Sometimes, the universe makes jokes. And they turn out to be annoying than amusing.
Like that time our DSLR heaved its last breath – complete with a “Do Not Resuscitate” notice – on the first of five days in Palawan, within 20 minutes of our first tour. Imagine flying hundreds of miles for a world-acclaimed destination and coming home with zero photos.
Yes, “the world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.”
So for the rest of the day, we simply learned to take a joke and to rely on a flimsy smartphone and an ancient, blood-sputtering GoPro Hero 2. After all, we didn’t travel hundreds of miles to sulk.
This is our best attempt at doing so.
- CYC Beach
- Banol Beach
- Twin Lagoon
- Barracuda Lake
- Kayangan Lake
- Siete Pecados
- Twin Peaks Reef
- Skeleton Wreck
Depending on sea conditions (and on your tour agency/ boatman), one or more may be omitted from the itin. The last two are not usually included in the staples (we skipped both due to time constraint).
Coron Youth Club or CYC Beach, our first stop for the day, was a bit busy. Understandably so, being the only no-fee/ public beach on the island. There’s a pretty, cream-colored sandbar amid a spread of mangroves, a great introduction to a sunny day tour ahead.
P.S. You are likely to encounter litter near the mangroves. Please bring them back to your boat.
The little Boracay of Coron, as some locals call it, Banol Beach is a short, chalky beach strip sandwiched between two similar beaches, Smith’s Point and Atuayan, if I remember correctly.
The water, sans sea urchins a few meters on the eastern side, is soothing and kid-friendly; the hut-lined shore longer than any other islet in the area, making it a favorite lunch stop for island tours. There’s plenty of shade, thanks to the many kalachuchi trees spurring out of limestone rocks.
Set past lunch time on a rainy season weekday with no other tourists around, a hop to Twin Lagoon with a toddler proves to be eerie and unnerving. Free from bedlam and zealous tourists, the inner lagoon becomes bigger. You notice how the limestones encircling it are terrifyingly massive.
|Newfound friends. Us with Gay of Exotic Philippines (from whom photo was grabbed) and Channel of Channelmarie.com|
You also notice how it’s not green like the outer lagoon but deep, deep blue and you couldn’t even see your own feet down by the water. That even your swimming ace of a tour guide cannot decipher how deep it is, so he quotes divers’ measurements as being 100-feet deep (or more).
As it was high tide, the bigger outer lagoon completely swallows the opening that connects it to the smaller inner lagoon (the gap is swimmable during low-tide). Bamboo rafts, available in previous years, are no longer allowed in the lagoon.
|Approaching bigger lagoon|
Our only option was to use the worn, shaky bamboo ladder leaning on jagged limestone spires to get to the other side – while toting a toddler and her floater.
…which is nerve-wracking in that a slip means:
1) You land right smack on the pointy rocks and
2) you and your unvested toddler fall into the deep lagoon thereafter.
Like its sister Kayangan Lake, the water flowing through Barracuda Lake is brackish. They’re also both title holders for Cleanest and Greenest Lake in the Philippines and it’s obvious why.
The photo below was taken with a GoPro Hero 2. That guy was free diving around 20 to 30 feet below us. From the surface, we could see him and every detail of the lake bed. If that doesn’t astound you, I don’t know what will.
|Boat dock/ entrance to Barracuda Lake|
Kayangan Lake is arguably the most photographed and most popular destination in Coron.
Proof: ask anyone if they’ve seen this picture on their newsfeed today, and you’ll probably get a “Yes. Like, 3 times.”
The view deck, which affords visitors such postcard-worthy photo (after 150 uphill steps), is still my favorite part. As we’ve been to Kayangan twice, the inland lake gets a bit old (especially with twice the rabid tourists), but this? Never.
Situated about 10 minutes from Coron port, Siete Pecados is a vast network of reefs surrounded by seven small limestone peaks (hence the name).
|The only decent cannonball shot I have. Siete Pecados. Photo credit: Gay of Exotic Philippines.|
While a good chunk of the reef has been destroyed by dynamite fishing years ago (and fishfeeding is no longer allowed like in 2010), it’s still a decent stop if you love to snorkel.
In my book, nothing tops Palawan quite yet. I am sure Conde Nast readers who placed it at the top of the Best Islands in the World will agree. The fifth largest island in this country of 7,107, a return to Palawan always unearths something more to explore, a different manner of experience.
Our Coron Island tour, despite being camera-less, proved just that.
|Mt. Tapyas, as seen from the port. The Coron signage and cross have both been rebuilt after a typhoon destroyed them.|
Touring with Coron Blue Lagoon Adventure Travel and Tours, the same agency that we booked with in 2010, also gave us more familiarity. There is a bit of a difference in cost than if you were to DIY the trip, but we missed their home made meals so much and Ryan’s (our favorite Coron guide) unintrusive manner of guiding that we didn’t mind the difference at all.
(Also, they gave the Coron Island and Coron town tours for FREE, on top of a discount on our Malcapuya, Banana Island, and Bulog Dos tour. Seriously, I love these guys.)
|For that one friend who wasn’t able to come with us due to medical reasons. Love from beyond the seas, Shawn!|
The best experience in Coron are its people. The zero crime rate speaks volumes about the community. The locals are warm and polite. Like the prices of inns and goods in the local market where we fished meats, their services are just – never exploitative – for an island tucked hundreds of nautical miles away from the rest of Luzon.
|I would never mind having this every day. Especially when I’m gobbling it down while lying on sand.|
Here, tourists are big business. In a year, the native Tagbanuas, housekeepers and guardians of the sacred lakes and soaring limestone outcrops that speckle Coron’s collective islands, earn as much as 12 million from permits and entrance fees alone.
And yet, in our two visits we didn’t feel as mere businesses for the locals, or even visitors. We were family, worthy of the same warm reception as foreigners visitors, which is a lot more than I can say for other parts of the country.
That’s something I’d go back to again and again, albeit the universe’s cruel jokes.
Coron Blue Lagoon Adventure Travel and Tours
Address: National Highway Poblacion 1, Coron Palawan, 5316 Coron, Philippines
Phone number: 0917-8581799 or 0917-7109287 / 0999-9983421 or 0939-9230175 / 09399230175
Email: [email protected] / [email protected]
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/CoronBlueLagoonAdventureTravelAndTours
|This Tagbanua kid helped buoy Lia to the boat as we left Banol Beach.
He did that on his own. The Tagbanuas are awesome like that.