Trip Start Feb 10, 2013
72Trip End Sep 18, 2013
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Where I stayed
Let me recap a little to tidy up one or two things before I talk about Pandan Island. Firstly jeepneys. During the second world war, thousands of American troop carriers were brought over to the Philippines and after the war were simply left here. Many of the hundreds of thousands that are now used today are copies and rebuilds however very occasionally you see an original with huge wheels and a very worn look. The owner of each jeepney pimps out their vehicle in their own way, some very tastefully chromed all over with simple designs and interiors, and some rather ditastefully with alloy wheels, UV lighting, huge horns and even bigger sound systems! Think Tim Westwood does Pimp My Ride with the American Army! They are quite fun to ride as some are ore people than jeepney, with up to 20 people hanging off the sides and not far from the same number sitting on the roof. They are however incredibly cheap to ride and will take you pretty much anywhere the public buses won't go, depending on demand, the weather and the mood of the driver
Anyways, Pandan Island. Boy was this place worth the epic journey! And then some! In the 80s a French gentleman named Dominique was on his travels and discovered the island just off the coast in Sablayan. He then set up a resort on the island with his Pilipina wife and 26 years later, we arrived! The reason for our visit here was actually due to its location, being the nearest island to Apo Reef, one of the worlds premium dive and snorkel locations which I will come to in a sec. We arrived on the island around 10.30am after a night shared with the ants over the waters in mainland Sablayan Town and were greeted by Sonny, the very cheerful barman. Our room was not ready but no problems, we were on a private resort with a pristine white sand beach that was surrounded by a protected marine reserve...we said we'd spend a few hours on the beach until our room was ready and he replied, "oh maybe you could go out for a snorkel off the beach, if you go over there where there is sea grass, you will see turtles." Great, sounds amazing, it would be fab if we did see a turtle while we were here
The rooms themselves were again 5 all in a line that were open air and walls that did not reach the ceilings. It was two toilets and two showers for the 5 rooms, so not so private as such but very native. To be honest it was absolutely fine after the Tao Experience, at least they had showers and toilets with a locked door! The showers were actually salt water which was fun but you did have a bucket of fresh water that you could rinse yourself with after your shower and this was more than adequate considering we must have spent five days either in the sea, or on the beach drinking rum! It was a small paradise island. More beautiful than you could imagine in your dreams. Not only were the turtles incredible but around the whole island was a smorgesboard of marine life, including stingrays, gurnards, lionfish, pipefish, batfish, flounders, squid, parrot fish, trigger fish (one of which tried to attack us!) cleaner fish (one of which thought we needed a clean and tried to get involved a bit to friendly like!) and a whole lot more
So as I said previously, one of the main reasons we came to Pandan was to visit Apo Reef, a huge reef system lying in open water about two hours away from the west coast of Mindoro. We knew tht it was a popular trip from Pandan Island as this was the only location to get there and back in one day, so we went to the dive centre situated just off the beach. I know rustic islands dont tend to have 5* PADI dive centres but it didnt detract from the rusticness, trust me! Luckily there was a boat the following day, the only one for a while so my name went straight on the board and underneath Lucy's name with the initials ND (non diver) next hers...then a question mark got scrawled next to my name. What? Are they unsure what my name is?! No. The reason for this was due to the severity and difficulty of diving at the Apo Reef. It is in completely open ocean so the currents are incredibly strong. The divemasters never take anyone without first seeing them dive...oh well, 2.30 dive this afternoon? Oh go on then! Within 4 hours of arriving on the island I was being observed assembling my SCUBA equipment and donned my wetsuit to plop into one of the reefs at the back of the island with my buddy Robin, a german fella with a very funny sense of humour who turned out to be a real hoot the entire week! Phenomenal dive....abundance of hard and soft corals teaming with life both big and small and Endoy, the divemaster, seemed very happy to take me out to Apo Reef....result
Apo Reef: 6.30 breakast and on the boat for 7... Robin had left his girlfriend in bed so on the boat Lucy and I made up the 6 divers and 5 NDs for the trip, and as soon as we were on our way, everyone lay down and went to sleep! It was very early :-) We arrived at the reef complex to be greeted by a pod of dolphins showing off and doing tricks around the boat, watching them through the gin clear water was incredible, so clear...us divers however were kitted out so unfortunately missed a lot of the show due to the inability to stand up or turn around! Oh well if this is the surface entertainment, get me in the water! "3,2,1" came the call from Endoy and jump..wallop....the currents hit us like a steam train and within seconds we were 20 ft away from the boat. "no time, get down" said Endoy so we descended rapidly to the reef and over the edge down to 27 metres. It was incredible...thousands upon thousands of fish carpeted the dense coral wall in front of us which seemed to be moving...oh no wait, thats us moving, at what we reckon was somewhere in the region of 25-30km hour, with the currents. Literally flying along the wall we saw sharks, huge schools of large barracuda, turtles, some of the densest corals and reef systems I have ever seen. It was truly phenomenal. There was no effort involved, you simply sat back and watched as one of the worlds top underwater ecosystems went by its daily life in the clearest water possible
Im not too sure what else to really write as I could talk for hours about Pandan Island and the Apo Reef but this was place was simply amazeballs times infinity! Robin, my dive friend, and his girlfriend proved to be very lovely companions for the time we were there, having dinner and laughing about various crazy things we had discovered in this country and one afternoon was spent entirely snorkling with the turtles trying to get a picture worthy of an award..hopefully you will like the one I chose but there are so many others :-)
Very sad to leave. We almost stayed a couple of extra nights but thought it best to get moving and as the boat pulled away from our paradise island we knew that it would live in our hearts as one of the most magical and special places we have shared together...paalan turtles, we will miss you!
As for our next stop...Boracay...via quite a lot of traveling :-)