Busuanga Island, 13/03/2018
There are few times in my life where I couldn’t hide the excitement for what I saw right out of the window on a flight.
The first was while flying to the Bahamas, where the ocean beneath us took every imaginable colour. The second, and, so far, the last time, was while approaching Busuanga and the the surrounding islands in the Western part of the Philippines. It was dawn, the water shone in a surreal purple light, and the show in front of my eyes had to make me think of a pristine prehistoric world.
The perfect reward for our 2.30 AM alarm!
Landed in one of the smallest airports I can remember about, we got greeted at the exit by a small van that promised to take us wherever we were meant to be heading to. Once more, travelling in the Philippines proved to be idiot-proof!
We made it to Sea Dive in the bustling Coron City way earlier than our check-in time. We immediately loved its location by the harbour and the boardwalk amongst fishermen’s stilt houses (we didn’t know just yet about the windowless and pretty bleak room we had booked). Staying true to my tradition to bother every local with thousand questions about what’s worth and not worth doing, I went through my routine with the homestay’s owner, a kind lady in her fifties with a horrible taste in fashion, and got all the answers to my questions.
We swiftly changed in our beach outfits and rented a scooter. Our destination? Ocan Ocan beach, a local’s favourite, on the opposite side of the island. We rode on solitary streets along the coast and dusty dirt tracks in a barren countryside that had to remind us of the North-West of Argentina or Croatia in the warmest of days. To our surprise the island’s landscapes turned out to be pretty repetitive and we had to feel pretty relieved when we, after getting lost a few times in the middle of nowhere and a 2 hours ride, finally reached our spot. Which was pretty heavenly and very much worth it, as our host had promised. We drank coconut water by the shore, had lunch with chicken abodo, made friends with a big crowd of children on their school break (all the girls seemed to find Isa the most beautiful woman they had ever seen, and looked absolutely thrilled when she paid the compliment back) and finally crashed on the white sand of a private beach for a very much deserved early afternoon nap.
As the sky turned stormy, we made our way back to Coron City in what seemed to be a never-ending journey. The few hours of sleep definitely started to weight on us. On a FOMO run, we went for some pretty touristy hot springs on a mangrove beach just out of town, one of Busuanga Island’s landmark. A bit too packed for our taste and honestly not such big fans of the red-light show we unwillingly had to witness, when a couple of Asian tourist started to have sex on the side of the main pool, thinking that nobody would notice…
We finally made it back in the dark to Sea dive, where, after the not-so-bright daughter of our host, sucked what was left of our vital energy while clumsily attempting to arrange our boat trip to Coron for the following morning, we collapsed on the veranda, had dinner there and embarrassingly got drunk with just one beer.
Coron Island, 14/03/2018
Umpteenth alarm at dawn, but once again, for a very good reason.
Me and Isa made the mistake to order a s*** ton of food for breakfast, without realising we had no time to actually eat it (I mean, this is typical me, but definitely not typical Isa!). Our boat buddies, two Danish brothers we had met on the plane, whom I had asked to share the boat to cut the costs down, waited for us while we literally devoured what we had ordered. While still chewing our last big bite, we left the homestay and met our guide, who took us right away to the local market to get some vegetables, fresh pork and a big cut of tuna, which was meant to serve as lunch.
We sailed on a paraw boat and started to sail towards Coron, which, with its limestone rocks and picture perfect beaches soon turned out to the real big thing. Only the northern area of Coron Island can be visited, the rest of its surface is home to indigenous tribes and, thank God, there are no resorts nor tourist facilities other than the attractions (shores, bays, snorkelling spots…) the small boats stop by. This results in a clean, pristine, authentic look.
Between the highlights of the day I must mention the transparent water of Kayangian Lake, which we reached after a panoramic hike with an astounding bay view, the surreal Banol Beach, which we hit right before any other boat did so, snorkelling surrounded by myriads of colourful fishes, first around a shipwreck and then right over the most beautiful coral reef my eyes had ever seen, ending with the Twin Lagoon, whose brackish water gave a cloudy underwater effect.
Now that I look back, I find myself smiling thinking of our reactions throughout the day. Every single thing we saw or did seemed simply impossible to top… Until we reached our next destination and felt, once more, absolutely blown away and had to reconsider the previous one.
To no surprise Coron is considered by many one of the highlights of the Philippines.
Completely sunburnt, and very much on cloud nine, we made it back to Sea Dive in the late afternoon, made a few arrangements for our ferry trip to El Nido for the following day, bought some snacks and ventured Mt Tapya to watch the sun setting on Coron City Bay. We underestimated how long it would have taken us, but we still made it right in time for the show, which we enjoyed while making some plans for the coming days and sipping our beloved San Miguel.
Nikon N55, Petzval 58 Bokeh Control, Fuji Superia 200 (35)
Olympus OM-10, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Lomochrome Purple 100-400 / Kodak Portra 160 (35)