a Cebu Pacific Airways flight from Manila.

After an hour we arrived at the airport in Busuanga where we were warmly met by the driver of our arranged transport that was a part of the tour package we got from Kawayanan Tours. We were dropped at our hotel and 30 minutes after we started our tour of the town and some of its inland tourist spots.

Our first stop was the ultra clean Lualhati Park overlooking Coron Bay.

From the park we could also see a hill crowned with the C.O.R.O.N. letters. I actually requested our driver to take us to the top of the hill afterwards even though it was not part of the city tour itinerary.

 

From the main road we walked around 5 minutes to the C.O.R.O.N. sign.  A full shot of the entire sign was impossible to take as one needed to go past the edge of the hill if a wide angle lens is not used.

I just took a shot of the back of the sign with Coron Bay as the backdrop.

A few more minutes later we stopped at the base of Mount Tapyas.  My mom did not want to try climbing the 700+ steps leading to the summit of Mount Tapyas.  Only my father, my sister and myself did.

It was a scenic climb up the mountain.  The view to the right was Coron Bay with some of the islands surrounding Coron and to the left was the town proper with the  “sleeping giant”, a mass land formation that looks like a huge human figure lying down.

My father and sister gave up halfway through the climb.  I was left alone, but not really alone as I was with my young tour guide who kept on taking my pictures.

I reached the top of the mountain where the metal cross, visible from afar day and night (with lights in the evening), serving as the topmost symbol.

A number of local and foreign tourists were at the summit waiting for the sunset.

The view from the top was simply amazing with the islands surrounding Coron island creating a mythical backdrop.

 

The sun, as it set, was partly hidden by clouds but then I was still really thankful I reached the mountain summit and we had a sunny day anyway.  We went down the mountain much easier than climbing it earlier and drove off for 20 minutes to our last stop for the day.

Our last stop was the Maquinit Hot Springs, a unique “salt water” hot spring.  I have been to a lot of fresh water hot springs and this was the first time for me to experience a salt water hot spring.

It was indeed a therapeutic immersion in the hot waters of the spring that is emptied through to the seas from the man-made pool enclosure.  Before we returned to the hotel, we spent around 30 minutes in the pool with the water temperature reaching as high as 42 degrees C.

After freshening up, we walked to the nearby Kawayanan Grill Station, which was just a few steps from our hotel.

We enjoyed the food selection after the rather tiring half day city tour.

The food was absolutely delectable.  Kawayanan is one of the more famous restaurants in Coron town.

DAY 2: SIETE PICADOS, KAYANGAN LAKE, BANOL BEACH, SKELETON WRECK, TWIN LAGOONS

The following morning we were treated to a sumptuous breakfast of garlic rice, dried beef (tapa) and omelette still in Kawayanan Grill Station.  The free breakfast was part of our tour package.

The place was still peaceful and quiet as we were the only ones dining in the place at 7a.m., after which we proceeded to our exciting day2 tour that would take us to a beach, a lake and a lagoon plus diving and snorkeling sites.

Our jump off point for the tour was the jetty off Lualhati Park.

Kawayanan did want to impress us and they gave us a pretty nice boat.

The red team (my sister and my mom) was ready as well as the yellow team (my father and I)!

Our first main stop was the Siete Picados Marine Park, a famous snorkeling area.

My mom was in-charged of feeding the school of fish with bread crumbs as my dad, my sister and myself jump off to the clear waters to snorkel.

The variety of fish did not disappoint. We spent around 30 minutes in the Siete Picados area and then we left.

Our next destination was the famous Kayangan Lake.  The view en route to the lake was fascinating with numerous rugged and irregular karst formation with green toppings amazing us to no end.

Indeed it was a scenery to die for everywhere we looked.

As we approached the entrance to Kayangan Lake, the view even became more serene, paradise-like and colorful. I wanted to get off the boat and just swim in the pristine, turquoise waters! But it was not one of our destinations so we moved on to…..

…the docking station for visitors bound for Kayangan Lake.

 

After we signed a waiver for untoward incidents, that we are completely responsible for our own safety, we climbed up the path to Kayangan Lake.

We had to take it slowly as my mom is asthmatic and she needed to rest once in while.

There were many visitors as it was Chinese New Year holidays.

We reached the top of the hill and the climb was all worth it.  We were treated to the most picturesque view I have seen in years, an iconic view that is uniquely depicting Coron…it was not Kayangan Lake yet but  just the waterway we passed through earlier.

We had to queue up for that coveted shot with the stunning view as backdrop.  After the 15-min photoshoot, we climb down to the other side of the mountain and we finally reached the lake.

Kayangan Lake is under the care of the indigenous tribe of Tagbanua.  This is the only one of the many lakes around Coron open to public as others have been declared sacred or dangerous by the tribe.

Kayangan Lake is now officially the cleanest lake in Asia. The visibility was an unbelievable half a mile deep!

Before we dived into the clear waters, we posed for some shots at one of the banks.

The lake was pretty crowded that day due to a great influx of local and foreign visitors spending their Chinese New Year holidays in Coron.

But under the water it was not crowded.  I managed to defy bouyancy with my life vest on and sank for a moment for a shot with the clear underwater scenery of spiked granite stones.

We left after an hour for our next destination where we would be having lunch, an island off Coron Bay having a stunning beach amidst limestone cliffs.

Once again the scenery remained Jurassic-like.

 

Endless karst formation adorned the islands.

Even more stunning were those limestone cliffs with white sandy bays beneath them.

One of those beaches would be our stop for lunch.

Amazingly clear waters attracted my camera lens again.  I have never been so impressed with seawater this clear.

As we neared the shore the water was even more amazing.  This was indeed overwhelming!

The beach where we would have lunch.

Welcome to the beautiful Banol Beach!

A nice beach indeed to laze on a sunny afternoon.

At one end of the beach was a huge limestone formation dividing the beach.  We went through a small passage and  reach the other side of the beach.

This was the other end of the beach.

We went back to the other side.

A bamboo raft was freely floating and we took photos at this area.

The sumptuous lunch was then served. I loved the Philippine seaweed called ‘lato’. I have not eaten ‘lato’ for years!

Indeed, my parents were enjoying our second day in Coron.

Too bad we had to leave afterwards for our next destination, the Skeleton Wreck, a famous snorkeling and diving site.

We finally reached the seemingly crowded Skeleton Wreck.

Once again my mother was assigned to feed the fish while the rest of us would snorkel.

Our second snorkeling session of the day was better than the first.

The colorful, live shells were bonuses.  We spent 30 minutes there in the area and then we left for out last stop of the day, the amazing Twin Lagoons!

Oh those mid-sea karst formation once again.

Welcome to Twin Lagoons.

The arrival was absolutely breathtaking for me.

The sharply-shaped karst formations surrounded the area to the entrance of the amazing lagoons, from the left…

…to the right.

At the base of the center of those karst formations was the tiny entrance to the lagoons.

Our boat had to be positioned as close as possible to the entrance as we need to swim from the boat to the entrance.

I could actually just stay in the boat and just me mesmerized by the stunning scenery.

However, I had to get off the boat and swam with the two tour guides.  My parents and my sister were not interested to get inside.  Thank God, it was low tide and we could pass through the tiny opening without any difficulty.

When we got inside we were the only ones there.

Then more visitors followed and the place suddenly turned from deserted to crowded.

As the last destination of the day, it was worthy of a thumbs up.

We rested for a while on some rocks…..

…watching people passing us by.

The calm, turquoise lagoon water was indeed a great sight to behold.

I could say this was the highlight of our trip.  The stunning limestone formations blew me away.

As we left we saw more karst formation.

And more….Coron stunned me!

We reached Coron mainland just before dusk anticipating for the next day’s trip to more of Coron’s outlying islands and its lovely beaches.  Click here to catch a glimpse of the stunning beaches of Coron.




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