Hopping and diving and off to an African safari

Trip Start Dec 24, 2007
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Trip End Dec 24, 2008


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Flag of Philippines  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

Our time in the Philippines, and especially in Palawan was running out. Due to ferry schedules, which only run once or twice a week, in Palawan you have to plan according to days of the week and not dates, and as a consequence we had only 3 days left for Coron.
The thing is, Coron offers a lot to do. Although it is most famous for it's dive sites, especially wreck diving (with about 10 Japanese wrecks from WWII), there are also island hopping tours, and even zebras and giraffes. But we'll get to those later.

Therefore, we decided we could 'cover more ground' if we split up, so while Guy went diving, Gilli went island hopping - Coron style.
When we met at the end of the day at our guest house, built on wooden platforms above the water, we both had big smiles and many stories. Diving in Barracuda Lake, for example, was one of the best, and weirdest dives Guy ever experienced. The dive begins in lukewarm water, but at 12 meters deep the temperature rises to 38 degrees! Then at 25 meters the water becomes cold! The scenery is desert-like and at some point all the divers took off the fins and went for an underwater hike on the rocks at the bottom of the lake. Oh, yeah. The wreck dives were cool too...

The snorkeling Gilli experience were not too shabby either. While formulating saline solutions in a pharmaceutical company may be considered exciting by some people, swimming in such a solution is a totally different matter. Snorkeling in the Twin Lagoons seemed to Gilli like swimming in a saline solution in the making. Currents of salt and fresh water are flowing next to each other, mixing at some points, making the visibility and temperature change when passing from one to another. This unique ambiance allows strange and beautiful corals to grow, and the scenery is unimaginable. Oh, yeah. The tropical fish and the white-sand beaches were cool too...

If you really want to 'cover more ground' in Coron, you must travel to the other side of the island. The ground there is a rather African ground, and the ground on the way is the worst ground you could ever attempt to drive on... or crash on...
But before we elaborate, a word of accuracy must be given: Coron Town is not located on Coron Island. It is in fact on the South-East corner of Busuanga Island, across from Coron Island (where Barracuda Lake is). Driving to the North-West corner of Busuanga got us close to Calauit Island, where a motor banka (boat) took us across the sea to Calauit.
Here is where you finally get the feeling of a final frontier. The frontier here is so final, the island is not even mentioned in the backpacker's bible: the Lonely Planet.
There is no public transportation to Calauit. To get there, we had to ride a tiny motorbike for almost 6 hours on the worst roads imaginable. We must say that the local kids do the same route in ~3 hours, but we're old. And, we're not familiar with the roads. In fact, all we had as guidance was a hand-drawn map given to us by the motorbike owner, which we found to be not 100% accurate.
Well, we did get there. But what does "there" really mean? Well, "there" in this case indicates a village of about two houses, where the motor banka operator lives. The operator, which came across us riding his bike, was alert enough to realize that tourists riding a bike are most likely his customers for the day (or the week) and turned back to lead us the rest of the way.

Finally, when the ordeal of the horrible road was over, we landed in the game preserve and wildlife sanctuary on Calauit Island. The preserve was established in the 1970's when several African animals, including zebras and giraffes, were introduced to the island to live alongside some local animals. (http://www.pcsd.ph/protected_areas/calauit.htm)
Upon arrival, we were met by the guard on duty who explained the rules of the reserve (the 1st rule being that there is an entrance fee, and the 2nd rule is that you pay for the accommodation... Rules about not bothering the animals are a distant 3rd). We were escorted to the visitors hut, where the caretaker prepared a room for us, and inquired if we eat rice. Apparently they had rice or.. well, they had rice.

We should probably mention here that on the way to the hut we did encounter some zebras. After all the rules were explained (and payed for), we were able to roam around for a few hours before darkness, and got the feeling that we had the island almost to ourselves. Sadly, we didn't see any giraffes. We did see some more zebras and many Calamian deers roaming around in the African-like savanna. On our way back we met the ranger, who has been riding on his bicycle looking for as, since apparently we were not really allowed to roam around alone. So, we roamed back with him and made plan to roam around together in the morning, to look for some roaming giraffes.
As we were roaming into the hut, we some new animals, endangered on Calauit: tourists. The two young French guys were roaming around taking pictures, and were also totally unaware of the non-roaming-around law.
We were happy for the company and over our rice dinner decided to roam around by jeep in the morning and thus to share the cost.

Morning came, and with it the ranger, and we positioned ourselves on the roof of the jeep and set out to find some giraffes. Indeed, we saw many zebras but that's old news. We also saw an impala and a an eland but we were in the market for giraffes.
The ranger knew his animals. We soon ran into Jerry, the friendly giraffe, accompanied by his giraffe friends, some of which are too young to have names yet. We were given some leaves from their favorite tree and fed Jerry and all his friendly friends.

After the ranger made sure we were "satisfied already", he took us to some cages where he kind of harassed the animals: the bear-cats (a local animal that looks exactly like its name) were teased with a banana; the porcupines had their shelter turned over and the crocodiles were bitten with long pole. And all for the sake of our satisfaction. Each ordeal lasted until he made sure we were indeed "satisfied already".












When we were fully roamed, we thanked our guide (and the animals probably thanked their gods) for the tour, and headed back to our banka-boy and our very very long ride back to Coron Town.
By the time we reached the town, we were exhausted and a bit wounded. Our bike was also slightly wounded. It suffered from an acute case of footbrakeisleverisbenditis. This motorcycle illness manifests itself by the "spontaneous" bending of the lever to a point where two large Filipinos with big tools are need to straiten it. Needless to say, big Filipinos with big tool are not roaming around in the wild. We had to walk the bike to the nearest village.








We had only a couple of hours left before boarding the ferry to Manila, so we pampered ourselves with a dip in the hot-spring, our only "shower" for the next few days.
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Comments

jambro
jambro on

Coron
I just love the way you write all your blogs. Its hilarious! You should be a travel writer!
Thanks for all the roaming around.

gilliguy
gilliguy on

Re: Coron
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, and thank you for your lovely remark.
We enjoy writing the blog very much, but it is time consuming and for that reason we are very much behind (being funny takes time :-)).

We always think nobody other than our parents even reads our blog, but now we will try harder to write more entries!

Cheers, G&G (or as we have recently been called: Guys and Gillis)

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