January 22, 2014

Coron, Palawan: Reefs, Lakes, Wrecks, and Lagoons

Palawan is known for scenic landscapes and seascapes. Coron, a large municipality, has about 50 small islands comprising the eastern half of Busuanga in the northern part of Palawan. (Thank you wikipedia) It is halfway in-between of Puerto Princesa and Metro Manila. There are so many things you can do here especially if you're into water activities: Diving, Snorkeling, etc. And since we only had 3 days, our 2nd day went to island hopping.

White sand and blue-green water.

The heart of the town
We finally got ourselves a tour from the hotel. Our van picked us up at 8am and brought us to the port. Upon seeing the group, I realized that we were the last 'joiners' to fill the boat. The whole tour cost at around 1,500/pax. (with free lunch, snacks and drinks). The tour guide was informative, funny, and accommodating.  My wound was still throbbing from the previous day's mishap, so he made sure from time to time, that i'm still okay. Anyway, here are the 6 islands that we visited:

1. Cap's Point
Such beauty
The guide gave us goggles and snorkels since we couldn't land on this island. Seeing beautiful coral reefs and colorful schools of fish underneath instantly triggered that 'Under the Sea' song in my head. It's a good thing that I love swimming. I had no problems on letting go of our tour guide's 'improvised raft' so I explored other areas before going back to the boat.

All set!
We had to swim from here... to there! This is where your Cardio pays off.
2. The CYC (Coron Youth Club)

Our next stop was at this small island but were filled with tourists. Among the 6 islands that we visited, this was my least favorite. There were lots of rocks on the way to the shore and some parts of the beach were filled with seaweeds. But on the brighter side, we were able to do our wacky photo opps. You can also stay here for the night. (Just bring your own tent of course!) 

We have other poses but this one wins the lot.
3. Sunken Japanese Wrecks

Kyla with the Sunken wrecks underneath
We didn't get to dive and see the sunken vessels up close, but we did get to feed the fish surrounding the boat. My band-aid wore off while giving bread and my wound opened again. My index finger was bleeding so I got back to the boat as soon as I can, fearing I might attract sharks or unknown creatures who would want to feast on my blood. (okay, i'm just exaggerating... But I did bleed a lot.) So what we did while waiting for others to get to the boat was again, to take selfies!

Getting chilly with it
Hunger broke after all that swimming, walking, and jumping. The tour guide brought us to another island for lunch.

4. Atwayan Beach

Lunch time!!
It's a happy lunch! There's pork barbeque, ensalada, fish, rice, pineapples, watermelons,
and green mangoes with shrimp paste.
All these viands were prepared by our tour guide inside the boat while sharing us stories about living in the islands. Our group started to warm up and one of the couples began asking questions and shared stories. I also met this girl, Mia, and introduced me to her friends. We hung out on the beach for a while then went to our next island.

5. Twin Lagoons

Beneath this rock formation lies a secret lagoon
Too bad we couldn't take photos inside. Unless you have an underwater/waterproof camera, you'd have to settle for the view.

To get to the lagoon, we were given the option to swim from the boat, or cross the bamboo bridge. We chose to walk and balanced our steps until we got to the end. A small bamboo raft was waiting and transported us per batch (5 persons/ride) to climb the steps and pass the thin crevice on top. It felt like a huge test to me because it was very narrow. Once I passed the crack, a beautiful view of the lagoon welcomed me. We climbed down the steps until the tour guide asked us to jump. It was a 5 foot dive and the water was so deep you had to wear your life vest to float fast. We just swam around and the tour guide showed us the imaginary division of the lagoon. Apparently, the lagoon was mixed naturally with 50% fresh and 50% salt water. Cool huh? We played around with our new friends and raced back and forth until it was time to go. 

We had 2 options to exit the lagoon: 1. to climb up and pass the same way we entered. or 2. Remove our life vest and hang on to the guide while swimming underneath the rocks. Most of us who knew how to swim chose the latter. When everyone was on the boat, the tour guide gave us rice cakes for snacks. Our last stop was none other than..

6. Kayangan Lake

The famous Coron shot
Before we reached the lake, we had to climb the mountain with 300 steps. 150 to go up, and 150 to go down. And this is what we saw.

They say this is the cleanest lake in the Philippines
There was another bamboo raft but we had to take turns to see the open area of the lake. I took off my life vest and just swam across. By the time I got tired, I hung on to the raft and rode with Kyla and Mia's group. Kyla was paddling in front, and we kept joking and laughing around, spreading nothing but good vibes. We were dead tired and we had to climb another 300 steps. After the 150th step, we stopped, rested, and took photos until the rest of the group caught up with us.

From L-R: Jaynee, Sharie, Maki, Mia, Me, Mavic, and Kyla
Mia! The first friend I met from the group
Everyone was already in the boat, tired, sleepy, and longing to get back to their respective inns. When we left the island, we saw the sun setting beautifully with different colors in the sky. Before reaching the port, some of us got each other's emails to send the photos from their respective cameras. The friendly couple, Guian and Larry, wanted to go to another island the next day before leaving for Manila. Since Kyla and I were planning to rent a boat and see Malcapuya Island, we invited them over and planned our rendezvous on the morrow.

It was almost 6pm when we got back to our hotel. Again, we freshened up, and walked to town in search for the perfect dinner. We were supposed to eat at Kawayanan Grill but ended up at the night market.

It was supposed to be an 'appetizer' that turned to dinner
We consumed so much junk (a footlong, siomai, grilled pork barbecue w/ rice, chicken/pork intestines aka isaw, pig ears aka tenga, and potato chips) that we forgot about trying the most recommended restaurant in Coron. Clearly, we weren't thinking. After dinner, we went back to Helldiver's bar and had another round of Jack. This time, we met 3 Filipino guys and chatted until we decided to call it a night.

How can one not love Coron? Everything about it is just naturally beautiful. Just when I thought i've seen them all, another amazing thing happens. I'm saving Malcapuya Island for my next post. Don't you just love firsts? :)