A Travellerspoint blog

Tao Expedition Day 1

sunny 30 °C

We had a poor breakfast on our hotel rooftop patio. The view was the saving grace.
Karst mountain behind hotel

Karst mountain behind hotel


Then the three of us jammed into a trike to go to the pier. When we arrived we had to wait awhile for everyone to assemble and then board the boat. Ollie, our leader, and the rest of the staff gave us a warm welcome and brought out fruit and cookies for a snack. They have coffee, ginger tea, and water available to drink at all times. We had to wear life jackets until we were out of the harbour, to keep the Coast Guard happy.
Loading the boat

Loading the boat

Don on board

Don on board


Our first stop was to pick up our mattresses and bedding for the trip. Two of the staff took a couple of kayaks into shore and came back loaded with waterproof bags of bedding. Some people swam into shore to have a look at the base camp there.
Eric (American Filipino) attempting a back flip

Eric (American Filipino) attempting a back flip


Then we went onto another snorkel site and had a fantastic lunch - tuna steaks, squid and shrimp, lots of vegetable dishes, and more fruit - yummy! We are not going to go hungry on this trip!
Just before lunch, one of the tourists (Andy, a doctor from Austria) lost his sunglasses overboard. He searched for them and a couple of staff were diving for them, but we thought there was no chance. There was another boat there with divers, and one of them found the glasses(Raybans) and returned them to our boat. Amazing - usually you lose it in the ocean, it's gone.
After lunch several people swam into the beach for awhile. Somehow in the course of this, Andy ran into one of the kayaks and got a bad cut just above his eyebrow. Ollie patched him up with the help of some steristrips we were carrying. They have a very complete first aid kit on board, just no steristrips. It turns out Andy's girlfriend, Andrea, is a nurse. So she helped patch him up.
So much excitement on our first day.
We moved to another spot for snorkelling and while we were there we saw a monitor lizard walking along the beach.
Monitor lizard

Monitor lizard


The scenery of the karst mountains here is wonderful. They seem to be bigger mountains than in Vietnam, with very sheer faces plunging into the ocean.
Then it was time to go to our base camp for the night. Some people swam into the beach and some of us rode on the kayaks. My kayak ride even had a little surfing component. Fun!
At the base camp, we have little thatched roof huts. We made our beds with sheets, pillows and mosquito netting. Then it was time for "jungle juice", a mixture of rum and pineapple juice which is our sundowner.
Don sitting in our hut

Don sitting in our hut


After a bit of a wait, we had a delicious supper. The food here is first rate, although I have to cope with the nightshade thing on my own. We went to be quite early, but found we slept really well in our little thatched hut with the sound of the ocean in the background.

Posted by katdill 21:45 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

More Snorkelling and Travel to El Nido

sunny 32 °C

Rob and Don went out snorkelling all day again. It wasn't quite as good this time, because it was windy and the boat had to travel slower in the bigger waves. They had a good time, but weren't raving about it quite as much. I mostly spent the day sitting in the shade, trying to take pictures of the hummingbirds, and guzzling water. I'm trying to fight off a cold which is trying to take over or else it is an allergy to the overly strong fabric softener they use on the bedding here. I drank a good 3 litres of water is about 8 hours, so I needed it a lot.
Leaving on their boat

Leaving on their boat

The snorkellers

The snorkellers

Making lunch

Making lunch


Lovely beach

Lovely beach


After they came back and got cleaned up, we went down to the beach for a beer with the sunset. Then we tried out a new restaurant, the Paella Restaurant. It was not on the beach, but it was good food. We also had the novelty of sitting beside a wall where bats where coming out from behind a big poster. Then I realized they would go back in as well. I could hear them chittering in there before they came out. I tried to get a picture of one coming out but only managed to get one going back in.
Bat going in behind the poster

Bat going in behind the poster


As well as the roosters that I talked about previously, we also have a Catholic Church on the block. Every morning they ring a bell about 6:00 am and have a prayer service or something that is amplified. Today it was Sunday, so they had a full on service. So if the roosters and dogs don't wake you up, the church will!
The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church


This morning we were picked up by our bus at 8:00 am. Then we drove all over the little village to pick up more people until the bus was full. Then on to El Nido. This is about a 3 1/2 hour bus trip, with a rest stop part way. Some spectacular scenery along the way. Once we were at the bus depot in El Nido, we got a trike to take us to our hotel. We were too early to check in, so we left our luggage and went searching for an ATM and lunch. Both were found successfully and by the time we made it back, we could get our rooms.
We don't have WIFI in our rooms, but we can go up to the 4th floor, we are on the 3rd, and sit on the patio. We can use the WIFI and enjoy the wonderful views of the mountains that rise up right behind the hotel.
Beautiful leaves along the road

Beautiful leaves along the road

The rock wall behind the hotel

The rock wall behind the hotel

More mountain from our patio

More mountain from our patio


Tomorrow morning we leave on our Taos Experience trip. This is a 5 day, 4 nights journey through the islands to end up in Coron. We stop at different villages to spend the nights. Should be an interesting experience, but I think you will have to wait for 5 days to get another report from me. No WIFI on the boat. Check out their web site at http://www.taophilippines.com/.

Posted by katdill 23:06 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Jungle Walk and Travel to Port Barton

sunny 30 °C

AFter breakfast, Don and Rob went off for a trek through the jungle. I decided not to go because they walk so much faster than I do, I felt I would just hold them up. When they came back, just before our 11:00 checkout time, they said the guide they had was a small local woman who walked even faster than they did, so I guess I made a good decision.
Don's report on the jungle walk: We had a small amount of rain overnight and the sky was threatening but we decided to go on a hike through the national park forest. We had to wait until 8 for the permitting office to open. After registering and paying a $ 6 entrance and guide fee Merly led us over to the start of the mangrove swamp. On the way, we had to pass thru some private property and had to pay an additional fee of 10 pesos (.60 Canadian) just to cross. After paying an additional $6 fee Merly led us to a small dugout canoe with outriggers and we went on a 45 minute paddle with two new guides, one paddling and one being the interpreter. The tour was upstream along the Sabang River. These are different mangroves from what I had seen before with some of them growing up to 30 m high with some of them unique 100 to 200 years old. There are 8 species of mangroves along the route, out of the 47 species in the Philippines and 63 species in the world. We were the first boat to do the tour today and were able to see a beautiful yellow and black snake, that sleeps in the mangroves during the day and catches fish at night. Also, a unique water monitor that is only in Sabang National Park. It was a cosmic experience of quietness as we paddled thru the mangroves. The benefit of having an older guide, was that he sang us a song about the mangroves on our way back. Rob managed to video this song. When we were finished the tour, we rejoined Merly who led us on a hike for 1 1/2 hours through the beautiful National Park forest. A very nice jungle, with some bird songs, some monkeys. She was a very friendly talkative guide who asked lots of information about us and our families. A very nice experience.
Snake in tree

Snake in tree


Mangroves

Mangroves


Water monitor

Water monitor

Guide singing song about the mangroves

Guide singing song about the mangroves


After they got back and packed up, we went for lunch down at a beach restaurant. Then it was time to go and wait for the van to pick us up. The van was quite full and we got to sit in the second row from the back. We visited with an Israeli man and his son while we drove along. At the transfer point, we got out and jumped into the van going to Port Barton. This was about another 1 1/2 hour ride. I lucked out and grabbed the front seat, so I could see the road very well. Raymond, the Filipino man beside me, slept most of the way, but when he work up he was friendly and tried to sell us on taking a boat tour with him tomorrow. Once we arrived in Port Barton, he even helped us find our accommodation at the Villa Evergreen. Many parts of the road to Port Barton are in very poor shape. It is a road which crosses the mountains to reach the coast.
After checking in and being disappointed to find we have rooms with shared toilets outside, we walked along the beach seeing the sights and trying to decide on a place to eat. We finally ate at Besaga Cottages, where we could sit on the beach and enjoy the evening while sipping beer and eating good food.
The internet here and many places in the Philippines is quite slow and so pictures may be few and far between.

Posted by katdill 19:41 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Island Hopping in Port Barton

overcast 30 °C

Here in Port Barton, they call the boat tours, Island Hopping. You can travel by boat to as many as 6 or 8 islands in one tour. Don and Rob signed up for one that left at 9:00 am and came back around 4:00. They had a great time, snorkelling at the different spots, except for the last one, Starfish Island, which is just a sandbar with one starfish on it! They reported they saw lots of beautiful coral, some kinds of which they had not seen before. The water was clear and visibility good. There weren't a lot of fish to be seen, but at one of the islands, they got to see giant turtles. They said they were bigger than any other turtles they had seen previously. I know this is a very second hand account, but they have gone off again today on another tour to do it all over again. So it must have been excellent.
In the boat

In the boat

Having lunch on the beach

Having lunch on the beach

Beautiful water

Beautiful water


I amused myself by walking around town (which doesn't take long, it is so small) and talking to the tourist information man about life here in Port Barton. They only have electric power from about 5:30 pm to 12:00 midnight. This is supplied by diesel generators. There is some plan to buy another generator, but that hasn't happened yet. There was also some money from the previous government which was to help small communities get solar power. Apparently, that money ended up in building the new road into town. And the man who owns the gas station is a bigwig in the area government, so profits might be affected by solar!
The garden here at the Villa Evergreen is lovely. One of the nicest we have seen on this trip. I sat out in the garden and took pictures and sketched some of the beautiful leaves. After lunch, I asked our hostess about getting a traditional Filipino massage. She made some phone calls and arranged for the masseuse to come to me. So I had a wonderful massage in our room and then could shower and get cleaned up before the guys got back.
Beautiful garden

Beautiful garden


Once they were ready we walked down to the beach and watched the sunset while drinking beer. Perfect occupation for the beach! Then we returned to the restaurant we had eaten at last night and enjoyed another meal there.
Beer on the beach

Beer on the beach


Our first night here, we were awoken several times by dogs barking and roosters crowing. There seems to be more roosters here than anywhere else Don and I have stayed. But this morning in my walk around town and discovered two lots fighting cocks just down the street. They have them tethered to a tall perch so they can't get at each other, but they sure talk tough!
Fighting cocks

Fighting cocks

Posted by katdill 18:46 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Underground River Excursion

sunny 30 °C

We were picked up by our transfer van earlier than expected this morning and then we had to direct the driver how to get to Rob's place. We went to the depot and filled the van with people before taking off for Sabang. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there over a good but mountainous road. We were dropped off at our accommodation, Cafe Sabang. Sabang is a small beach town with only one real street.
Rob asked about a special tour he had heard about and as a result, the people at the Cafe arranged a longer tour for us. We had lunch while they did all the work of arranging the tour. Most of the tours of the Puerto Princesa Underground River go into the cave about 1 km and turn around and leave. We went in 4 1/2 km and got out of the canoe to walk around at the end of the ride. Flavia, a French girl who is volunteering here, came with us to make up the minimum 4 people for the tour.
We walked down to the waterfront and after having our permit checked and boat assigned, boarded a catamaran that took us to the start of the river. There we were outfitted with an audio guide and hard hats and boarded the canoe for the trip into the cave.
Catamarans

Catamarans

In our canoe

In our canoe


The audio guides all had earbuds so it was very quiet in the cave. The instructions emphasized being very quiet and saving your questions for the end of the ride. The audio guides are good for the first part, explaining the formation of the cave, etc. But then we took them out. Once we had passed the turn-around point for the regular tours, we were on our own. Very dark, peaceful, and quiet. Our guide, John, was very informative and entertaining. He told us to ask questions and if we wanted to take pictures he would stop for us. There are many amazing formations in this cave, entirely different from Phoung Nha in Vietnam, although they are both limestone caves. There are a lot of bats living in the cave, two different species of them. There are also cave swiftlets which we could hear coming and going. They make a clicking noise to echolocate in the dark. We would occasionally seem them appear in the light from the canoe as we paddled along.
The candle

The candle


20 million year old Sea Cow (Dugong) fossil

20 million year old Sea Cow (Dugong) fossil

Turtle rock which sparkled like diamonds

Turtle rock which sparkled like diamonds


At the end of the ride, we got out to walk on the bat guano mound. Or rather, everyone else got out. I tried to get out and once on the bank found it so slippery with my sandals, that my choice was to go barefoot (shudder!!) or stay with the canoe. I stayed and stood in the water and watched the rest. The guide showed them some large jumping crickets, a swift's nest, and talked about the tarantulas that had been found in there recently.
Getting out at the end of the ride

Getting out at the end of the ride

Don in his caving gear

Don in his caving gear


After 10 minutes or so there, it was time to head back, so we repeated the journey back out of the cave. Apparently, we are now "cave survivors", which seems to be a "thing" here.
As we were riding back to town in the catamaran, we picked up a man from the water. Then we realized what was happening. As it was the end of the tour day, the boatman were anchoring their boats out in the bay and when another boat came close, they would jump in and swim to the boat for a ride to the dock. We picked up 5 boatmen on our way to the dock. Just another twist to show us life in Sabang.
As we walked back to the Cafe Sabang, we stopped at the Lexus UV Expressvan kiosk to check on our arrangements for tomorrow. I've been teasing Don about his need to double check arrangements all the time, but he was right this time. They didn't know about our reservations for tomorrow and had to call the boss to find out.
After moving into our rooms at the Cafe Sabang (because we were earlier than check out time when we arrived), we went out to find some food and drink. We walked down the path along the beach and found the way to the trekking trail for tomorrow morning. We also found a nice restaurant which advertised having vegetarian food. So on the way back from the end of the trail, we stopped in and had supper. Yummy!
Beach at Sabang

Beach at Sabang


If you would like to read more or see more photos of this trip, check out Rob's blog at http://rdill3.travellerspoint.com/.

Posted by katdill 16:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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