|Grand entrance to Kayangan|
Just one mind-boggling fact: of the country's 7,107 islands, 1,780 can be found in Palawan while some 50 of these islets are in Coron. Surrounded by so much water, it is almost impossible to visit without so much getting into the water or at the very least, drink in the wonderful scenery and get your feet wet, literally.
|Parking -- It's more fun in the Philippines|
First stop: Kayangan. We started a bit late by our standards (photographers normally wake up ahead of the sunrise but on this occasion, I've allowed myself some slack), a little past 9am, waiting for two other passengers who canceled at the last minute. That means we had the boat to ourselves which is not a bad idea, sort of like being on a liveaboard even for just a day. Our first stop is at Kayangan lake. We arrived early enough, ahead of the crowds. There's a reason why this is the first stop in the itinerary; our guide tells us that the hike up the cliff to the familiar vantage point by the cave and the descent to the lake on the other side can be demanding for some guests. Putting it first means "fresher legs" can take the hike and guests can still enjoy the dip.
The wooden walkway was different nay better from before -- smoother but at the same time less slippery, with seating and backrests even for those not inclined to swim. There were about two dozen guests already there, enjoying the clean refreshment this early in the trip, some marveling at the clear-as-crystal water, others perhaps wiping away the sleepiness or inebriation of the day before.
|Lunch stopover at Banul|
Venturing close to the private resort of Balinsasayaw, we dock at a floating station on top of a reef awash with marine life. While our guide and my travel buddy snorkeled the shallows, I surveyed the scenery and observed the fishes through the opening at the floor of the raft. The papag (bamboo seats) could serve either as a good place to nap or eat. Before long, the tourists we left behind in Kayangan and Banul caught up with us, the tranquility broken by the boisterous shrieks of guests excited to launch into the water.
|Afloat at sea near Balinsasayaw|
Postscript. I know that it's standard for tour operators to promote 3-day, 2-night trips but I think this is nowhere enough to barely scratch the surface especially for first-time visitors. It's customary for the day trips to conclude at 4pm or earlier while there is still light but it feels bitin (short). Understandably, extensions will cost extra. But I've experienced coming home from Banul on one occasion and Calauit on another day well after dark and both experiences were just swell. Anyway, coming back early to the town means having the time to wash off the saltwater from our swimming gear and pack our stuff as we are heading to Culion the next day.
Info: Coron Ecolodge can arrange tours for the hotel's guests. For more info/to book, visit www.coronecolodge.com or call 0906 4556090 (Globe) or 0919 2048824 (Smart)
Getting to Coron: Turboprop 72-seater planes of Cebu Pacific (www.cebupacificair.com) and Airphil (www.flypalexpress.com) ply the Manila-Busuanga route; travel time: less than one hour; fare varies according to airline and proximity of booking to travel date. Alternatively, 2Go ferries (formerly WG&A Superferry) will ply the Manila-Puerto Princesa-Coron route, travel time: approximately 18 hours; promo fare is P1,200 (around US$27-30); visit travel.2go.com.ph
Next on Lagal[og]: Culion: Like Seeing the Starry Skies with a New Set of Eyes