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Tropical

Philippines

Coron Island, Philippines

Coron is a quiet little island north of the island of Palawan in the Philippines. There are a dozen Japanese ship wrecks from WW2 scattered around Coron that made it one of Forbes top 10 dive spots in the world!

On 24 September 1944, a squadron of 24 Helldiver bombers burst out of the sky above Coron Bay in the Philippines, located the Japanese supply fleet hiding among the islands below, and proceeded to blow it apart. The dive bombers, escorted by 96 Hellcat fighters, some of which were also carrying bombs, had just 15 minutes to sink as many ships as possible before their fuel would get too low for them to complete the 340-mile return journey to their aircraft carrier. The attack was ruthlessly successful, and left a legacy that wouldn’t be discovered until years later when recreational diving came to this remote part of the Philippines.

To get from El Nido to Coron can be done a few ways. You can take a 4 day cruise with companies like Tao that sail you to islands and snorkel spots during the day and you camp on beaches at night. You can take the slow ferry which takes about 5 1/2 hours or you can take the speed boat and be there in about 3 hours. I chose the cheapest option, the slow ferry.

It ended up taking about 6 hours and costed 800 pesos ($16). The ferry has no windows so its open air and you can climb on the roof if you prefer to get a tan. The views along the way are spectacular!

About 50 islands make up the Calamian Archipelago in Northern Palawan that separates the South China Sea from the Sulu Sea. The ferry boat passes many of these islands on the way to Coron. People living on islands in paradise, living the dream and they don’t even know it!

When you arrive in Coron at the port there is many tricycles out front waiting. To get to the town where most of the hostels are at is not really close enough to walk. I got a Moto taxi ride for 80 pesos to the front door of my guest house. I stayed at Guapos Guest House for 600 pesos ($12) per night for a private room with a shared bath. I don’t know that you will get a better deal then this in Coron and after staying in so many hostels a little privacy was nice. I would book in advance if it is the high season because there was not many budget options. But this place was good and clean and was located close enough to walk to everything in the town. You can also book tours, shuttles and diving through the office here. This phot was taken near the port.

As for the town there isn’t a whole lot going on. A few streets for basic shopping, a couple restaurants a handful of bars and agencies to book your tours or diving. No Name Bar is the only late night spot that I could find. Some Irish lads and I found ourselves there until it closed. After the bars close there is a restaurant down near the port that is open all night and also serves beer.

You can rent a scooter in town for 24 hours for about 500 pesos ($10). There is a few beaches on the island as well as a couple waterfalls. Once you leave the town the island is beautiful! Green hills, rivers, wild cattle roaming the fields. It was very peaceful! I didn’t have much time to spend in Coron because my 30 day visa was about to expire. (If you are in the same position, the closest place to renew your Philippines Visa is either in Manila or Puerto Princessa so I suggest you renewing before going to Coron. I believe the price is around $60) But I did manage to explore a good bit of the island, see a few beaches and catch a basketball game.

The flowing day I met near the port and border a boat set to explore a bit of the sea. My first stop was the Coral Gardens. I have never seen this much live bright beautiful coral in one place before. There was hundreds of different kinds of tropical fish, giant urchins, star fish, and if you’re lucky they say you can see sharks here some times.

The next stop was Kayangan Lake. When you google Palawan you will keep seeing this epic photo from the top of a viewpoint overlooking a blue and green bay. (the photo at the top) This is done from the walk to the lake. The next photo was taken about half way up the hill to the viewpoint.

After soaking up some of that view there is a path leading down the other side to the lake. The lake is half fresh, half salt brackish water so swimming is a bit more difficult then you have been used to but if you swim out to the middle of the lake the views of all sides is amazing! I don’t know what kind of critters are in the water but some Pinner fish were following me around everywhere I went.

It seems to be some kind of tradition with the boat captains that ever time the boat stops he must cook something! No matter what tour I was on in Palawan I would always come back to the fellas having a feast!

The next stop was the twin lagoons. The entrance to the other lagoon is a 1 meter across tunnel behind that blue boat! The fella that found this little secret was really looking for something. But on the other side of that tunnel is another big beautiful lagoon with green water surrounded by giant gray rock face.

These local kids took their bamboo raft to the lagoon to check it out.

And the final stop was this WW2 Japanese ship wreck. The nose of the boat was about 15 feet under water and went down to about 40 foot deep. Many fish and a few divers exploring the deeper part of the wreck.

Getting to and from Coron-

-The ferry boat leaves every other day to and from El Nido.

-Flights depart daily to Busuanga from Manila via Philippine and Cebu Airlines.

Where to stay-

-Guapos Guest House- 500 pesos per night. ($10)

Where to eat-

-Blue Moon Resto bar. I had dinner here every night. On the main street. Good food and wifi

-For dessert check out Pedros Gelatos. Made from scratch every morning.

Panama Travel

San Blas Islands, Panama

The archipelago of San Blas is off the coast of Panama. It’s made up of 365 islands that stretch about 100 miles. It was once a hideout for pirates and explorers.

 

We arranged the trip through El Machico Hostel in Panama City. There are a few options of islands to stay on but they told me Diablo Island was a bit more money but that it was the best. The next morning at 5am a guy in a land cruiser picked us up. After a pit stop at a 24 hour grocery store for supplies we hit the road for a couple hour jeep ride. From Panama City through the jungle from the Pacific to the Atlantic it took about two hours. We drove through the hills and farm land of Panama to the Kuna Reservation. The Kuna have rule of the islands and some of the jungle of the mainland Panama since Spanish conquest. They have their own borders, checkpoints and police. A few “taxes” paid and they welcomed us with open arms to their islands. They picked us up at the shore in basically a motorized canoe. We were taken to Diablo island. If you are backpacking for many months and want the best for less, this is the island for you!

  (the proper ratio)

 When we arrived we were greater and set up with a bamboo and palm leaf bungalow on the water for a few nights to stay.

San Blas like many places can be done on many different budgets. There are over water bungalows on stilts and many islands have 10 or so 40 foot catamarans moored in the waters surrounding them. It is also an option if you are traveling to Colombia to book a 4 day sailing trip. Three nights sailing around San Blas and one final passage from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. All meals included plus transportation for $400. Next time I will give it a go..

 

The Kuna people fed us fresh sea food every day for lunch and dinner. I didn’t think a fish with the head still on it looking at me was my kinda thing. Boy was I wrong! These little guys were amazing!

Coconuts were available and snorkeling gear was there for the taking. Next to Diablo is Pero Island. It’s about a 10 minute swim across a really short, really deep channel to the other island. There you will be greeted by hundreds of tropical fish and a huge steel ship wreck!

 

Much of the ship as rotted away over the years about I bet about 100 foot of it still stands.

The evenings on the island were spend having a group dinner. Usually some kind of white fish, Latin music and many many beers. They also sold bottles of rum for $15 which as a bit of a problem. Watching the sunset in a hammock with a beer in had. This is what dreams are made of..

 

Waking up to breakfast and to start it all over again..

 

They also offer a free your every day. Every day it is different. One day they took us to a sand bar with star fish on the bottom. One day they took us on an hour boat ride to the last of the islands in the archipelago Isla Tortuga.

 

It was the finest paradise I have ever seen!

Where to stay- Isla Diablo (Devil Island) $40 per night per person. All meals, snorkeling gear and tours included. Beers $2.

Getting there- You need to organize your tour in Panama City. They will arrange for your jeep to take you from the Pacific through the jungle to the port on the Caribbean side. Cost-$70. There is also a $20 tax to enter the Kuna Yala land. It does add up but it’s worth every penny! Book through El Machico Hostel. They are very helpful!

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