Island hopping, scuba diving and a typhoon
We have really been looking forward to the second destination of our world trip. We heard many amazing stories, saw breathtaking photos from the Philippines, and could not wait to see everything with our own eyes.
We booked a flight to a small island. Eleven days later our next flight should leave from another Island. We had a vague idea what we want to do in the time we had, but have not booked anything yet. We researched a lot and read many blog posts, and everyone said that it is possible to book tours spontaneously. Although we had not thought that the small fishing villages, changed into tourist hot spots in the last years, many tours are fully booked in advance now in the high season over Christmas and New Year, and that we will have to wait till a typhoon passes by. But let´s start from the beginning…
A tiny airplane brought us to Coron, where our adventure in the Philippines was supposed to start. We could see the beautiful turquoise water and many sandy islands from the small window in the plane, and couldn´t wait to explore this amazing landscape from near.
The airport was just one big hall and a lot of taxi drivers were waiting outside. After a while we found the sign with our names on it. We drove to the other side of the island, which took us about one hour, where we stayed in the small town.
We spent the afternoon strolling through the streets and booked an Island Hopping Tour for the next day.
In the morning our hosts told us, that we do not have to hurry for the breakfast, because it was not sure if our boot could leave today. We waited and waited and three hours after we were supposed to get picked up, we got informed, that our tour is cancelled, because a typhoon is somewhere out there, and it was too dangerous to go on the water today.
We tried our luck in a few other shops, that offer boat tours, but they were all cancelled, and most likely no boat could leave Coron for at least three more days.
We did not wanted to just wait till the typhoon passes the island, and lying on the beach for a week is too boring for us, so we needed a new plan. We have been thinking about doing a scuba diving course since a while, and luckily we found a diving instructor, who worked despite the typhoon warning and the Christmas holidays. We could start to watch a learn video and got some working books to go through in the next two days.
Today was the 24th of December, why we treat our selfs with pizza for dinner. Our hosts invited us to sing karaoke with them. We listened a while, but didn´t dare to sing...
In the next morning, we finished the theoretical lessons of the scuba dive course, and after that we could start our first dive. It was still not allowed to take boats to the open ocean. A trycycle brought us to a bay outside of the town, and from there we could take a small boat to a coral garden, that was hidden in big rocks, and safe from the wind. On our first dive, we were overwhelmed of the beauty of the underwater world, all the colors, the formations of the corals, the fishes where so fascinating.
When we came up to the surface, it started to rain, and we had to go back to the beach.
We could leave our diving gear there fort he next day, and our instructor said that it would take too long to wait for a trycycle so she would give us a lift on her scooter. We have been a bit nervous to sit all together on the same scooter, but in this countries it is totally normal, you can often see whole families of five people plus their dog on the same scooter. We prefer a car or trycycle but it worked out fine and without an accident. Just when we arrived in the town it started to rain heavy, apparently the typhoon came closer.
The next morning we drove back to the bay, so we could do two dives before the storm started. We dived again through the beautiful coral garden, and at the second dive we made a lot of exercises, like take off the whole gear and put it back on under the water. We also learned what we have to do in an emergency, and practiced the signs. Just in time, before the storm got stronger we came back to the beach.
It rained the whole afternoon, what made it easy for us to stay inside and learn for the theoretical test.
We hoped that the typhoon would pass quickly, we still had to get to the other island, from where our plane was supposed to leave.
The next day, the wind and rain slowly stopped, and we could take a boat out into the ocean. At the first dive of the day, we explored an old ship wreck, and then we drove to a freshwater lake on a small island in the middle of the ocean, which had different layers with cold and hot water, diving there was a pretty cool experience. But our favorite dive was definitely in the coral garden.
Of course we passed the theoretical test as well, and are now proud holders of the PADI open water certificate.
The scuba dive course was really great, and the best thing was that we were the only ones with our instructor. I think we used the typhoon day perfectly.
We went to pretty much every one of the little tour shops in the town the last days and tried to book a three day island hopping tour from Coron to El Nido. I heard so much great things of this expeditions, that it was the only one I really wanted to do while on the Philippines, and we had to get to the other island anyway to catch our plane. The famous tour-operators were all fully booked in the high season, and because of the typhoon a lot of the smaller tours had to reschedule and were now full or had not enough passengers.
After hours of asking, we could find one woman who said that there is a chance, and she wanted to call us back the next day and tell us if the boat would run or not. The next day we got a cancellation from her, so we tried to find another tour. One man finally told as that there was a boat going after he did a few phone calls. We were so happy, and pays the deposit to secure our spot for the next morning. Well at 11pm the woman from the other shop called us, and told us that the boat was not leaving in the morning, the man from the new shop talked to her, and they both thought they had our booking and enough people…. Oh noooo…. So we did just a one day tour around Coron the following day, and hoped to get a tour to El Nido for the next day, otherwise we would have to take the ferry.
The one day island hopping tour around Coron was great. A bit touristic but the landscapes were amazing! We snorkeled around a coral garden, swam around the twin lagoon, hiked to a fresh water lake and got a tasty lunch directly on the boat.
In the evening we finally got informed, that we could start an expedition to El Nido the following morning. Two couples from Denmark had booked a private boat, and let us come with them. We were so glad, it worked out in the end!
The next morning we walked to the meeting point and no one was there…
After a while the other couples arrived, and another two hours later we finally drove to the harbor, where we had to wait again. Apparently the boat could not leave earlier because of the low tide (they should have known that already the day before)
We have been so relieved, when we finally sat in the boat, and could be sure the tour will run!
The first stop was really beautiful, a tiny sand island in the middle of the ocean, the water had a perfect temperature, and we saw even rays and sand dollars.
Because of our late start, this was our only stop before we had to go to the beach where we camped that night.
It was beautiful to sleep in a tent directly on the beach, we could listen to the sound of the sea when we felt asleep, and wake up in the middle of the nature to watch the sunrise.
Unfortunately our crew forget again (or on purpose) that it was low tide in the morning, and we had to wait almost till midday to get the boat back into the water. So we made our way directly to the next beach camp.
Today was new years eve, and the locals on the small fishing island invited us to play karaoke with them. It seams like every holiday gets celebrated with Karaoke in the Philippines. After a few rum and cokes we even sang with them…
Instead of fireworks we watched the amazing stars on the night sky at midnight and when we woke up in the morning, we had the most beautiful few over the beach directly from the tent. What a lovely way to start into the new year.
On the last day of our tour, we did just one short stop on an island for our lunch, and then we wanted to drive directly to El Nido. One of the mans on the boat was so afraid of the waves, that he got really aggressive. And the crew (hangover from the night before) lost their nerves and brought us to the first beach they saw on Palawan. From there we had to drive on the back of a pick up truck over two hours on bumpy dirt roads to get to El Nido. It was not the end of this tour we had imagined, but for sure an adventure.
If we will ever come back to the Philippines, I would book one of the famous tours in advance. We saw a few of that boats and heard a lot of amazing stories. Some of the expeditions are much more expensive than what we paid, but you would see so much more and need less nerves, I heard that they are perfectly planed and professionally operated.
We arrived a few days later in El Nido than planned, and had just one night left before we had to drive another six hours to Puerto Princesa, from where our airplane started the next morning.
Our time on the Philippines was other than expected. The landscapes are amazing, and the sandy beaches in the turquoise water could not be more beautiful, the locals are super friendly, and the hospitality is great. The only thing was that booking the tours was chaotic and exhausting. I am sure that would be better in low season, without a typhoon and if we would have had more time, in that case our vacation here would have been even more beautiful.