We’d been looking forward to this for ages. 10 days of Filipino sun and sand with Becky and Dave, who flown all that way just to see us… Well, either that or we were tagging on to their well earned holiday!
The island of Palawan was our destination. It’s billed as an untouched paradise, and it was certainly spectacular. Getting around the Philippines is generally considered a pain in the arse, and El Nido, in the far north of Palawan, was no exception. For us, it was a flight into Manila from KL, another to Puerto Princesa, and then a fairly torturous 5-6 hour minibus ride up to El Nido itself. But my God was it worth it.
Our Air BnB (Sommer Eco Cottages) turned out to be brilliant. Yes it was unexpectedly in a different place to what was advertised, and a good few km’s out of town, but it wasn’t really a drama (once the initial strop was over). The staff were welcoming and friendly; the cottages had mozzie nets, functioning fans and something that gave a passable imitation of a shower; the breakfasts were good (and included in the price!); and you even got a free lift into town every day whenever you wanted. What more could you ask for really?
The scenery around El Nido is pretty epic; the main tourist activity here is centred around exploring the rugged limestone coastline full of hidden coves and sandy beaches. You can either take one (or all!) of the organised boat tours, or strike out on your own in kayaks or (heaven forbid) paddle boards. We spent a day getting sunburnt in kayaks, before booking ourselves onto Tour C for a day of island hopping. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s still a great way to spend a day. The views are literally from a tropical island paradise and the food is really good. You can even buy a beer on one of the beaches at lunch.
So, obviously, we also went diving. I mean, come on, this was one of the main reasons we got certified. The diving in this part of the world is centred on one thing – wrecks. Yes, there are coral reefs, and yes, they are pretty good, but to be honest they aren’t in the same league as Koh Tao, or (we hope!), Indonesia. The main lure is the WW2 era wrecks in Coron Bay. Coron is on a different island, 6 hours boat ride north of El Nido. We went for three days, and spent two of them underwater. The wrecks are Japanese ships, sunk by a US air raid in September 1944, and they are incredible. Mainly huge cargo ships, we explored 5 different wrecks, including some long penetrations and swim-throughs. It really was amazing. We stayed at (and dived with) Amphibi-Ko, and had a great time.
Back in El Nido, we made the most of the excellent cocktails and happy hours on offer, whiling away the hours playing cards and generally catching up with Becky and Dave. It was so good to see them.
Whilst we might like to claim that we aren’t on a year-long holiday, it is safe to say that our time in the Philippines was exactly that. And we loved it. The food was tasty (especially the more Western options), the alcohol cheap (on happy hour anyway!), and the company was excellent. Exactly what we needed having just said goodbye to the Beaut!
Thanks for a great week guys – hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.