Trip to the Island Nation - Philippines

1st Dec 2018


Photo of Trip to the Island Nation - Philippines by Jatin Jhalani

The trip was part of our one country one year plan. The decision was to be made between Thailand and Philippines. After some preliminary research, we decided to go ahead with Philippines.

The second step was to choose whether we wanted a tailored made trip by some travel agency or a trip planned on our own with few misadventures. The budget calculation favored the latter choice.

We booked the flights well ahead of the trip and it costed around Rs 30,000 per person for the round trip.

Day 1

We reached Manila in the evening tired and went for a good sleep after having dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Day 2

We took an early morning flight from Manila to Cebu and then, a ferry from Cebu to Bohol. The main places to cover in Bohol are - chocolate hills, bamboo hanging bridge, tarsier conservatory, hinagdanan cave, and Alona Beach.

Chocolate hills, hanging bridge and tarsier conservatory lie on one route and you need one complete day to cover them. You can book a cab or rent a bike, although it might be a bit risky to travel by bike. We could not cover this stretch as we did not have time.

The hinagdanan caves and Alona Beach are located in Punglao Island. You can find good hotels on the island.

Alona beach is a very lively place with people enjoying themselves at the shacks, others getting massages on the beach. You can find great variety of food here. The street to the beach also has many restaurants and you can find one that matches your palate.

Day 3

The cave closes at around 4 pm, so you need to plan accordingly. We rented bikes from our hotel for around 300 pesos per bike and rode to the cave. The cave is not as big as it looks on google, but it is definitely a must visit while you are in Bohol. You have to get a ticket to enter the cave and pay an additional amount if you want to swim inside. It can be scary if you swim alone there and look down into the water. Don't forget to take your snorkeling kit if you are carrying one.

In the evening, we took a ferry back to Cebu city. We stayed at an airbnb in the Lapu Lapu city. We reached late and were grateful for having found McDonald's outlet near our accommodation.

Tip - Take massage at the ferry terminal at cheap rates.

Day 4

We started early in the morning from Cebu city to Oslob. You should take bus, which is very comfortable as well as cheap as compared to private taxis. We were very excited for experiencing the whale shark watching, but it was unfortunate that by the time we reached there, the whales had filled their stomach and left. You should plan to reach Oslob by 8 am at last to ensure that you do not miss out the action.

Kawasan fall is around 60 kms from Oslob. You can get a cab or tuk-tuk (tricycle). We took tuk-tuk, which was uncomfortable for such a long distance so I would suggest you better take a cab. Once, you reach Kawasan, you need to book a guide for the tour. The tour consists of covering a river stretch, with multiple cliff jumps, the highest being at 15 m. It's a must do activity if you visit Kawasan.

After coming back from the tour, you can have lunch, which is included in the tour. The tour also includes the visit to Kawasan fall, which is on the other side of the cliff jumping spot. You need to take a 10 minute walk to reach the fall. You can swim or just sit and gaze at the waterfall.

Enroute - Kawasan fall

Photo of Trip to the Island Nation - Philippines by Jatin Jhalani

Tip - Change your wet clothes after coming from the cliff jumping tour, otherwise there are good chances of catching cold.

After coming back from the fall, we took a bus back to Cebu city. There are regular buses from Kawasan to Cebu city every half an hour.

Day 5

In the morning, we took a flight from Cebu city to Puerto Princessa. Our plan was to stay there for a day, visit the underground river and leave for El Nido in the night but our plan was dashed as the underground river is far from Puerto Princessa. So, we decided to take a break and relax for a day. The accommodation was very cheap here.

In the night, we took LaZboy bus to El Nido. The ride was very comfortable and smooth. We arrived in El Nido at around 2 am in the night. The hills on the side and the starlit sky was an overwhelming treat to the eyes. It took us some time to find our hotel, and we dozed off as soon as we reached there.

Day 6

In the morning, we booked an island hoping tour which costed us around 1200 pesos per person. All hoping tours consist of four destinations, for us, the places covered were the small lagoon, secret lagoon, snorkeling spot and an island. The snorkeling spot was quite good and we got to see many fish and corals. You can also do kayaking at any one of the spots.

Day 7

In the early morning, we took a ferry to Coron. We had booked an airbnb, which was at the best location, away from the town and near the nature in the Maquinit village. Coron is a small village with rustic lifestyle and it is one of the most popular destination in Philippines.

The places to visit here are - Coron town, Kayangan lake, Baracudan lake (named after the fish 'Baracudan'), Maquinit hot spring, fireflies tour, Mt. Tapayas, and some really good scuba diving sites.

If you want to go for a good diving experience, you will need to undergo training on the first day and on the second day, you can go up to 25 m deep diving if I remember correctly. You also get a certificate from the scuba center at the end of the course. You can also opt for the amateur course but it will be near the shore and only up to 10 m depth. There are many diving sites famous for the wrecked ships from the war.

The Kayangan lake and Baracudan lake are a must to visit in Coron. You need to get tickets from local travel agencies and you can either take a group boat or a fisherman's boat, which accommodates two persons at a time excluding the fisherman. We booked fisherman's boat from the Maquinit village and it was one of the best experiences during the entire trip. Our two boats were the only objects as far as we could see.

Fisherman's Boat - Coron

Photo of Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan, Philippines by Jatin Jhalani

Enroute- Kayangan Lake

Photo of Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan, Philippines by Jatin Jhalani

The Barracuda lake is also a popular scuba diving site and if you are lucky, you might spot a Barracuda. The unique thing about the lake is that it is situated in the middle of the ocean and you can look through water very clearly. You can also do snorkelling here, although there will be no aquatic animals.

Day 8

In the morning, we went to Maquinit hot spring which was a very soothing experience. It's nicely maintained and it is very spacious. The water from the hot spring merges with the ocean. This is again a must visit place in Coron. You need to pay a nominal entry fee and inquire about the timings before planning to go there.

Hot Spring - Maquinit Village

Photo of Maquinit Hot Spring, Coron, Palawan, Philippines by Jatin Jhalani

We had booked ourselves a firefly tour for the night. The tour started at around 8 in the night. We were a group of 12 in a speed boat. The boat goes and stops near the Mangroves, where live the fireflies. One new experience for us was splashing our hands in the water which gives a sparkling effect due to the zooplankton present under the water surface.

The complete silence with a gazillion stars in the sky, fireflies in the mangroves, zooplankton underneath the water, and a whole island burning in the background was an exhilarating experience.

The tour ended at the floating restaurant, which was floating literally. There was a band, which would go to each table and perform the song of your choice. The food was delicious and we carried wine with us to add flavor to the whole experience. It was a very romantic spot and you should definitely go there with your significant other.

Next day morning, we left for Manila from Coron airport and back to home from Manila.