A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

Sabang Underground River

One of the best things about an unplanned schedule is that surprises come when you least expect them. We left El Nido for Puerto Princessa with not a lot of expectations and it was more a means to an end. We were flying out of Puerto to Manila but since we were here we reckoned we would visit the underground river in Sabang. The river has been Unesco World Heritage listed and is very popular with tourists. We only managed to gain a spot after showing our passports and airline tickets stating we were leaving the next day and having the hotel staff book for us. The drive there is pretty typical of any we've had in the Philippines, a mix of dirt roads, a thousand bends and break neck speed.
Sabang is a tiny coastal town that seems to be on the cusp of something big. The river brings people from everywhere but it seems like they don't know what to do with them after. It could offer so much more if money was pumped into the area. Nice spot all the same. The biggest surprise is the river. From the most unobtrusive entrance you are guided into the most amazing spectacle of limestone and sandstone carving created over millions of years. Some of the ceiling heights are over 65m and the natural beauty is breathtaking. We were under the impression that the thing to see was the river but that's just a means of travel through this place. The unexpected thing was the spectacle of colour and form. You end up being guided through for about 1.5 klm although the river continues on for more than 8klm. The guides are great seem to be really proud of their position and point out all the formations. It's eerie how lifelike some of the formations are. I posted a couple of photos but like any photo, just doesn't come close. Definately worth the trek. The Philippino's are lobbying for the river to become a new natural wonder of the world and with good reason.

Posted by mike1967 05:45 Comments (1)

El Nido to Puerto Princessa

semi-overcast 27 °C

The drive is advertised as an easy scenic five and a half hours in a minivan. The reality is its a hilarious ride of your life if your from a country that has a road safety program. Palawan seems to be devoid of any regular road rules like the basics of keeping on your side. Blind corners on rising hills don't seem to matter to the drivers, the only funny thing was Brenton had a front row seat next to the driver and we were all in the back. Didn't seem to phase him too much, then again he goes driving with P platers at home. Probably a similar experience. The van was packed and at various stages we nearly hit pigs, dogs, children and trikes. Seems like everyone in this country moves to a beat that just sees them not being killed by half a second. We were going to go with a company called Sweety's but it looked a bit rough, took 10 hours and wasn't airconditioned. lucky for us, passed one on the way and there were people hanging off the sides, on the roof and I think the livestock got the seats. We finally arrived, Matt had a vomiting bug and was glad to be out of the bus. Crammed four of us, with all our packs onto a trike( new record) and headed for the first hotel with hot water. We haven't had a hot shower since Manila. The boys are rapt, this place has there own toilet and shower, telly and a pool. I told them it wasn't going to be Disneyland, think they're starting to get it. Exhausting and a little difficult at times but always fun. Andiamo Coles.

Posted by mike1967 00:15 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

El Nido island hopping and bar hopping

El Nido is the kind of place you could lose yourself for a year no problems. I'd imagine if you were a writer or on the run from the law you could set yourself up very nicely with the perfect routine. start with a coffee and brekky at the Art cafe', move onto a lazy swim on the beach and read a book and the biggest thing you would have to worry about would be the lunch menu and dinner. Everything else is taken care of. You get your washing done for about a dollar a kilo, beers are a dollar and the food is cheaper. The only thing that's expensive is the coffee. We're staying in a homestay place right on the beach with our host's Reuben and Marilyn, great people and very friendly. Two rooms are costing $16.50 a night each. Its not the hilton but clean.
We took an island hopping tour and I'd have to say i've had better days, the wind blew up to 35 knots and in an open boat with a rubber band engine and a refugee lookalike captain saying "no problem, no problem" ( as common a phrase in Philippines as G'day in Aus) our morale was starting to slide. We made it to a few lagoons and beaches but the conditions were pretty poor by the time we left. We got out to see and the boat broke down, the crewman was on the seeward side trying to keep it down and we were all on that side all the while drifting at a rapid rate towards the rocks. didn't seem to bother the captain. Eventually transferred to another boat and made it home like four drowned demoralised rats. Early to bed.
We eat out every night and El Nido is town that rocks, everyshop is still open at midnight and the bars are mostly on the beach. There are bands playing in most of them at some stage of the night and most of the muso's alternate in the bands. Brenton and I had a blast in one of the bars with a couple of poms and i think the night cost about $20. When you eat out every day you soon get to know the staff and I've got one bloke who serves a cold beer, the rest of them serve it like it needs another hour in the fridge.
We're heading off to Puerto Pricessa in a couple of days. I think we're taking a van of some sort, not sure. So far its been big and little planes, horse drawn cart, jeepneys, tricycles and big and little bankas. The van should be interesting, won't be surprised if i'm sharing my seat with a goat or chicken. Anyway Andiamo! Mike.

Posted by mike1967 19:00 Comments (0)

Diving

sunny 28 °C

A few days ago myself (matt) and brenton did an open water dive course, it was pretty awesome. We started the course with a dive at a little island with a beach on it. Our instructor Borge showed us how to set up the scuba tank, it took a few tries but we eventually set it up properly as we got into the water the feeling is just so surreal staying underwater for a long period of time is so cool. Our first dive we made it to a depth of 18.6 metres. Our second dive was at the same place it was cool because we got to see heaps of different fish and coral it was amazing to see how much life is actually living underwater. Our third dive was at a place called Barracuda Lake. This is such a magical place, when you first hop in the water it is freshwater and a nice temperature but when you get to about 8 metres the water starts getting warmer then at about 10 metres the water is 38 degrees it is like swimming in a Jacuzzi as you go deeper the water goes into salt water. It’s awesome. The next day we went back to the beach did another training dive but after that we went to a place called 7 islands and did a current dive that is where you get into a current and follow it till it ends this was good because we saw so many fish and coral.
That night we had to complete a theory exam on diving I was a bit nervous when the instructor was marking mine just hoping that I passed turns out I finished with high scores ☺ I was happy about this so I am now an official open water diver. Later that day we were able to go on an open water shipwreck dive we went to a wreck that was about an hour from where we were staying I forget the name but as we went lower we saw more fish but the visibility wasn’t very good. The second wreck we went to was a wreck called Tangat this was a better wreck we saw 4 lion fish and 2 stone fish that was pretty scary because I almost hit on of the stone fish. We then moved on to barracuda lake again it was cool and the reason it is named barracuda lake is because there is one barracuda trapped in the lake I was up the front of the group with brenton so I didn’t get to see the barracuda but the rest of the group did. Yesterday we hopped on a boat called the Joe to take us to El nido we had a 10 hour boat trip ahead of us but it went pretty quick because I slept the first 1 and a half hours then watched a movie and then slept again. So it was alright. When we arrived at El Nido we caught a trike to a resort called Island Front. This was a resort on the beach but it was to expensive so we stayed 2 nights and are now in a homestay on the beach in heart of El Nido until next time andiamo - Matt

Posted by mike1967 03:18 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Coron Palawan Philippines

I was feeling a bit more inspirational about 3 hours ago and typed a big long blog all about how great Coron is. What i didn't mention was the lack of electricity for about 12 hours a day. I lost internet connection and lost all the blog somewhere. ahwell here's the abridged version. Came in on a really hairy flight, the locals clapped the pilot when we landed safely, we all think air travel is the safest transport going, not so the filipino's. Anyway found the accomodation, SeaDive Coron. Fantastic place. We're all in one room and apart from the farting and burping and mucking around we're all getting along pretty well. I'll be happy to be moving on to El Nido to get some separation. A seven night sleepover with teenage boys can make anyone a bit testy.

Well the Philippines is the pinnacle of diving in the world and Coron is the capital. The boys have decided to use one of the big ticket experiences and get their PADI diving endorsement here. We all went island hopping and snorkelling, which was out of this world but there off to dive the WW2 Japanese fleet wrecks. Apparently the best wreck diving anywhere. There are divers from all over the world here just to dive these wrecks and they all rate them the best.
Brenton and matt have already dived the coral bommies and reckon it was awesome so the wrecks promise to be better again. We haven't been getting much in conversation at dinner, both shattered after big days. We haven't been in bed later than 9pm yet. beats sitting in front of a telly until 2 am.

Coron town is built right on the water. At first you think this is a bit confronting with the mayhem of the traffic and people and animals but once you get into the flow of it, it all becomes easy. Everyone runs a tiny business and despite how primitive i would doubt if there wasn't too much you couldn't get. I went up and met the local Firies and they really made me welcome. Typical fire station, SO doing all the work and firemen asleep in the chairs, nothing changes. LOL. Off to El Nido on Sunday in a leaky boat for seven hours, can't wait. Andiamo. Mike

Posted by mike1967 18:10 Comments (0)

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