Puerto Princesa and The Underground River tour

We took a van from El Nido to Puerto Princesa for 500php each, it was a 6 hours drive to the south, give or take. The van was full. We only stopped once on the way for a 10 minute break (where I didn’t know how to go the toilet – it was so low – below my calves!). The van left us at the hotel we had booked – very close to the airport – Blue lagoon Inn & suits – we had decided to spoil ourselves a little for our two nights in Puerto Princesa.

We got bad news when we arrived though – we had booked the underground river tour through the agency at the hotel – and they informed us that we couldn’t do it because all the places had been booked already. They only allow 680 persons to do the underground river tour per day, and the only tickets they could give was to people who were actually having a flight out of Puerto Princesa the same day as the tour, and we had it next day at 15. We got very disappointed since we had booked it 2 days ago, and they didn’t tell us until we arrived. Which was the whole point of why we were going to Puerto Princesa.

The rooms were very clean and nice though, and they had a swimming pool there. The shower was great, we had AC and TV and everything. The beds were super and the pillows too.. but we were still quite annoyed and moody… I had still problems with my stomach, diarrhea and gases making me vomit etc.. So I didn’t really feel like doing the town either. We went out for dinner in the area (well, Duilio ate mostly). The town is nice, quite big, lot’s of people and stores, but still not crazy like a big town, there are plenty of trees and it’s quite relaxed.

Our room and porch at Blue Lagoon :)

Our room and porch at Blue Lagoon :)

Puerto Princesa is a nice and cozy big town, surprisingly calm. :)

Puerto Princesa is a nice and cozy big town, surprisingly calm. :)

Having dinner out in Puerto Princesa.

Having dinner out in Puerto Princesa.

Then around 9pm I get a text from the staff at the hotel, asking us if we really want to do the underground river tour. Yes we say. And they say ”because we would need to change your flight date..” hehehe. So we e-mailed them our boarding pass and they changed the date for us, so we could do the tour. So we were happy again – but we didn’t dare to have many expectations we actually sat in the boat on our way in! Haha.

Next morning a van picked me and Duilio and six Vietnamese guys up from the hotel and drove to Sabang, about 2 hours away – 80 km to the north. We all fell asleep. Haha. Once in Sabang we had to wait about 1 hour until it was our turn to take a boat to where the underground river starts.

The words of wisdom at the entrance of the national park

The words of wisdom at the entrance of the national park

The beach of Sabang. Looks like it's going to be bad weather, but it never came!

The beach of Sabang. Looks like it’s going to be bad weather, but it never came!

We had a very sweet boat captain, who told us about the rules ”no smoking, no littering, no bathing”, and who later we saw at the beach picking up rubbish that was coming in from the sea. Super cute. He left us at this other place where we had to wait there again for about 1 hour more because it was so crowded. Luckily our tour guide at this place somehow arranged so that we could do the tour just after 20 or 30 minutes. We got some audio guide things and then we boarded a rowing boat taking us to the underground river. Now we were actually ”yay!!! We ARE going to see the underground river!!” :)

Our boat captain :) He has a stick down to the back to stear the motor

Our boat captain :) He has a stick down to the back to stear the motor

Our boat captain (he is so tiny!) picking up trash on the beach

Our boat captain (he is so tiny!) picking up trash on the beach

It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999 and in the end of 2011, Puerto Princesa Underground River was chosen as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. The underground river cave is more than 24 km long and contains a 8,2 km long underground section of the Cabayugan River. It’s is navigable by boat up to 4.3 km from the sea.

We were not allowed to speak inside the cave, we all had earphones with audio guide and the boat-guide who where paddling the boat used his flash head to point the things the audio guide talked about.

Got our audioguides, me in english and Duilio in spanish :)

Got our audioguides, me in english and Duilio in spanish :)

In the boat on our way into the underground river tour!

In the boat on our way into the underground river tour!

On our way into the underground river tour!!

On our way into the underground river tour!!

It was quite breath taking! It has many formations of limestone, and several large chambers and cave, one up to 65 m high, and the rock formations are quite unique. One formation sort of look like Jesus, then another like an angel, another like a woman, another like an eggplant etc. You can really use your imagination there.

And there were sooooo many bats there! Everywhere. We had to wear helmets and was told to keep our mouths closed, because we can either get bat-shit in our mouths but the limestone rocks are dripping and can be toxic. It was over all a cool experience, all though the tour only lasted for about 30-45 minutes or so.

Inside the underground river

Inside the underground river

the limestone has formed sculptures, these ones lookes like father joseph and mother maria

the limestone has formed sculptures, these ones lookes like father joseph and mother maria

JESUS IS TRAPPED IN THE CAVE!

JESUS IS TRAPPED IN THE CAVE!

So many bats!

So many bats! All the black dots there are bats!

Then we took the boat back to Sabang where we had lunch in a local restaurant our tour guide had arranged for us, and that was included in the tour. They had a buffét there, and even made me a own plate of vegetables for being vegetarian, so sweet. Then they had a live band, it was called ”The disables musicians”, and we tipped them 100 pesos. They played and sang nice songs, with Bob Marley, UB40 etc.

The lunch buffet :)

The lunch buffet :)

The disables musicians :)

The disables musicians :)

Then we started our journey back. We weren’t back until 16.30, and our plane was supposed to leave 15.20, so yeah, I’m glad we didn’t have the flight the same day!

We enjoyed the afternoon in the pool, which was hotter than the air, I was reading the book in the pool and feeling relaxed (all though with still with some stomach issues). We had dinner there at the hotel too and some drinks :)

Ah! This is life! Completely relax!

Ah! This is life! Completely relax!

Enjoying an afternoon dip into the hotel pool! :)

Enjoying an afternoon dip into the hotel pool! :)

My really good chocolate icecream shake at Blue lagoon

My really good chocolate icecream shake at Blue lagoon

Next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then again some pool before packing our bags. Since I’m a genius member at booking.com, we have 2 extra hours for check out, so instead of checking out at 11, we could check out at 13. :) Perfect! We paid in the end of our stay, so for 2 people and for 2 nights at this nice hotel with pool, 2 breakfasts each, 1 dinner each, some snacks and drinks and 2 underground river tour with lunch, we paid a total of 7260 php (150 usd/euro). A little bit of a splurge, but quite ok! :)

We got a free ride from the hotel to the airport, about 3 minutes away, paid the airport tax, bought our first Philippinean souvenir, and then flew from Puerto Princesa to Cebu on the other side of the Philippines, took about 1,5 hours. Duilio wasn’t as happy with this airline (Cebu pacific airlines) as with the one from Manila to Coron (Philippine airlines) – because we didn’t get any free snack on the plane, haha.

 

Chilling out in El Nido, Palawan

We arrived in El nido, Palawan, around 14 with the ferry boat from Coron. The ride went well, as said in my previous post. We were quite hungry, at least me, since they didn’t serve anything vegetarian on the boat, so I had plain rice only.

Our first impression of the small coastal town El Nido was that it was more calm here, and a much more organized town than Coron. It feels like there’s less traffic, at least the noise is lower (seems like they have quieter tricycles here), and with pedestrian streets on the sides. There are a few trafficked roads and narrow alleys connecting the roads, kind of making small squares in the town, where no cars or motos can go and there are only small shops and restaurants there.

We had lunch at a pizzeria and pasta place. I had a vegetarian pizza, and it was surprisingly good! Then we took a tricycle to Corong Corong where we had rented a beach cottage. It’s about 10-15 min away with tricycle, in a quieter place. The ride was only 50 php there!

Me with my very tasty vegetarian pizza!

Me with my very tasty vegetarian pizza! And the local philippine beer, red horse, of course. :)


We are staying at Arbor Beach Cottages in Sitio Lugadia,
and paying about 8400 php for 5 nights with breakfast and wifi (about 30 USD/euros per nigh). It’s quite expensive for being Philippines, and also for the standard of the cottage, but it was one of the cheaper options for a cottage close to the beach here in el Nido. This place only has 2 cottages, and we have about 10m to the beach, and a swing just beside where I like to sit and read my book in the mornings. :) Also the sunsets are just beautiful from here!!

Our room at Beach cottages. Basic, but enough :)

Our room at Beach cottages. Basic, but enough :)

In our porch just by the beach in Corong Corong!

In our porch just by the beach in Corong Corong!

Sitting in the swing outside our cottage just by the beach.... Love it!

Sitting in the swing outside our cottage just by the beach…. Love it!

The two rooms at Arbor Beach Cottages :)

The two rooms at Arbor Beach Cottages :)

Duilio watching the sunset from Arbor Beach cottages

Duilio watching the sunset from Arbor Beach cottages

The breakfast is good also, Mark who is our host and very sweet, comes with it in a cute picnic basket every morning. We had pancakes the first day, they were huge – very thick but good! Really filling. Another day I tried an omelette and Duilio had eggs and bacon, but we were hungry again after a few hours, so after that we sticked with pancakes every morning, haha. We love to have it on our porch! :) We actually love to just hang out here… We got quite lazy haha.

Yummy Pancakes! Mark does them really fluffy and thick - makes me full for half a day!

Yummy Pancakes! Mark does them really fluffy and thick – makes me full for half a day!

Breakfast at our porch

Breakfast at our porch

We really just wanted to have a tranquil place, and the location is perfect. We thought it was going to be more remote, but there’s plenty of things going on in the area. We have “Happiness beach bar” just besides us, but the noise isn’t bothering at all, and they close at 22. They have great food, with many veg options like falafel and hummus with pita bread and that sort of Arabic/Lebanese food.

Having some different sauses and hummus with falafel and pitabread at "Happiness beach bar", about 2 meters from us ;)

Having some different tapas and hummus with falafel and pitabread at ”Happiness beach bar”, about 2 meters from us ;)

With Guillermo, Candela and Vicente from Spain that we met on different occasions. Having something to drink at the beach bar :)

Another night with Guillermo, Candela and Vicente from Spain that we met on different occasions. Having something to drink at the beach bar :)

A couple of hundred meters to the other side there’s a bar called La Republica which is on the hill with a stunning view over the bay and perfect to watch the sunset. A spanish guy is running it, and the menu is a typical spanish tapas menu, with ”tortilla de patatas” ”gazpacho” ”patatas bravas con aioli” ”sangria” ”tinto de verano” and many other. I’ve tried all the vegetarian ones :) Hehe. We arrived quite early one day and just stayed there for a couple of hours, it got really crowded when the sun is about to go down!

Enjoying some tortilla de patata and tinto de verano with this amazing view over the bay at bar republica!

Enjoying some ”tortilla de patata” and ”tinto de verano” with this amazing view over the bay at bar republica! All alone :)

Sunset view

Sunset view from the bar

When there is sunset it gets really crowded! Good we were here on time ;)

When there is sunset it gets really crowded! Good we were here on time ;)

If we walk on the ”highway road” on the hill above the beach towards el Nido town, there are also quite many shops, tour companies, hotels etc, so basically you have everything you need here. We arranged a tour through Mark here in our accommodation one day, and it goes from the town, but that’s the only time we have actually been there.

We tried ”tour C”, and honestly, it was quite bad. First we had to wait a couple of hours with no info of why, we just stood there waiting until we could board, and then we sat there waiting until we left… we left about 10.30 from the bay. Not at all as arranged as in Coron. We had to go in the water to get to the boat, with water up to our chests; they don’t have a pier or anything.

Put your backpacks on the head and walk to the boat!

Put your backpacks on the head and walk to the boat!

Then we were many in our group, like 15 or 20 people, and the guide wasn’t around the first hour because he jumped on the boat on another island, so we didn’t get any introduction to the tour our each other. The only ones we talked to during the whole day was another Spanish couple, Vicente and Valeria, and we hung out during the day and later at night haha.

The guide didn’t actually tell us much about the places we visited, just ”this is the hidden beach, bring your flipflops because it’s rocky on your way there” and that kind of information. … And the places weren’t that spectacular; they all looked sort of the same.

We visited Matinloc Shrine, the hidden beach, star beach, helicopter island and then we were supposed to visit the secret beach… And it was the only place we were really looking forward to see, but we couldn’t :(

Helicopter island. Looks like an helicopter from above. But from below it looked more like a whale..

Helicopter island. Looks like an helicopter from above. But from below it looked more like a whale..

The secret beach

The hidden beach

Duilio the allmighty...

Duilio the allmighty…

Nice lunch buffét!!

Nice lunch buffét!!

hanging out on the boat with Vicente and Valeria from Spain

hanging out on the boat with Vicente and Valeria from Spain

View from the top of the last location

View from the top of the last location

To bad we couldn’t visit the Secret beach on Matinloc island, it was there which Alex Garland wrote a book about during his 6 months here in Palawan, and that inspired the movie ”The Beach” (with Leonardo Dicaprio) which was based on this secret backpackers paradise. But the movie didn’t get the rights to film in the Philippines because they didn’t want to destroy it with tourism, so the movie was shot on the Phi Phi islands in Thailand instead.

Anyhow, you can only reach it through a whole in the rocks, like a cave, but the sea was so turbulent and there was a lot of waves and current, so we couldn’t go there because it’s dangerous. Instead we went to a small place on the other side of the lake… not that remarkable at all.

We still enjoyed to be seeing the surroundings, but we would have probably enjoyed to take the tour A instead. Valeria and Vicente had done it the day before and showed us pictures and it looked amazing. We then found out about a place that sort of do that tour, but on a stand up paddle instead, which we wanted to do. We found the office but the ”business was closed for this week to arrange some things” – so then we just didn’t do any more tour.

One day we walked from our cottage southwards along the beach and the rocky sides (low tie) until we reached Marimegmeg beach and las cabañas, beautiful!

Walking along the rocks and the beach, easy when there's a low tide :)

Walking along the rocks and the beach, easy when there’s a low tide :)

We walked by a beach where they were burning some trees they had cut down, building something there..

We walked by a beach where they were burning some trees they had cut down, building something there..

Marimegmeg beach

Marimegmeg beach

Marimegmeg and las Cabañas, where you can do zipline

Marimegmeg and las Cabañas, where you can do zipline

We got a text from another spanish couple that we had met at Bar Republica the day before, and they were planning on renting some scooters and driving to Pacnan beach about 20 kms to the north, so we joined. We found a scooter at ”Islandfront Cottages” close to where we live in Corong corong, and since it was around noon, we only paid 400 php for a half day, but we had to return them at 18.30. Guillermo and Candela, couldn’t find any cheaper than 600 in el Nido town where they were staying, so they took a tricycle to Corong corong to rent it from the same place too, haha.

Then we started our journey! The streets are really good, we passed by small villages along the way, rice terraces, school kids, and lot’s of green and beautiful scenery.

Rented scooters and drove to the north :)

Rented scooters and drove to the north :)

Then the good road ended, and we got to construction work and bumpy and sandy roads. Since we had to go slow there, a lot of kids walking the same road reached out there hands so we could make a ”high five” with them, but sometimes they actually grabbed onto your hand and wouldn’t let go and run besides the moto, haha. It was really close that we would fall, since it was like beachy sand on the road. Maybe the kids have a challenge within the group of other local kids there ”how many tourists did you throw out of the moto today?” haha.

We arrived the Nacpan beach, it costed 50 php in a tourist fee. The beach was amazing, reaaally long beach and almost empty. We found some hammocks under some palm trees, and there was one guy in the tree cutting down coco nuts, and I had one for 50php. :)

Yes, there's a man in the palm tree there taking down coconuts :)

Yes, there’s a man in the palm tree there taking down coconuts :)

This is life!! Having a coconut from the tree above and drinking it in the hammock while listening to the waves....

This is life!! Having a coconut from the tree above and drinking it in the hammock while listening to the waves….

Hanging out at Nacpan beach - lovely!

Hanging out at Nacpan beach – lovely!

There were a few restaurants there with about the half price of food as in the other places we have around our accommodation, so we were happy. Me and Duilio got our food quite fast, it was really good, but Guillermo and Candelas food was probably forgotten, because we reminded them 2 times and it took 2 hours for them to get the food! Well well. This is a place where you should go to early in the morning to really enjoy a full day there. After lunch we hung out in the hammocks again. Love them!

Having lunch at Nacpan with Guillermo and Candela

Having lunch at Nacpan with Guillermo and Candela

Ahhhh... this is life! Again. I just can't get enough of these hammocks!

Ahhhh… this is life! Again. I just can’t get enough of these hammocks!

Reading a book in the hammock.... heheh.

Reading a book in the hammock…. heheh.

Riding back from Nacpan beach to Corong Corong... happy with our day!

Riding back from Nacpan beach to Corong Corong… happy with our day!

 

Our last day we were super tired and a little bit bad in our stomachs, so we just hung out at our beach and the porch for the whole day, haha. We saw our last beautiful sunset here in Corong corong, as always, lovely.

Anyhow. Now we have been 5 days in El Nido. As said we haven’t done so much island hoping, but we have enjoyed our time here as true vacations, eating and drinking good and watching all the beautiful sunsets by the beach.

Enjoying the last sunset from our beach.

Enjoying the last sunset from our beach.

 

Next destination: Puerto Princesa!

 

First days in Coron, Philippines – Island hoping the highlights

 

Now I’ve finally met up with my boyfriend and we spent one night first in Manila.

We arrived in Coron with Philippine Airlines, the flight only took about one hour, but it was delayed one hour too, haha. It was a small airplane, but it worked fine, we even got a snack and all on it even if it was only 1 hour! The airport in Coron was really tiny, and as in the galapagos, they hand over the luggage by hand in the waiting hall.

Our airplane :)

Our airplane :)

At the airport of Coron :)

At the airport of Coron :)

We took a minivan for 150 pesos (3 euro/usd) to our accomodation in Coron town on the other side of the island, about 30 minutes drive away.

We are staying at Corto Divers apartments just above their dive shop, super nice apartments!! We have a big bed and it’s really nice furnished. We share lounge, kitchen and bathroom with the other residents.

Our common area at Corto Divers, so nice!

Our common area at Corto Divers, so nice!

Our room at Corto Divers in Coron :)

Our room at Corto Divers in Coron :)

The internet doesn’t really work here though, I’ve been trying to upload pictures to the blog but as for now I’ve been about 10 minutes and it’s only come up to 17% of ONE picture. And I have plenty!!! So…. We’ll see when I can upload this post! Haha. Anyhow.

After installing ourselves in our room we walked around Coron town, can’t say it’s a beautiful town really, mostly because it’s very noisy from the tricycles and there are no good pavements to walk on, so you always have to watch out for the vehicles. If the mainstreet would be without vehicles or if they had pavements for pedestrians everywhere (that weren’t used for parking!), and fixed cozy warm lights instead of cold white lights at night, it could be a nice little town.

The mainroad in Coron

The mainroad in Coron

People are very friendly here and say hi to you all the time. It’s very calm by the docks when you just go outside the main road, and it’s safe here. People are honest here too and don’t try to scam you (compared to India where you had to bargain all the time).

We had dinner at a place called Brujitas, which had delicious food, and quite many vegetarian options. A little bit more pricy than what we had eaten in our hotel kitchen in Manila, but this is an island. I got a doggy bag with me too :)

La Brujita

La Brujita

Dinner at Brujitas

Dinner at Brujitas

We booked a tour around the highlights of Coron for tomorrow (1500 pesos, about 30 euros, included boat, guide, entrance fees, lunch and snacks) and then bought some beers and chips on our way back home and watched some TV at night.

Next day I woke up about 3am and couldn’t fall asleep again, so I went up and did some meditation and listened to all the roosters ”singing” or whatever you say about what they do. There are houndreds of them! I made some ginger and lemon tea then and enjoyed watching the sunrise. After that I did 1 hour of yoga until Duilio woke up and we had breakfast together.

At 8am we got picked up by the tour company and went down to the harbour in a minivan. It was a really nice boat, we saw many other’s that wasn’t as nice as this one I think. (My picture is now at 95%,!). Our tour guide was super funny, he made jokes about everything! This trip was mainly a bath and snorkel trip.

Me on the boat preparing to dive in (snorkel in;)

Me on the boat preparing to dive in (snorkel in;)

We went to the Coron Island and started at ”Seven Pecados”, which refers to the Seven Islands area. Legend has it that seven sisters drowned there, having defied their mother who told them not to go swimming.  Because of the Mothers grief and love for her daughters, they were transformed in to the seven beautiful islands of Siete Pecados.  We snorkeled around one of the islands watching lots of coral floor and small fishes. Crystal clear water!!

Snorkeling around Seven Pecados, much to see here!

Snorkeling around Seven Pecados, quite deep! Much to see here!

Snorkeling!

Snorkeling!

After that we went to Barracuda Lake where we docked the boat. From there we had to hike up a hill (from where we had a stunishing view over the Barracuda Lake) and then hiked down on the other side to the second larges lake in Coron, Kayangan Lake. It was truly clear and blue water, very nice to swim in, but not much marine life and the only thing worth snorkeling was the rocky side on the lake which had some cool formations. But the surrounding was beautiful!

Approaching the Barracuda lake

Approaching the Barracuda lake

View over the Barracuda bay

View over the Barracuda bay

Hiking up and down to the other side

Hiking up and down to the other side

Me and Duilio :)

Me and Duilio at Kayangan Lake :)

Duilio snorkeling in Kayangan lake

Duilio snorkeling in Kayangan lake

Then we went to Beach 91, a tiny small beach where they served a nice buffeet with beautiful paradise view. The buffét was good, they had both meat and fish, and for the vegetarians there were some eggplant, rice and then a weird seaweed salad. Haha.

Then we moved across the lake to the Skeleton Wreck. We snorkeled above a small shipwreck there, only half of it was visible, but it’s cool that you can see it from the surface!

 

Lunchbuffet at beach 91

Lunchbuffet at beach 91

 

Paradise at Beach 91

Paradise at Beach 91

Skeleton wreck

Skeleton wreck

With fishes :)

With fishes :)

From there we went over to Banol Beach, it looked like a small small beach island. Very shallow water, we walked there from the boat that was docked like 30 m away. We enjoyed on the shore together with a dog, which I don’t know who it was or how it got there.

There was also a banana-lady that was cruising around in a tiny boat there, she sold fried bananas, a kind of sweet snack, for 10 pesos each. We were all hungry again so we got a bunch of them! Mmm!

 

Banol beach, tiny little beach! Very sweet!

Banol beach, tiny little beach! Very sweet!

Hey doggie!

Hey doggie!

Ah, this is paradise!

Ah, this is paradise!

The banana lady! 10 pesos for a snack :)

The banana lady! 10 pesos for a snack :)

Our final stop was the Twin Lagoons, the boat docked at the first of the two Lagoons and we snorkeled through a crevice in the rocks to the other sides lake.

The first lagoon had salt water and the second hand sweet water, which results in an increase and decrease in water temperature as well as a blurriness in the water, where the two meet. So many blurry pictures! So.. just a few from there.

Views from the boat

Views from the boat

Ahhh, this is life! At twin lakes

Ahhh, this is life! At twin lakes

Someone last a card in the twin lake

Someone last a card in the twin lake

It was a really nice tour and we are happy that we got to see a little bit of the surroundings of Coron.

Tomorrow we’ll start diving!! :)

 

See also: Shipwreck diving in Coron
Last days in Coron, visiting Malcapuya Island and Banana island