Sunday, July 15, 2012

Palawan Day 6: Coron Day 2 - Island Sight Seeing

Good Morning Coron! 
I woke up at around six am to find almost everyone in the room also stirring up. Ha. A trip can really bring out that morning person in everybody, even the most hardcore anti-morning like me. I was excited for breakfast, as I've ordered (one of) my favorite breakfast from Macario's-- danggit-silog ( a lot of dried danggit, garlic rice and egg for Php 95. Free delivery, yay). Paired with free and unlimited instant coffee from our inn and the cold, refreshing, sea-side morning air, it was such a nice breakfast.

Gumamela with morning dew.

We were set to start our island tour at 8:20 am that morning, but Al told everybody that we would start at 7:30, so we finished eating way ahead of our schedule. Hmm, devious but effective tactic Al. :)) We were all super ready when it was time to go.

We walked a short distance to the port but got sidetracked by the Coron Bay Dev't marker where posed and took pictures of each other. We even got another tourist to snap our group picture. Haha.

Boat Ride
We found Gingging, our guide, at the busy port. She led us to a huge (well, bigger than the usual island hopping boats I'm accustomed to) outrigger and handed us our snorkeling gadgets which looked brand-new.  Our first destination, Malcapuya Is, is about two hours away, but the view all the way to the famed island will definitely take one's mind off the tedium of a boat ride.
Soaking in the sea-nery

I sat in front of the boat, reveling in the salty sea-breeze tossing my hair this way and that. This sea is different in a way that this is the calmest sea I've been in. Cere offered the explanation that it must because of the mountains and walls of limestone surrounding the area. They were blocking the winds that can cause the waves. Islands and rock formations dot the seascape anywhere you look, and at one point, I saw a crocodile shaped one.
Look! It's a croc!

Malcapuya Island

After an hour and a half, we docked into the sea-grass laden side of Malcapuya. Upon seeing the swaying sea-grasses beneath the cerulean waters, we all exclaimed in dismay. Nobody fancied wading in the waters, let alone swim about, where there is a fat chance of getting speared by a mean-looking sea urchin. We haven't seen one, but it was very easy to imagine some (and who knows what other creatures) lurking behind the shadows of the sea plants. Gingging quickly assured us that we wouldn't be swimming there; there is a relatively sea-grass free beachfront where we could frolic in peace.

We jumped off the boat and excitedly ran to the said beachfront. Malcapuya Is did not disappoint. It was absolutely picturesque: the color of the water showing different shades of blue, the white sand, and the rock formations at both ends of the beach. We had a ball snapping and posing for pictures.
Sun-kissed. :>

With the picture-taking business out of the way, we dived right into the inviting waters, only to shoot back to the sand when some other swimmers exclaimed about a floating jellyfish. Uh-oh. Gingging quickly handled the situation, grabbing the jellyfish by its head and steering clear off its nasty tentacles. She tossed it into the sand in the most nonchalant way possible, as if a jellyfish is just an everyday occurrence. Which is probably true. Fortunately for us, the idea of other jellyfishes floating about didn't stick to us, and after a few minutes, we were swimming and floating about as if they don't exist. Ha. 

 It was pleasant swimming in the sea, with the cloudy skies shielding us from the sun's assault. Non-swimmers should take note that there is a sudden dip in the depth of the water. Better to stay near the shore.

At around noon, we were called to lunch and we gathered excitedly around our rented table (Php100). The lunch was spectacular: steamed crabs (forever favorite!), three huge and different kinds of grilled fishes, chicken adobo (which was a bit out of place, but was also yummy), an eggplant salad, and a great heaping of rice. Aside from water, we were also served sodas. For dessert, we had bananas. We were full to bursting and we still weren't able to finish everything. 

After lunch, we decided to go and explore more of the beach. We also went and practiced snorkeling, although the area wasn't really much of a snorkeling site (just almost-transparent fishes swimming about). At around 1:30 we were called back to the boat to resume our tour. We were off to the CYC snorkeling area for some real snorkeling. Yay.

CYC Snorkeling

Gingging explained why we wouldn't be docking in the CYC beach despite it being a public beach. There are too many broken bottles in the beach, she told us, as there are a lot of people who stays there overnight and go on a drinking spree. Being a public beach, there isn't really anybody assigned to watch over and maintain it.  It's really sad that it gets trashed because of that.

We stopped a few meters away CYC, and lowered ourselves gingerly towards the water. Fish-feeding isn't allowed, so the underwater view isn't that of a feeding frenzy, but rather of a bunch of fishes going about their business. There are corals, too, a lot of them fractured or bleached. And plenty of sea-urchins. It was slightly creepy the way the white spots on their body seemed to be trained on me, as if they were staring and daring me to come closer. 

We didn't stay long, and after a while we climbed back to the boat and went on to our next destination.

Barracuda Lake
Entrance to the Barracuda Lake

Our next destination is a few minutes away from CYC, and is accessible via a slippery wooden bridge. The lake got its name from the creatures living there. Yep, barracuda it is. No worries though, as they rarely appear from the 200 ft abyss they call home. It was a bit eerie looking into the water with your goggles on and staring at the underwater space that seems to go on. I heard that there are underwater caves that scuba divers can go and explore. That sounds equally inviting and terrifying.
The floaters. Haha

No worries for the the floaters though: the view while floating in the brackish water is also superb. Limestone cliffs bordered the area, reminiscent of El Nido's famed sights. I can just float all day, looking lazily at the green and gray cliffs and thinking about the universe in general.  But I can't, because for one thing, it's about time to see Coron's most famous scenery: the Kayangan Lake.

Kayangan Lake
Gingging giving a small lecture before entering Kayangan Natural Park
The famous lake (aside from being the cleanest lake in the Philippines, it's also famous for its dragon mosquitoes.) got its name for the white cockatoo that inhabits the area, whose local name I forgot. XD It is accessible via short trek up a hill with stop-overs in front of a cave for the requisite photo shoot.  I had to laugh when I saw our group picture: it looks so much like the group pictures of my friends who had been there before. I guess all tour guides went to the same training. :))
Standard Kayangan group pic
We trekked down to the other side of the hill to the lake, and along the way, Gingging pointed out the white cockatoo. I didn't see it, so I had her describe it, and she did so this way: blue tail, white body, beautiful. Sad that I didn't get even just one peek. 

The water here is about 20 feet deep, and just like Barracuda Lake, is brackish. The view underwater consists of interesting rock formations and occasionally darting (baby) swordfish. Gingging led us into a tiny, partially submerged cave. Our timing was off, unfortunately, since the cave is said to look amazing at certain hours of the day, with the bluish color of the water reflecting and bouncing off the wall. That time, however, it was just a dark, cramped space where we all piled in to take one shaky picture. The walls of the cave were filled with abrasive rock, so we had to be extra careful not get ourselves scratched. 
Kayangan Lake. Behind: The rock of my failure. :))
Next, Gingging pointed out an outcropping of rock where one can climb and then dive. Some of us were eager to try, but we urged Gingging first so we can gauge how it is. She was sure-footed when climbing up the rock, and was then suddenly hesitant to jump the moment she reached the top. We told her not to jump if it was really scary, but after a few moments, she jumped anyway. We looked at each other wishing someone would step up and try, but none of us were really good swimmer. I really wanted to jump off that rock, so throwing my hesitation and good sense for a moment, and assuring myself that I have my lifejacket on, I climbed the rock.

I lost some of my confidence though, when Gingging insisted that I remove my life jacket as it would hurt like hell to be yanked out of the water by it. I took off my lifejacket then, and repeated for the tenth time that I really can't swim. I resumed my climb, only to stop when I heard Ana mumbled that Gingging said before that she can't dive. That effectively stopped me, as I don't how deep I'd get submerged in the water. And what if I don't surface?

Gingging urged me on, assuring me that she'll toss me the life jacket as soon as I hit the water and that it's almost guaranteed that I'll surface. But the doubts had already snaked in my heart, and it is with evaporating confidence that I asked for my lifejacket back and donned it on. I really felt bad to pass up on the exhilarating experience of jumping off (an albeit not really) a high cliff (one item in my bucket list), but I had already lost the heady, crazy sense of daring that filled me a while ago. I half-heartedly belly flopped in the water with a much firmer determination to learn how to swim. So that next time...

Attack of the Jellyfish
It was already low tide by the time we went back to our boat, so we had to wade in the waist high water to get to it. We were slightly apprehensive, since some of us spotted sea urchins in the area when we were docking there. Gingging swore there is no way we would step on one, as the water was clear and we could see where we put our feet. 

Well, she was right, but she forgot to mention jellyfishes. Ana, Cere and I were the first to walk towards the boat, right behind Gingging. Jomai and the rest were behind us. We were all weary from too much floating and swimming in the lake, and we were sort of trudging in the water. When we heard Jomai scream that something caused her foot to be simultaneously itchy and sore, all three of us went horizontal and swam all the way to the safety of the boat-- all weariness washing away in the threat of stepping on a sea urchin. When Jomai and the rest made it to the boat, that's when we learned that it was not a sea urchin, but rather a  passing jellyfish, that caused the red spots on her foot. It must have been very sore and itchy. Gingging poured vinegar on the spots, and while it might have been the remedy, I don't think it reduced the itchiness one bit. Poor Jomai. And on her first trip too. 

We went to our last spot, Siete Pecados. Unfortunately for us, it was already low tide, so we won't be able to do any snorkeling. Aww. I guess it's one more reason to go back to Coron, aside from the other interesting islands that we were unable to include in our itinerary.
Golden sunset in the horizon.

A Rainy Homebound Ride
A torrential rain greeted us on our homeward journey. It could just be to me, but the sight of fog enclosed islands from all sides was strangely cinematic. I half-expected for us to emerge in some enchanted place after going through the curtain of rain. Fortunately (although somewhat boring), the twinkling lights from the town beckoned to us after some time. We were all looking forward to dinner and rest, but I guess we haven't filled our misfortune quota yet. 

It was low tide at the port, and our boat can't go comfortingly closed to the docking area. We had to wade in the water! After the jellyfish incident, you could just imagine our extreme reluctance to wade in the water with all that sea grass, and all that (imagined) sea urchin, and the jellyfish of course. We asked Gingging if there are no jellyfishes in the area, and her answer was far from comforting: jellyfishes are something we can't avoid here. We had no choice, however. Thank God that we were able to cross without any incident, although it was definitely paranoia-inducing. XD

Dinner at Lolo Nonoy's

Cold and soaked with rainwater (it's raining up to this point), we asked for directions to Lolo Nonoy's. It was a place recommended to us to have dinner. We found the place easily and placed orders of pork sisig (again!), calamares (sub for the ever elusive grilled squid), and tuna sinigang. We also had hot drinks to ward off the cold. Dinner (around Php 120 each) was okay and not as superlative as our lunch. The place also do not have service water. Too bad. Price was okay, although for value for money, I definitely prefer Macario's, although it is a bit far from Coron Reef.

Some thoughts before drifting off...
The jump-from-a-rock incident was definitely disappointing, but then I guess I still have plenty of opportunities to do it. I must learn how to swim. It's nice to be impulsive and adventurous, but it would be stupid to knowingly endanger once self by ignoring one's glaring limitation.

There's a liberating feeling to going into restaurants despite looking totally disheveled and dripping with rain water. I guess it's one of the perks when you are on a trip: that you don't have to be thoroughly mindful of appearances. You can be as crazy as you want, and it won't matter because nobody knows you anyway. Be careful not to be so totally crazy that you'll land in Youtube, though.

a bit of DIY Coron Review
The tour was a total winner. Props to Alyssa for finding DIY Coron, and for arranging everything. I haven't mentioned it above, but aside from the lunch, we were also served merienda in the form of puto and kutsinta and soda. It was delicious, specially after a slightly tiring snorkeling activity. The tour, the food, the snorkeling equipment (although my 3 of my friends had to shell out an additional Php500 each for their damaged snorkeling masks), and all entrance fees collected for each site were included in Php1662 fee they collected from each of us. They also arranged our round trip airport transfer for an additional Php300 each. Very convenient. Their staff who we interacted with (Gingging and Kuya Jayjay) were both accommodating and helpful. And judging from the emails exchanged between Alyssa and the manager, they were easy to talk to and they really take your preferences into consideration. Highly recommended. 

See Al's post on Expenses and DIY Coron review.


  1. hi au,

    this is owen of diycoron. great blog you have here. :) reading your post helps me also evaluate the services my team gives.

    i can also see that you do a lot of travel. if you are into it, you may join me in my travels also. i have put it in here

    my travels are mostly all about snorkeling and the beach and island... and i think you will develop floating (not necessarily swimming) capability, when you snorkel a lot. me too, i don't know how to swim. but slowly learned how to float and move in the waters because of snorkeling.

    1. Hi Owen! Thanks for the invite. I've browsed your blog and found some future travel plans which are of interest to me. How do I sign up? :)

  2. "Dinner at Lolo Ninoy's"

    au, it's lolo nonoy's! not ninoy! haha!

    I have to learn how to let go of my fear of water. >.< I know how to swim. A bit. I just don't know how to float via the bicycle way of floating. >.<

    1. Narealize ko din yung mali nung nagbrowse ako ulit ng pics. Haha. Eto na, iiedit na XD