We had our Island Hopping Tour on our second day in Coron, a part of the package we availed for the first part of our trip. The tour operator was ‘Nice in Paradise’, and we were picked up in Coron Eco Lodge by a van that took us to the wharf where the boat was docked at around 830am. We were 5 groups in the boat (around 15 people), with 3 tour guides and 1 boat captain.We only brought swimming clothes and sunblock, so we had to rent goggles and aqua shoes for snorkeling. We were also advised by our guide to apply mosquito repellent since we might encounter a lot of mosquitoes on our trek to Kayangan Lake. I brought mosquito repellent on the said trip, but I didn’t have it with me during the island hopping. So, we had to buy Off Lotion from the nearby store. We also didn’t bring an underwater camera, and we really wanted to take underwater photos since most of the day’s activity would involve snorkeling. So, we bought a plastic pouch protector for our phone as an alternative–only to find out later that the phone wouldn’t work underwater. More research would have helped us avoid all these.
So anyway, there were 6 destinations included in our itinerary:
This lake is quite a long trek away from the sea, with the pathway made up partly of concrete and partly of stones. Upon reaching the top, before the climb down to the lake, there is an area for taking photos with the water and the surrounding islands in the background.
At the edge of the lake are wooden platforms and a wooden ladder that leads to the water. There are also bamboo rafts placed in the middle of the lake for swimmers to climb on. The water is deep, with huge stones in some areas. All swimmers are advised to wear a life vest for safety.
On the other end of the lake is a small cave-like structure, which can accommodate a maximum of around 5 people at once. Some of the guides helped us and other swimmers get in and out of the cave safely. We stayed in Kayangan for around 30 minutes with visitors from other tour groups before we began another long climb back to the boat on the other side.
Smith Coral Garden
This is a destination located in the middle of the sea. The boat stopped somewhere in the ocean, and we disembarked one at a time wearing our aqua shoes and goggles.
We were divided into groups, each group led by a guide with a floater. We were asked to hold onto the floater with one hand as our guide led us to specific spots that offer a magnificent view of corals, blue and green and yellow, and various kinds of sea creatures–schools of fishes that swam together, clams that snapped their shells close when they sensed our presence nearby, sea urchins, and many others. Some of the corals are so close to the surface that we were asked to simply float and not kick our legs so that we wouldn’t hit them. It was a few minutes of glorious underwater experience, and it was also the first time I really enjoyed snorkeling (during my previous snorkeling experiences, I didn’t know how to breathe properly underwater and I would often panic).
It was lunchtime when we reached this beach, our third destination after our fun but tiring snorkeling activity. This was where we were scheduled to have our lunch, and our timing was perfect–there was no other tourist group yet when we arrived. Aside from a couple of men who seemed to be the caretakers of the island, several resident dogs, and a lone cat tied to a post in a bamboo hut, we had the island to ourselves for a few moments before other groups arrived.
Lunch was part of the tour package, and there was a generous amount of food served–lots and lots of crabs, pork liempo, seaweed salad, eggplant ensalada, and grilled fish. We ate to our heart’s content, and still there was a big amount of food left. We shared them with the caretakers and the dogs and cat in the island.
We were especially curious about the cat and why it was tied to a bamboo post, so we talked to one of the caretakers. We were informed that the cat is tied only when guests are eating to keep it from climbing the bamboo tables, but that it is untied and allowed to roam freely afterwards. Good thing! Meanwhile, the dogs were friendly and approachable, and they would wait under the table and beside our seats for food scraps. They seem used to the presence of strangers in their midst.
After eating, we still had time to swim and take photos. More groups arrived after a while, and there were two groups eating their lunch when we left.
CYC (Coron Youth Club) Beach
This was our 4th destination after Banol Beach, a public beach resort which was the only free destination in our itinerary according to our tour guide (although access to the beach is by boat only). The beach is just a piece of land with a mountain in the background and a few mangroves here and there. After the beauty of Banol Beach, it was a bit of a disappointment because there’s not much to see here and the water is not as pristine for swimming.
According to our tour guide, the beach used to be in a better shape–it was more spacious with a wider shore, but a big part of the beach disappeared when a great amount of sand was taken away to be used by some company in a project they do not know about.
This is just sad, given that the beach is supposed to be owned by the community and for public use. I hope the local government will take better care of the island and work on its rehabilitation–it’s such a promising place to be neglected and destroyed.
This is another coral garden located off Balinsasayaw Resort. The location is marked by a floating roofed raft manned by a lone seafarer, and the boat was tied to the raft to keep it in place (the waves were strong at the time).
Despite the waves being a bit scary, we soon forgot the turmoil on the surface of the ocean when we took a peek at the underwater scenery below us–colorful corals of various shapes and sizes awaited, together with a wide array of marine animals.
This entire underwater community is teeming with life, and it looked like everything underwater was alive and watching us. The giant clams had visible eyes, following us as we swam around. The corals appeared to have been breathing, and it was wonderful down there. We couldn’t get enough of the view, and we were all praises of the place when we were already back on our boat.
This was our last island hopping destination, a place for ‘relaxed swimming’ according to our guide. I initially thought this would be a beach, but I was wrong. It’s an extremely deep twin lagoon with no beach or shore–from our boat, it was straight into the deep and dark water. The lagoon is so deep that the guide reminded us to be careful in handling our snorkeling gear and camera because they might not be able to retrieve them if they fall in the water.
The place is composed of two lagoons, with the outer lagoon facing the sea. The inner lagoon can be reached via a narrow tunnel formed in the middle of a rock that is part of the mountain surrounding the area. During low tide, visitors can pass through the rock opening by floating on a single file. When the water rises, the opening is submerged in water and visitors have to use a wooden ladder to climb across and reach the inner lagoon.
We were lucky that it was low tide during our visit–we were able to float across to the inner lagoon. We floated on our backs in a single line, our feet tucked underneath the armpit of the person after us such that we formed a sort of caterpillar line. And when we reached the inner lagoon, it was paradise. The lagoon is completely surrounded by mountains, with no rocks or beach to stand on–it’s all deep water, and the only thing keeping us afloat was the life vest we were wearing.
The lagoon offers a distinct experience in that its water is both warm and cold–the water on the surface is cold while the water below is warm. Our guide explained that this is due to the merging of the freshwater from the mountains and the saltwater from the sea. We stayed until past 4pm, when it was time to go home.
We climbed our boat, ate our snacks and shared stories, and finally parted ways when we reached the shore. It was an unforgettable experience, and our tour guides from ‘Nice in Paradise’ really knew how to give their guests a great time.