Palawan has always been a target destination for me since I was a little grom. Hearing stories and seeing photos of the South Western part of the Philippines has made me eager to fly there and see it for myself. It was mid march of this year 2015 when a friend of mine “John”, told me that he’s thinking of backpacking the Island of Coron, which was located in the northern part of Palawan, and comprising the eastern half of Busuanga Island. I did not hesitate one bit, and the timing was also right since another friend of mine “Nina”, texted me about Cebu Pacific having a seatsale. Took out my wallet and just booked a flight straight away. Nina and I booked the same flight while John booked a flight the next day.
It was a rainy sunday morning since there was a Typhoon (Egay) hitting the eastern part of the Philippines. We left NAIA Terminal 3 at 11:30am and arrived at Busuanga Airport at 12:25pm. Upon arriving the airport, Nina and I asked around how we can get a transportation to the town of Coron. Airport staff directed us to a Van terminal that will cost us 150php/pax and will drop us off at our destination. We booked at a guesthouse a month before our flight (Patrik & Tezz Guesthouse) which was owned by a swedish couple and the number 1 place to stay for backpackers at Coron as per Trip Advisor. The travel time from Busuanga Airport to the guesthouse was 45 mins.
While sitting cozy at the van, I got a chance to talk to the driver “Eric”. I asked him why the grass fields surrounding the airport was so green. He told me that it was Australian grass and I should watch out for brahma bulls and a few horses running around. He said that because a few years back a few foreigners helped out with the rehabilitation of that mountain. I looked at him with a questionable stare, and he followed up with “yes sir, we are on top of a mountain.”
Upon arriving at P&T, I got a chance to really look at the place. It was located by the docking area for small private tour/fishing vessels and was on top of the water. I expected a rural feel and I got it. From the outside you wouldn’t say that there was even a guesthouse there. Once inside, we then met with Tezz’s mother “Mommy Ely” who is a filipina but lived in Sweden before moving back here in the Philppines. Mommy Ely gave us a quick tour around the guesthouse and instructed us with a few house rules. I really liked the vibe of the place since it was really simple and homy. The toilet was always clean and there was even a small swimming pool.
Patrik & Tezz Guesthouse rates:
500php/room for one person
+150php for an additional pax
After getting unpacked and familiarize ourselves with the house rules, Nina and I decided to roam around the streets of Coron and look for a place to eat since we haven’t eaten our lunch yet. The town of Coron made me feel relaxed since it was really a provincial scene. There was no malls, no fancy restaurants and everyone was really friendly.
After having a quick snack and a bottle of beer, we decided to check the motorcycles that we’re for rent so we could roam around the whole town. We passed by Angels Motorcycle which was the go to place for travelers who wants to rent a motorbike. They charge 500php for 24hours and that’s exclusive of gasoline. Since it was already raining, we just decided to head back to P&T and think about it if we really wanted to rent a motorbike. It was only 5 in the afternoon, the rain was pouring and there was nothing to do (there was no beaches in walking distance from Coron town, you have to go there via a boat ride), both Nina and I decided to just grab a few more beers just to kill time and to talk about what we’re going to do the next day while waiting for John to arrive since his flight willl arrive at 12noon. We we’re then joined by Mommy Ely for a few “chitchats” and “getting to knows”. She told us that Tezz was at Manila and Patrik was out taking Mushy (The pitbull) for a walk, she also told us where to go and what to expect from the area.
Just as we we’re about to end the night, Patrik came and introduced himself. He was big and a really funny guy that was into kickboxing. After all the pleasantries and a few bottles of beer we all decided to call it a night.
After a long and very peaceful sleep, woke up at 9am and decided to wake up Nina for breakfast. John called with a saddened voice just before his flight and told me that he didn’t catch it due to heavy traffic and all the other flights leading to Coron we’re already expensive, so he had to cancel. With a dejected look on our faces, me and Nina just had to decide on what to do since our plan to go up Mt. Tapyas with John was a no go. We asked Mommy Ely if there was a tour group that gives a half day trip to the dive spots. She told us that there was none and we should just get a private boat for 1500php and just had to pay 100php each in some areas so we could still enjoy the day. We checked the brochures and see if there were places that we could head on to that wasn’t part of the package. We then met with Dandan who was the husband of Mommy Ely’s companion, he called his friend who was a captain of a small boat and agreed to take us to where we wanted to go. We bought a couple of bottled water and a few snacks so we can refresh while moving from spot to spot. The private boat can fit up to 8 people including the captain and guide, all four of us hopped in on the boat at 12:30pm and decided to go see the skeleton wreck first, but before heading out there we needed to drop by the coastguard to get a manifest and get our permits. The sky was grey and the waves we’re a bit crazy, but was still sail friendly.
Entrance fee: 100php
As we sailed across the parts of Coron, Dandan told us that it was safe to sail, since Coron is covered by what they call “The Sleeping Giant”, it was an island that covers the town of Coron with the South China Sea that prevents big waves from hitting the town and looked like a sleeping giant, thus the name. It took us about 30 mins to reach the Skeleton Wreck. I asked Dandan how deep it was. It was about 5-10m down to the top of the wreck and 22m down to the stern. It was just perfect for a beginner freediver like me. Took out my fins and goggles and just dove in and tried to go down as far as my lungs could handle, went up and told them “Man, this is deep”. You have to dive deeper to appreciate the wreck because it was drizzling up on the surface causing it to be a tad bit dark underwater. Tried again by pulling down the rope that was tied from the tip of the wreck to the surface. It was an amazing experience since it was my first time to dive a ship wreck. There we’re plenty of fishes and other sea creatures that inhabited it. Surfaced as I was already running out of air, Nina gave me a piece of the bread that we bought just before we went out to sail. The 3 of us including Dandan fed hundreds of fishes that were swimming with us. The feeling of feeding these fishes while floating at sea was really fun, as sometimes they would nibble on your fingers. The trick is, you should not panic as the they might get disrupted and start to really bite (or as what Dandan told us..lol).
Entrance Fee: 100php
According to Dandan, It was called Twin Lagoon because of the hot and cold water that you would feel while swimming around it. The boat was docked near a boulder and we had to swim to get to the platform that would lead to the lagoon. Once we arrived the, the water was greenish blue and I just knew that it was really deep. As soon as I dived in, I felt what Dandan was talking about. The confusing feel of both hot and cold water was rubbing thru my skin. Looking down from the surface, I couldn’t even see the bottom, and we had to move slowly so we could see the underwater surroundings clearly. Due to the mixed temperature, the water will look like there was oil, causing the view to be blurry. We swam around the whole lagoon and did a couple of dives down the trench before heading back to our boat.
Barracuda Lake was on the top of my list even before booking a flight to Coron. Docked and a few steps across a few limestone formations (There are stairs, don’t worry), we then reached the lake. Just like I pictured it, the view was stunning. It was on a volcano crater and the water was deep blue. I immediately went in and dived down to reach the bottom near the platform just to check how deep it was. At the bottom, the feeling was like being on another planet. Limestone formations was the attraction underneath, with the perfect tone of blue and mixture of fresh and salt water. Met with a couple of local guides that we’re also freediving the lake and decided to join them. We had a load of fun doing bubble circles and trying to go as deep as we could.
Since it was already 5 in the afternoon, we had to head back to town because there was a curfew initiated by the coastguards that were preventing people to be out at sea past that time. Once at the town, Nina and I headed to Calamianes Dive Center to get a joiner trip for the following day which costs 650php/pax which includes lunch, 6 dive spots(inclusive of entrance fee) and a bottled water. The day ended with a delicious dinner at Big Mama’s which had one of the best mango shakes I have ever drank to date, and a nice long conversation with Patrik at the guesthouse before calling it a day.
Even before waking up that day, I was beginning to think that our trip might get cancelled because of the heavy rain that poured on us like cats and dogs in the middle of the night. Fortunately, it began to lessen by 7am. We arrived the Dive Center at exactly 8am, we we’re the first ones there so I decided to drink a cup of the free coffee that was served since we didn’t have any breakfast yet. Once other people came in for there schedule trips, we we’re then grouped with our companions which consisted of a family of 4, Tin and Joei, Camille and Byron,a young couple, our captain Morres and our guide.
Upon hopping in on the boat, we waited for another 30mins for the captain to get the passes and manifest from the coastguard to make sure that we wouldn’t head out to Malcapuya Island since they we’re not allowing people to sail out there due to the bad weather.
It’s called CYC Island or Coron Youth Club Island because according to Morres, kids would always go there back in the day to enjoy the beach. It was a small island with a small powder white sand beach surrounded by mangroves.
A few meters away from the island was the CYC reef, which was the training spot for beginner scuba divers. Under the reef was a cliff of corals leading into the abyss. I decided to dive deeper and saw 2 scuba divers and tried to follow them. Once they saw me, I can see their faces behind their masks smiling and showing me a thumbs up since I was following them under the trench for a few minutes with just one breath.
The reef was full of life, a few clown fish, parrot fish and other types of fishes that I have no idea what they’re called (lol!) live underneath. Since the waves we’re beginning to get on our nerves, our captain decided we move on to the next spot.
Just a few minutes from CYC Island was the Hidden Lagoon, which was a stop over before having our lunch. It was a fascinating view and was mainly for sight seeing, picture taking and swimming.
Just as I jumped in the water, I noticed there was water inside the housing of my Gopro (not again). The first time that happened was when I snorkled around Bolinao and had to travel to a guy that lives in laguna to get it fixed. So there goes capturing more underwater pictures of my trip. Thankfully the camera wasn’t on that time so the SD card wouldn’t be corrupted and I could still get the pictures/videos prior to the incident.
The small beach that was sitting on the side of the island was the primary destination of island goers to have their lunch. The beach has 3 huts that could fit 10 people each. We had a chance to get to know some of our companions while Morres and our guide cook lunch for us at the boat.
After a few chats and rest, Our guide delivered our meal which consist of Liempo, Fish, Seaweeds, mixed vegetables and a banana for dessert. As we ate our lunch we could feel the water splash on our feet due to high tide and the beach was starting to get covered because of it.
After having our lunch, we then head on to Kayangan Lake which was one of the 7 enchanting lakes around Coron. A sacred site for the indigenous tribe of Calamianes, The “Tagbanua”. Even just by the dock you can tell that it was already enchanting.
The entrance fee was 200php, but since we we’re in a package tour, the fee was already paid for. To get to the Lake, we had to trek up a hill. Be prepared and bring an insect repellent as there are a lot of insects in the area. Most of my companions especially the females got a few bites even on their faces. Fortunately, I had non and I was even the only one that didn’t wear any repellent or what so ever (Probably the insects doesn’t like me? lol).
We had to take a short detour to a cave which was the iconic view for some of the pictures that circulates the web if you type in Coron. It was the perfect view of the Kayangan Lake Entrance.
Upon traversing down the hill, I could already see the perfect turquoise/clear water of the lake. It was heavenly and indeed enchanting. As soon as we arrived the lake, we looked for a spot where we can put our stuff. Got my gear and just dove in. The water was really fresh and it was clear underneath even if it was really deep. Thankfully, the sun was up and it made the view much more visible. Our guide led us swimming to a small cave which we had to do a small dive to get in to. He explained a couple of things to us and what can be seen there (If only we had a flashlight, as it was really dark inside).
There was also a cliff where people can do a little rock climbing to do some jumping. Camille and another guy had a go at it, I hesitated because I was floating around and didn’t know where to put my gear. I didn’t want to just squeeze it inside a crack on some rocks, because if it falls down I had to dive deep just to get it. Did a few dives to get to the bottom and to my surprise, I reached it a couple of times. Explored the depth of the lake with just one breath and I can concur, that it was mesmerizing just to be swimming at the bottom and looking up at all the people that are floating around the surface. It was a picturesque kind of moment.
Entrance fee: 100php
Our last destination was supposed to be the Calachuchi Reef, but since the waves we’re messy we just decided to go to Siete Pecados which was not part of the package.
It was a sanctuary for a lot of sea creatures and was another destination for people who wants to go snorkeling and scubadiving. The reef was also protected by the Tagbanua. I remembered Dandan telling me that it was called Siete Pecados because 7 islets surrounds the reef. Legend has it that 7 young ladies wanted to go to a fiesta, but they we’re prohibited by their parents. They then decided to get on a boat, unfortunately the boat sank and the 7 ladies drowned. A few years went by and people noticed that there was 7 small islands surfaced that same spot where the 7 ladies drowned from.
The dive spot was really deep but with a few breathes in, you can appreciate it at the bottom. The marine life was really alive. Hundreds of different species of sea creatures live underneath.
It was already getting dark, and our tour around the seas of Coron has come to its end. Once we docked Coron town, Nina and myself decided to walk from the port to the infamous 750 steps of Mt. Tapyas. From up there you could see what Coron Island really looks like in 360 degree view.
Maquinit Hot Springs
To end our tiring but fun trip, we rented a tricycle for 300php that would take us to Maquinit Hot Springs and back. It was a 30 minute ride to the springs, you would pass by the whole strip of Coron Town to get there. It was the perfect way to relax and just dip in a 38 degrees water that could even go up to 41 degrees. I remember Mommy Ely telling us that the springs came from a dormant volcano that even the locals don’t know where it’s located exactly.
Before heading back to P&T, we asked our tricycle driver (which was the older brother of Dandan) to drop us off at Noynoy’s. It was the local restaurant which was suggested to us by all of the locals that we met. Price for a meal was around 120php-180php.
Coron has been a wonderful experience for me. The ethnicity and the places they have to offer is definitely one for the books. When traveling to Coron, I suggest you book a hostel or a guesthouse. That way it would be cheaper, because the only time you stay at your room is when you’re going to sleep anyway. The 4 days I have spent there made it feel like home, from the chill vibe to the friendly locals. I will definitely go back and bring more friends with me to share what I have experienced during this trip.
Personal Expenses (exclusive of airfare) divided from 2pax
Room – 575php for 4 days
Meals – 800php for 4 days
Van – 300php
Private boat – 750php (1500php for the whole boat)
Entrance Fees – 550php (Maquinit Hot Springs/Barracuda Lake/Siete Pecados/Twin Lagoon/Skeleton Wreck)
Tricycle – 150php (300php for a ride to Maquinit)
Joiner Trip – 650php (Coron Island Ultimate Tour)
Miscellaneous – 500php
Total Expense: 4275php