Archive for the ‘ Luzon ’ Category

Exploring Mindoro Oriental

February 21, 2011

Well, parts of Mindoro Oriental.  ;)

I wanted to go to Tamaraw Falls. We’ll hang out in White Beach afterwards plus there would be some events later in the day there. Tricycle and motorbikes from Sabang were quoted to us for 600-800php to get to Tamaraw falls and back. Too pricey! To get to the falls without it being too heavy on the pocket, we’d get on a jeep for Puerto Galera town. Still, they really tried to persuade us to get on a motorbike instead. Told you they’re pushy. Anyways, we asked other locals about how to get there. A jeep bound for town leaves every 30minutes whether or not it’s full (20php), it’s mandated. From there, we have to catch a jeep for Calapan. It will pass by the falls (35php) which is just by the main road.

Our half-filled jeepney

In town, our first agenda was to look for an ATM so that my friend can withdraw some cash. There’s an Allied bank as well as Western Union but she had some problem with her (international) card. It’s alright, we’ll survive for the day. Next up, lunch or in our case, brunch. Walking around, we came upon another port. I was told that this is the actual Puerto Galera port. There were a number of pubs lining the area. We went to this one place with free wifi. hehe We ordered nilagang baka but it was too sour (sinagang?) and the meat was hard to chew.  :( The servers there confirmed that we can just take a jeepney for Calapan, no problem with that but that we might have some troubles getting  back coz according to them, the jeepneys depart only when full. It was fine with us, we have no problem with doing top load. This they found hard to believe. hehe

Downtown Puerto Galera

From Puerto Galera town, 14kms to go!

The ride took us through the mountains. Also, there was an ongoing road construction that was why traffic had to be controlled. After around a 30minute ride, we got to our destination.

Ongoing road construction

I first saw a number of vehicles parked by the roadside then I had my first glimpse of the falls. The fact that it’s a series of small falls merging into one pool was a sight I liked looking at. Of course we wanted to get closer to it. At the other side of the road is the entrance to falls. There is an entrance fee of 20php for adults and 10php for kids. There are two pools you can bathe in with the water coming from the falls. There’s no direct path to get nearer to the falls so you’ll have to climb the rocks to make your way towards it. The water’s refreshingly cool too. While we were there, turns out that almost everyone knew each other since it was a company outing. Their guide wouldn’t believe that it was just us 2 girls. Come on people! hehe

Tamaraw Falls

Beautiful cascade :)

Refreshingly cool waters :)

We’re lucky we didn’t have to wait long for a ride back to town. An almost empty jeepney bound for town passed by so we got in it. He didn’t drop us off town though, some distance after it (heading towards White Beach) since he was on his way home. We had to pay a bit more though (40php). Then we got on a tricycle that took us to our next destination (20php/pax)

En route to White Beach

It felt too hot to be in White Beach. We were going to lounge by the shore but decided against it. We had snacks first. Then waited for it to cool down a bit. When it felt that we can bear the heat, we took a spot and settled in then we fell asleep. :) We decided to hang around because there were live bands that night. Not long into the other bands’ performances, unfortunately, it started to rain. It was light at first but quickly became a downpour. We wanted to go back to Sabang (home) but the tricycle drivers were exploiting our situation and wouldn’t agree to anything less than 400php. There was this one tricycle driver who wanted to help us out but then, the first we talked to came up to him and told him that there’s a queue they have to observe. They wouldn’t let him drive us to Sabang but then they wouldn’t agree to our price (150-200php). Since the rain’s pouring really hard now, we got in the kind driver’s tricycle. We’ll try to wait it out since the other sheds were filled with people. Kuya Jaime (0908 2045252) just got settled in the island less than 4months back. He used to live in Fairview. He wanted to help us out but there were rules to observe. He came up with a plan though. He’d get a few passengers by the White Beach (they won’t object to drivers fetching their contact passengers) then he’d pick us up along the way. To which we readily agreed since there was even a black out! We got out of the tricycle. Went to a sort of shed. Waited for his go signal. Then started walking. It was fine with me until Len had to bring to my attention that it was very scary to walk in complete darkness (while it’s also raining). She said we should walk slowly so we won’t get too far away from the other people. Len! I scare so easily! Don’t say stuff like that! haha Luckily, we didnt have to wait long. We had to squeeze ourselves (4 pax) into the backride though, . hehe There was just one glitch in this, the passengers he picked up was headed towards the direction of Calapan when we had to make a turn to Sabang. So back in town, he  talked to a friend of his and asked him to get us to Sabang. He told the other guy that we’re his cousins and to please take care of us. Aww, thank you Kuya! He asked for only half of the agreed upon amount (200php) and gave the other half to the other guy. :)

White Beach

Dinner!

Free wifi ;)

Once in Sabang, the rain had stopped falling and there’s electricity. Woot! We decided to check out the local scene. There were a number of discos in the area but it’s more of a PG-rated stuff if you know what I mean. There was this one club, The Venue, that had live bands with a dance floor (50php entrance fee) so we chose to go there. We went in totally wet. Went to the toilet and came out looking fresh in dry clothes! :D We brought a change of clothes for White Beach but we weren’t able to change into them. Had a fun and relaxed night of watching, listening, dancing and singing along with the band. We even got free drinks!

Related Post:

Sunny Puerto Galera

Sunny Puerto Galera (day 1)

May 20, 2011

Destination: Puerto Galera

When people say Puerto Galera, they also meant to include Sabang and White Beach, both of which are different albeit smaller towns.

La Laguna Beach

Me and a good friend, Len, went there for a weekend.This is my first trip to this popular municipality in Oriental Mindoro Island. This fact usually surprises my friends who know how much I love to travel since Puerto Galera is pretty accessible from Metro Manila. It took 4 hours to get there from my home. We didn’t make any plans. And we sent only 1 sms to each other the night before, meet up in Batangas pier at 10am. Got that. I’m good to go. ;)

I had 10pm-6am shift at the hospital so as soon as i got home, I had to finish packing, grab a bite or two then head out. Instead of joining my friend in Buendia, I headed to Alabang because I do not want to backtrack. In Alabang, there’s one big terminal for buses and jeepneys. Just ask around for a bus heading to Batangas Pier, don’t forget to ask for the (one-stop) express bus, fare is 137php. Travel time is about an hour and a half.  I’ve been to other ports and piers in the country and it was either small, unorganized or looked old that was why I was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s a big, well maintained, organized place. I got to the pier first so to while away the time (and since I was hungry too), I went to a small store and got some chips. When Len got there, we proceeded inside to get our tickets.

Inside Batangas Pier

There are 3 main destination for Puerto Galera: White Beach, the most popular choice; Calapan, the capital city of Oriental Mindoro; and Sabang, a diving destination. She asked me where I wanted to go, I said, anywhere. To help me choose, she quoted room prices. A typical room in White beach would cost anywhere between 1000-1500php while it’s around 600-800php in Sabang. Sabang won. hehehe Tickets for Sabang is 230php/pax and then you have to pay for terminal fee (30php), conservation fee (30php) and environmental fee (50php). Once inside, there weren’t that many passengers (it’s a Friday and it was almost lunchtime). We were told outside that our boat’s about to leave so finding the doors closed wasn’t gonna deter us since we saw our shipping line’s boat was already filled with passengers. We got the attention of one of the guys working there and he let us out then they escorted us to our boat. We could have been left behind if we just sat there (since they weren’t giving last call or whatever)! The boat set sail after we settled in. Travel time was about an hour.

Sailing for Sabang

Even if it was my first trip there, that wasn’t the case for Len so she was sort of my guide. We stayed at Red Coast. Owned and managed by an expat and his wife, George and Helen, we got a beachfront fan room with kitchen for 650php/night. If we’d opt to use the aircon, then it will cost us 800php/night. It’s not perfect but it will do and come on, it’s cheap. And we have yet to haggle at that.  ;)

Red Coast

Our 650php/night room

View from our place

After some unpacking, we walked around the area. We went to La Laguna Beach, some 15-20minutes walk from our place. On the way there, the view brought to mind Santorini since the hostels/ hotels built on the mountainside were whitewashed too. It was a bit crowded in Sabang so La Laguna was a welcome sight. We had our late lunch at Kaye ‘n’ Em’s. We had chicken curry with rice and mango shake (360php). Mmmm! We stayed here for an hour or two. We went back “home” to get some rest, I have yet to sleep on a bed for two days now (tsk tsk tsk). After Manila’s sweltering heat, Puerto Galera’s sunny but not hot weather felt so good! :D

Sabang :)

There were many colorful flowers in the island :)

Lunch with a view :)

Your ride to get to the floating bars

Many boats for the divers

Finally getting some sleep (even if it was only for a couple of hours), I’m ready to go out now. That is after I wake my friend up too. ;) I wanted to check out the scene at White Beach. To get there one has to either ride a tricycle, a motorbike or a jeep (last option available only during daytime). When we got to the main rode, we were swarmed by guys offering their services for us. It would have been alright but there was this one very pushy guy. We told him to back off coz we’ll think about their offer. But he followed us around even when we left the main road. That was why we took another’s offer even if it were for the same price (150php for 2pax, one way). Then he got upset about it and wanted to quarrel with us as to why we chose another over him since he offered first and they’re the same price. We told him our reason and left.  Many locals doing business there were too pushy. Didn’t want it to ruin our night. It took around 20 minutes for us to get to White Beach. Our driver, Kuya Oliver, gave us his number (0928 5963113) so we can send him an sms if we want to go back home.

After dinner where we drowned ourselves off a gallon of iced tea (we were thirsty haha), we tried to walk off the calories. White Beach was very different from Sabang. First off, there’s an actual beach (a long shore line anyways) hehe There were more people too (local tourists mostly) and the craziness that goes with it. I enjoyed watching the fire dancers. There were live bands too and a comedy show. If you want some dancing, you’ll be hard pressed to find one though. It felt like White Beach is for hanging out with a number of your buddies, the people that were there were almost always in at least a group of 4. We planned to go swimming that night but didn’t have the heart to actually do it. Didn’t want to get wet then get cold. I laid my sarong down on the sand and we lay there for a while until Kuya Oliver got there to fetch us. :)

Related Post:

Exploring Mindoro Oriental

El Nido Escapade (day 4)

February 25, 2011

It’s decided, another day for island hopping! Happy and excited to be back at sea! Yay! haha :D

We took Tour C. Actually, I was supposed to organize our own trip. I have already talked to someone who’s friend with a boat owner. I’ve got people joining me. Places to go to had been chosen. We’re gonna wake up early to go to the market. The works. And then, other people had to complicate stuff. I was starting to get a headache (it’s so hard to please everyone, it’s just impossible!). My friends were telling me that it’s not worth the hassle it’s causing me and urged me to just scrap it. I did though with a heavy heart coz I enjoy DIYs so much! hehe

Island hopping, day 2! :D

First stop is a hidden beach. We have to swim to get there. I used a pair of fins since I’m certain I would lag way behind the others if I don’t. The spot where our boat was docked was a place good enough for snorkeling. Lots of corals and fishes. Charlie stayed behind and snorkeled around the area. While the others and I swam ahead. In the hidden beach, the fishes were kinda territorial. You can translate that to us being bit every now and then by a few of them. Ack! hehehe

Our guide, Kuya Leo was very funny. He loves to crack jokes while sharing some infos about the places where we’re at. Though his jokes works best if said in Filipino. That was why I was usually laughing out loud while the others just looked on. Hehe He offered to be my guide for my next trip and I would love to take him up on his offer. I told him that I wanted to organize my own island hopping trip but had to cancel because the person I was talking with would always up the price or bring up another concern after a prior price had been agreed upon or after a previous problem had been solved. He told me I should have talked directly to the owner/ boatman, things would have been so much easier. I know that but… what’s done is done. ;)

Kuya Leo, cool guide!

We went next to Matinloc Shrine,  an island owned by the Fernandez clan. The place where it was built is just naturally beautiful: jagged limestone cliffs, crystal clear waters, picturesque view. We had our lunch here. The place took my breath away and is by far, my fave island there! Some pictures of the island I fell in love with. :)

Matinloc Shrine

This time around, there were 8 of us (not counting our 3 guides) and almost all were CSers, except for Emilien that is. We met the others a day or so before.

We took our time here. But soon, it was time to move on to the next island. Make that a secret beach. ;) It’s called a secret beach since you’ll have to swim in between a crack beneath a limestone cliff. The water surrounding it was very clear and you can see all the way down, around 15-20feet down. Once you made it through the crack, you’ll find yourself on a secret beach indeed.

And then off to this rugged beauty of an isle. When we got here, only few got off the boat. The rest took a quick nap or took pictures of the area.

Last stop, Helicopter Island! So named coz the shape of the whole island supposedly resembles that of a helicopter. This was a nice place to just chill. Sit/ lie down on the sand; eat snacks while chatting with friends; take a dip if you feel like doing so; take a nap by the beach if you’re tired.

rugged beauty!

For dinner, Emilien recommended a bistro named Balay Tubay, a cozy hangout place for local artists that’s quite popular because they  have local bands playing there every night. Food is good here. They have free wi-fi too. :D

dinner at Balay Tubay

Mmmm! :D

The famed El Nido soup

Last night in El Nido. *sigh* Think happy thoughts: I will go back! :D

PS: Unfortunately, I lost my phone on my last trip. That is why I can’t post Kuya’s contact number. I’ll update this as soon as I have it again.

Related posts:

Getting to El Nido

1st day of island hopping

Lazy day in El Nido

El Nido Escapade (day 3)

February 24, 2011

So we did a day of island hopping the day before. One of my travel companion is now sunburnt. The idea of another day of it wasn’t that appealing to him. Another wanted a break from the sea (come on guys!). It was decided then. We’re gonna stay in town. Try and trek a mountain, chill by the beach, eat, get lazy. Doesn’t sound bad really. :)

The view that awaits us upon waking up :)

After getting ready and drinking our morning coffee (courtesy of Entalula), we went out and looked for a carinderia for cheap but good foods. We’re going to meet up with  the guys at their place. We walked by the beach to get there, passing by another friend’s place first. :)

My cousin. At Entalula. :)

With newly met Estonian friends

I miss El Nido!

When we saw Nick, he was really red! haha (sorry dear! ;)) It’s a good thing we brought along an after sun spray with us to help relieve him of some pain. After applying it on, we went out on the street to get to our goal: climb a mountain. I had no idea which mountain nor what peak and neither do they. Brenda, my trusted El Nido guide, told me before if I ever needed anything, I should not hesitate to go to her mom. Also, I’ve read from other bloggers that they had a guide with them. But it looks like we have more of the come-what-may attitude so off we went. Plan: just ask the people around for directions. Very organized huh? ;)

We're going up there! But where is "there"?! :D

We walked past the main part of town. Led us to a dead end. hehe We had to backtrack and ask for directions. One lady told us that to get to the top we have to follow the trail and to always make a right turn (or was it left?), our landmark was supposed to be this very big tree (they’re all huge for me). Needless to say, we lost our trail after around, maybe, 20minutes of going uphill. The trail was lost and it led to this fork in the road and we’re not certain on which one to choose. Really should have asked for a guide to go with us! Being the troopers that we were, it was no big deal. We were (or was it only me?) getting tired and it was hot!

Charlie led the way :)

Would have been awesome if we made it up there!

Lost? Uh oh!

We’re now on Plan B. Have lunch and just hang out. Good enough for me! (I’m so easy to please sometimes ^_^). We met Emilien (our French mate) on the way back and we all had lunch at the eatery beneath the place where the boys are staying at. Where to hang out? At Emilien’s place! He’s staying at this nice place just beside Entalula. He has a big room that he got for 1200php a night. It has a spacious balcony with some chairs where we can lounge at. And that’s what we did. Sit back. Admire the view before us. Drink refreshing fruit shakes. Hang out with friends. :)

Beautiful!

A couple of hours after, we walked around town again. It was nice to stretch our legs. We spotted a stand that was selling some halo-halo and the thought of eating one was so tempting, I gave in! They followed my lead. :D

School with a view :)

A glass of halo-halo to beat the afternoon heat!

We decided afterwards to catch the sunset since we have guys with us who just love to take pictures. To be able to photograph it though, we have to go to another beach since the mountains will block  our view. Corong-corong beach is several minutes walk from El Nido town. But we each went to our place to freshen up first so we didn’t have much time ’til the sun sets. We took the tricycle where we paid 50php for the 5 of us. The beach itself is nicer than the one in town but compared to the other, this is somewhat isolated. If you’re looking for a more laid back atmosphere, guess this is the one for you then. When we got there, my companions were almost half running to get to their spot for their shot. It was fun watching them while they were at it. Their enthusiasm was plain contagious! :D

My 3rd El Nido sunset :)

Mission accomplished, we went back to town for some good food. We’re back at Blue Azul Cafe and later met up with other friends by the beach. :)

It was a good day. :)

Related posts:

Getting to El Nido

1st Day of Island Hopping

2nd Day of Island Hopping

El Nido Escapade (day2)

February 23, 2011

A lot of friends have said that the beauty of El Nido would be best appreciated if you go island hopping. We heeded their advice so that’s what we did!

The view from El Nido town

We checked out of Marikit so that we can stay in Entalula, they had 2 vacant rooms that morning. We (my cousin and I) really like the place and the fact that we’re being treated as family members helped sway us! Our fan room costs 1200php, if you’ll opt to use the air-conditioning unit, be ready to shell out another 600php. The boys were more practical. They decided to stay inland and shared a 700php room at El Nido Inn and Restaurant which included a breakfast  for two, not sure if they have wifi though as the 2 guys weren’t keen on it, good deal! However, do take note that there are a lot more options, just be patient and you’ll find one that will suit your taste.  After our breakfast, we quickly headed back to the beach to join other people for tour A. We booked with Entalula since theirs is 100php cheaper than the rest. It was supposed to start at 9am but they were waiting for us. It was already past 9, oops!

Tapsilog for breakfast at El Nido Inn & Restaurant

There are 2 options when doing island hoping. First is to join a tour, fixed price, then you’ll get to meet people and make new friends (hopefully) plus you won’t have to worry about anything like food, where to go, etc because they’ll take care of it but you might not like the people you end up traveling with and you’ll have to adjust to them. They have tours A, B, C and D, a mix of caves, hidden beaches, snorkel sites, etc. OR you can hire your own private boat then you’ll be your own boss, you go wherever you want, you won’t have to adjust to anyone but you have to haggle (boat rental prices start at 3500php)/ make lots of decisions, worry about food. It could be cheaper though if you know what you’re doing. Also, there’s an eco-tourism development fee (ETDF) of 200php that everyone has to pay. The money the municipality collected is meant to  maintain and protect the environment. You only have to pay it once and it’s valid for 10days. Local residents are exempted from it though. ;)

Cruisin' the whole day :)

I ‘m not exactly in a chatty mood during boat rides because 1. it’s too loud to start a conversation and 2. since I’m really interested at the sights, 3. I just want to absorb it all in. After a while though, it doesn’t matter that it’s loud so I start talking. Can’t keep quiet for so long. hehe

...and we're off for the islands!

Nick taking beautiful pictures :)

There were 9 of us (not counting our guides):  2 Pinoys, me & Charlie, 1 American, 1 British, 1 French, 1 Brazilian and 3 Estonian. They were all so nice!

us :)

Note: No pictures were taken when in “hidden/secret” beaches/ lagoons since my camera isn’t waterproof and I have no intention of getting it wet. ;)

Tour A, according to the tour operators, is the most popular choice. The small and big lagoons are a favorite amongst many visitors. I have several postcards of those places and it’s just so beautiful!

1st stop- Secret beach. :)

2nd stop- Shimizu Island. Very good for snorkeling. It’s just that the waves were a bit strong when we were there so I had a really hard time swimming, seriously thought I was going to drown and no one would have noticed it since they were all busy (sleeping by the beach, swimming, snorkeling, etc). I should have gotten a pair of fins and wore a life jacket! It would have helped a lot since I’m not exactly a good swimmer. Decided to stay on land after this. :)) Got busy taking pictures of the place and of my companions. Lunch was served here. :)

Our camera-shy Frenchie at Shimizu Island

Enjoying the island

Sleeping under the shade

Lunch was prepared by our guides

With my dear cousin :)

3rd stop- Small and big lagoon, Miniloc Island. Wanted to kayak (800php for a day’s rent) here with my cousin. But then we forgot to tell THAT to our guide so we missed our chance! Ugh! We were just too busy admiring the place and taking shots/videos. :D Even bought a rash guard so I won’t get any darker but then couldn’t find it when I was packing my stuff!

Everyone got taken in by the view at the big lagoon ;)

I couldn't capture the beauty of this place

Pic courtesy of Nick :)

4th stop- Secret lagoon. Had to get off the boat and swim to get inside the secret lagoon. After several minutes, I was just about to follow the others, when Charlie swam back and told me that he thought he saw a sea snake so the coward me didn’t follow the rest. :( Tried to enjoy swimming at the water before the secret lagoon but ended up scraping my foot. It wasn’t just me though. Another also got a wound, on his leg this time, when he was swimming back to the boat. Stones were sharp, be careful!

Sweet couple before the Secret Lagoon

:)

5th stop- Seven commando. Our last stop for the day. The rest enjoyed their buko juice while relaxing by the beach. My cousin and I kayaked ourselves all over. We had to do it somewhere, we’re paying for the kayak! :D

Next stop: Seven commando beach

We let the guys borrow our kayak in exchange for their buko drinks hehe

It felt that it ended all too soon. We’re back in town. Went our separate ways to freshen up and planned to meet by our place after to grab some food and hang out. As we’re walking about town, we (Leandro and I) spotted a fruit shake stand so we zeroed in on it! We’re thirsty and we wanted to drink something refreshing. As we were waiting for our drinks, other visitors passed us by. One of them, Ricardo,  started talking to us. He’s so friendly! He was happy to have met Leandro since he now has someone to talk Portuguese with (he’s  a Peruvian exchange student in Singapore). He got our numbers and he’d join us later.

Fruit shake stand

We can’t get enough of the water and it’s what we went there for so we hung out by the shore. Relaxation time after swimming all day. Watching the sun set wasn’t bad either. We then had dinner at Blue Azul. It’s located inland, they serve delicious foods plus they have wifi! haha My cousin and I were looking for wifi most of the time. The chicken we ordered was very good, yum! Afterwhich, we went back by the beach and hang out with the (tons of) people we met that day til it was time to go to bed. Good day. :)

El Nido buddies :)

El Nido Tour Package Infos (Standard rate):

  • Tour A/ Lagoon Tour: Lagoons, Beaches, Snorkeling – 700php/pax
  • Tour B/ Cave Tour: Snake Island, Caves, Snorkeling – 800php/pax
  • Tour C/ Secret Beach: Matinloc Island, Snorkeling – 900php/pax

*Tours usually start around 9-10am and lasts the whole day. Lunch are included in tours. Do bring plenty of water especially if you get thirsty easily. Besides, you don’t want to get dehydrated.  You have to bring your own mask, snorkel and fins, others are rented out for 100php a piece (snorkel set and fins) but try to bargain for 100php for the two. Don’t forget your sunblock and shades.

*There’s no need to book tours way in advance. You can do it once you’re in town so you can compare. We booked with Entalula coz theirs is 100php cheaper than the others. :)

Related posts:

Getting to El Nido

Lazy day in El Nido

2nd day of Island Hopping

Lagoon Tour

El Nido Escapade (day1)

February 22, 2011

My cousin and I can’t wait to get to El Nido coz we’re just psyched to go to the sea, chill and relax in a beautiful place and El Nido is IT. :)

Flying over Palawan

We’re going to travel with Charlie. Met up with him at the boarding gate. I’ve sort of planned for this trip but that morning, when I sent another sms to confirm my reservation with Marina Garden, they told me that they thought I made a reservation for the month of March and not February! They canceled my reservation which was really bad of them since it was done by me a month prior the trip and we’re now suddenly “homeless.” No worries though because friends came to the rescue. They gave me so many contact numbers and so many recommendations.

Charlie! My travel buddy! :D

We didn’t fly directly to El Nido because that would be really expensive. Upon arrival in Puerto Princesa, I still haven’t made up my mind on whether to stay in the capital, head to Sabang, or catch a shuttle to El Nido on the same day. We took a tricycle (50php) to head downtown to check for a room in Casa Linda Inn. I’ve stayed there before and it was really nice and relatively cheap. Unfortunately, they were fully booked. Someone also told me that it was already late to do the underground river tour (it was 10am) since we’d have to get permits first etc. That being the case, staying in Puerto Princesa as well as heading off to Sabang was nixed off our options leaving us with the decision to head straight to El Nido. The driver brought us to Fort Wally’s (09172762875)  main office downtown wherein we made reservations. We might have paid for more because from what I’ve read and from what some told us, it’s 600php to El Nido and 500php to PPC. We each shelled out 1300php (700 and 600php respectively). The reason we were given was that, it would have been cheaper if we went to the terminal and rode from there instead of being “picked up” downtown. Bummer. After paying for our seats, we made some last minute shopping for whatever necessities (bought a few snacks, withdrew money from ATMs coz there’s no ATM in EL Nido, bought sarongs and had breakfast).

Time to eat, we're hungry!

As we were about to eat breakfast, Ate Lea spotted a French guy we met in the airport the day before, Quentin. We were in the same flight from Bangkok to Manila. Also, he’s enroute to El Nido. Almost the same travel plans as us so I invited him to join us for a meal. He’s soooo adorable! He was going to head up also that same day but then his friends told him that they’d be arriving in PPC the next day that’s why he decided to wait for them. Soon it was 11am, time to board the shuttle, pick up other passengers and head over to paradise!

With Quentin in Puerto Princesa

The shuttle headed to the terminal to wait for more passengers. We had to wait long for one guy because according to the lady in charge, there were some misunderstanding about the pick up time and point. Took us about 30minutes. It turns out that we knew the guy we had to wait for, Nick! He was another travel mate visiting from Taipei. His original plan was to go to El Nido the next day but he decided to join us coz it’s his main destination anyways. :)

The drive took 5-6 hours which included a 20-30minutes lunch break at a Fort Wally eatery in Roxas, 2hours away from PPC; stopping by San Vicente to pick up some passengers; drop them off at  Taytay; and fix a broken tire. The last 2hours of the trip was kinda bumpy since the road has yet to be paved. It didn’t matter that much to me (and I believe, the others as well) since the view is more than making up for it, karst mountains, the sea, so many trees. Happy!

New tire. Flat tire. :(

Think positively: at least we got to stretch our legs and take pictures! :D

Enroute to El Nido :)

After getting off at El Nido’s terminal, we walked to town. When people say a place is small, it really is small. You can walk all over town in less than 30minutes if you pace yourself. It was around 5pm and that’s when it gets hard to look for a place. It’s easier in the morning because that’s the time that the vans filled with visitors head back to PPC. We found some alright places but it’s either we don’t like the place, found it too expensive or something else. I then decided to ask help from a friend’s mom. She looked a lot like Brenda, her daughter, that I already addressed her as Tita Emy before confirming it. My cousin and I liked her instantly coz she took us in and treated us as her own daughters. She looked like she wanted to scold us for not having planned more. haha Her place is called Entalula but they were fully booked that night with the possibility of having a vacant room or two the following morning. She made her son go to her sister’s place to check if they have room for us. They did! We stayed at Marikit for that night (800php/ room/ 2pax). Having solved the question of where to sleep at, we went out to find some food. :D

First sunset in El Nido

There were a lot of options on where to eat at in El Nido from affordable carinderias to the more heavy on the pocket places. We ate at Curry House. Not that cheap but the sizes of the servings made up for what we paid for. The place is sort of a cross between an art store and a restaurant. Pretty nice ambiance.

A large serving of vegetarian curry

The guys called it a night soon after dinner. We all went into our respective rooms but then my cousin and I can’t believe we’re in our room getting ready for bed when it was just about 10pm (or earlier). With that, we decided to head out again and to pass the time by the beach. We just want to be closer to the water. Went to bed after a couple of hours. :)

Relaxing by the beach :)

A glass of caipirinha to cap the night

Accommodation infos (as shared by friends):

beachfront

  • Rico’s – 09272588456/ 09294671632 (1000php)
  • Gloria’s cottages – 09191677870 (600php/ fan room)
  • The Entalula – www.entalula.com

for a detailed list, visit  this site

Related posts:

1st Day of Island Hopping

Lazy day in El Nido

2nd Day of Island Hopping

Swimming with Whalesharks in Donsol

May 28, 2010

A friend from Germany visited the country for 21 days. I took it as an excuse to tour the countryside! ;)

Why 21 days? Because that’s the maximum number of days he’s legally allowed to stay in this country without getting a visa. What to do with 21 days? Easy. Meet up with friends and tour the country! hehe

1st stop: Donsol, Sorsogon

Mission: Swim with butandings! :D

A butanding souvenir

Whalesharks are locally referred to as butandings. They are the world’s biggest fish and the funny thing about it is that they since they are filter-feeders they eat the smallest creature in the water, planktons, though that means they’d have to eat a lot! With five pair of gills, dorsal and pectoral fins, their blue-gray, spotted body reaching up to lengths of 40 feet, whalesharks are indeed a sight to behold. Despite their gigantic size though, they are gentle creatures so it’s possible to swim alongside them. It is because of them, whalesharks, that Donsol, used to be a level 5, is now a level 1 municipality which thrives on eco-tourism and and is famous worldwide as the whaleshark capital of the world. Butandings are sighted between the months of November and June with its peak from February to May.

To get there, we flew in to Legaspi, capital of Albay province. It was a one hour flight. I knew I was in Legaspi when I saw Mayon’s perfect volcano. They have a local saying that if you were able to see its perfect cone, then you’ll have a wonderful trip. I surely hope so! :)

Maon's perfect cone viewed from inside our plane

From the airport, we rode a tricycle towards the city terminal from which there are buses, jeepneys, vans and tricycles that will take you to various destination in the province. We were the first two passengers of the van bound for the town of Donsol in Sorsogon. We had to wait for at least 30 minutes before at least half was occupied.Fare was 65php per person if your van seats 14. Since my friend and I were in a bit of a hurry to get going (we’re worried we won’t see any whalesharks), the two of us along with another tourist, an American named Jeff, agreed to shoulder the cost of the last 5 vacant seats, we each shelled out 175php. It was approximately an hour before we reach Donsol’s town proper.

At the city terminal

To be able to swim with the whalesharks, we first had to register at the Visitor’s Center which is located in Barangay Dancalan. We got there by riding a tricycle (20php each) when we got off the van at the town proper. Registration fee for locals is 100php while it’s 300php for foreigners. From here, we had the choice to not wait for other tourists but then we’ll pay for the cost of the whole boat (3500php, with a maximum capacity of 6 pax) or wait so that we’d pay cheaper. We were sort of willing to wait but not for a long time. To keep us occupied, we went out to look for a place to stay at for the night.

Visitor's Center

Located just several meters away from the Visitor’s Center is Villa JoLee, a no frills inn that is not too hard on the pocket. We got an airconditioned room with two double bed for 1400php per night; 900 for one queen size bed. It wasn’t bad considering that others cost more than 1500php. Finding a room to settle in, we changed into our swimwear and headed back to the VC.

Villa JoLee

Unfortunately, there had been no other tourists who signed up to join us by the time we got back, we were out for probably only half an hour hehe. Too excited to wait longer, the three of us again agreed to share the whole cost. Having paid for the boat, a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) was assigned to us, Kuya Nognog (0918 4592646). We were made to enter a room wherein we watched a video presentation about the town of Donsol, its environment, whalesharks and how to interact with them. We were good to go after watching the vid! :D

Getting oriented :)

As it was almost June, I was seriously hoping that we’d still be able to swim with whalesharks. It turns out that the boat before us had no sighting after around 3 hours at sea. *sigh* It was a hot, sunny day. Our BIO wouldn’t guarantee to us that we’ll find some whalesharks to swim with but he’s also not saying otherwise. I was clinging on that. hehehe It was a quiet first half hour, we were cruising away from Dancalan; I was enjoying the view, my two companions were chatting with each other, our guide was busy trying to spot a whaleshark.

With newly met friend, Jeff

When all of a sudden everything came into action. Our guide saw something, told our boatman to get in a specific direction and he got animated and began instructing us. One question from him, “who isn’t a good swimmer?” I tentatively raised my hand. Gotta suck it up. I so want to swim with the whalesharks even if it meant having to admit to my (lack of) swimming prowess! ;) He told us to put on our snorkel gears (and fins), sit by the edge of the boat and jump into the water as soon as he says so. Once he did, we all jumped. In the water, it’s quite a different story, as bright as it was above water, down below, the water was a murky. Visibility was only several meters. I was just getting my bearings underwater when our guide pointed to something. Initially, I couldn’t see anything. Slowly though, you’ll spot a  shadow of a huge creature slowly moving towards you and as it gets nearer (it gets bigger too), you’ll see the gills, it’s spotted skin, its eyes looking at you. It was scary! But then you’ll get over your fear (attributed mostly coz of its size) and just be amaze at swimming with them! It then it swam beneath us and went on until we couldn’t see it.  Wow!!!! We actually swam with a butanding! :D

Having swam with one whaleshark, everyone got into such a good mood (I was ecstatic)! We spotted and swam with 3 more! I was hoping for at least one that when we got four, I felt blessed. ;) While the other whalesharks gently swam past us, one kept coming back and was playing with my companions. It swam so close to them that my friend, afraid of getting crushed, hold out his hands to ward it off and got to touch it! A big no-no. He later told us that it was purely a defensive reaction! I was starting to give him a lecture that’s why hehe

Gentle butanding :)

More than satisfied with our mission, we headed back to our room. Changed into dry clothes and went downtown to find somewhere to eat at and to explore the place. There are few choices of places to eat at in Dancalan, most are resaurants of the various inns/ hotels there. We prefer to eat in eateries around Donsol town. Foods are definitely cheaper and I found them more flavorful. :)

Donsol :)

Walking around Donsol town

Our BIO offered to take us on a firefly river tour (850php for the two of us with pick up from our room), with nothing much to do, we thought it’d be a good idea. People are brought to either Donsol or Ogod River. Donsol River is more popular but they say that there are more fireflies in Ogod River that’s why we chose to go to the latter. Around 6:30 in the evening, Kuya Nognog was by our door to fetch us with his tricycle. He drove us towards the river and guided us along the dark path. Another relative of his was waiting and all of us boarded a boat. They were to be our guides. The moon was very bright that night. I looked back a couple of times thinking there was a car behind us but it was just the moonlight shining past the trees and mangroves. It was a beautiful night but in terms of firefly watching, it was bad timing. We almost didn’t see any firefly. Good thing we came upon a tree that was well lit up by then, it looked like it had thousands of blinking lights. It was so pretty! I tried taking pictures but my camera’s settings wasn’t up to the task. After several more minutes, we went back to shore. Had dinner downtown with our guide and called it a night. It was a long but fun day! :D

Cruisin' down Ogod River

Kuya Nognog guiding us

If I try any sort of flash, no firefly would be seen

The moon was shining brightly

On the way back :)

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