22.01.2007 - 01.02.2007 31 °C
Already from the plane we could see that this was going to be amazing!
The first hour in Puerto Princesa we spent searching for a nice place to stay. After that, it was pure fun!
The first day we went island hopping in nearby Honda Bay (nearby means 30 minutes noisy tricycle ride). We went to various islands and coral reefs for swimming and snorkeling. After feeding the fish, we had lunch (a fresh grilled red snapper) on one of the tiny islands, which have close to perfect white sand beaches.
On our second day we went to a subterranean river at Sabang - one of the Unesco World heritage sites. After Vigan, this is the second Unesco site we visited in the Philippines (they've got plenty! ... six to be precise).
It was an interesting trip, although we had to take into account a 2.5 hour journey by aircon minivan (one way, circa 50 km) - but: including a "natural massage" (from the bumpy road). After the first section of the tour we went to the entrance of the subterranean river by boat, which took another 30 minutes.
After a little walk through the forest, accompanied by monkeys and pretty large lizards, we finally got to the departure point for the river boats. These were a bit scary as they sank almost entirely into the water after all passengers had boarded. The excursion in the cave itself was a proper tourist happening. It was pretty crowded and the deeper we went into the mountain, the more boats we met. Apart from that it was entirely dark with the only light to see is the flashlight at the tip of your boat. "Ma'am/Sir, if you feel something cold and wet falling from the ceiling of the cave Ma'am/Sir, it is mineral water - when it's something wet and warm Ma'am/Sir, it's bat shit."
Our boat guide didn't sound like he did this trip for the first time either. In a monotone, record player like voice he kept on repeating
"Ma'am/Sir, if you feel something cold and wet falling from the ceiling of the cave Ma'am/Sir, it is mineral water - when it's something wet and warm Ma'am/Sir, it's bat shit."
On the third day we went to Port Barton which turned out to be a way better deal then Puerto Princesa. Being a quiet fishing village with a beautiful white palm-fringed beach, it is a lot nicer and you can do the same things as from Puerto Princesa only with less efforts and probably cheaper as well!
So we went island hopping again and as always were very lucky with the weather. Around the islands you can find beautiful coral gardens and plenty of sea life including sea snakes (what actually was the first thing Julia saw when she dove into the clear blue water) and dugongs (of which we only saw some marks they left from grassing at the bottom of the reef).
The other day we went hiking through the jungle to a waterfall with a little lake in front of it - just perfect for a swim, to cool down from the daily heat!
Yesterday was the first stormy day we had on the Philippines, even some fisher boats sank at the beach front (now worries, they were only tiny). So we used the time to go to a cock fight which just took place for three days. It was cruel but impressive to watch at the same time. Julia fell in love with the local farm live ; )
Normally there's not much going on at night in Port Barton but at the end of January you have no problems having a party and getting drunk: Today is the village's Foundation Day, so they're already celebrating it since a couple of days with nightly dance and sing contests (some families even take out a loan to pay the kids costumes!) on the town plaza.
As the ferry from El Nido to Coron all of a sudden stopped running (because of maintenance), we decided not to go to El Nido in the end. We also had to cancel Coron (because of the ferry problem there were no flights left), so no wreck diving here.
Our way back to Puerto Princesa however, just to give you an impression of local transport, took a bit longer than expected, due to a flat tire. There seems to be no such thing as a worn out tire. Philippinos reuse tires until they totally disappear! Not surprisingly, every 5km there is something like a tire repair station : )
But still we were able to squeeze in a visit to the local crocodile farm. Very impressive! At the beginning of the tour we were shown a massive skeleton (about 5.4 m, that's 17 ft in length) of a crocodile which was caught in an area in south Palawan after eating a farmer. Crocodiles apparently only eat 1.5% of their own body weight per meal, so in farmers this is only half a leg. The rest is for later, which leaves you rotting until the beast returns for your second leg ; )
Those animals are pretty aggressive anyway. Even the baby crocodiles (about 40 cm/ 1.4 ft in length) were snatching after us when we came too close to their containers!
After having seen all this, if you want, you can also have a picture taken of yourself holding a baby crocodile. We thought however that the crocodiles were too .. erh .. small to be on a picture with us.
Our next destination will be Legaspi and the area around Donsol in Southern Luzon, famous for whale shark watching and hiking. We are curious how much fun this is going to be as only 2 months ago there was a taifun in the same area and some parts are still affected by the damage. Local tourist officers however said that everything is almost back to normal again - we'll see ...