I took a trike to Aroma bright and early at 8am. and checked in at the Grace Island Resort booking office. Anyone wanting to visit Grace Island could fly into San Jose (Cebu Pacific arrives at 7am) and literaly walk across the road to the booking office, on the beach side of the road, and where the boat picks up. The banca wasn't due to leave until 9am. so I had plenty of time to pop over to one of the restaurants on the other side of the road. The boat was not overcrowded but there were plenty of passengers, all being day visitors. Everybody was given a life jacket.
As soon as the boat was underway, the guide said a prayer for a safe journey and a good visit. I believe the island resort is owned by a Pentecostal church. During the journey, the representative was saying that due to the Yolanda Typhoon in November, renovation work was being carried out and the floating cotteges were not in use. I immediately let her know that I was disappointed to hear this because I had booked a floating cottage and that was the principle attraction for me. She said that she would see what she could do when we arrive.
The boat made it's way out from Aroma and passed close to White Island. This is an amazing sight. Beautiful white sands and trees and hut, an oasis in the Mindoro Straight. I have seen the island from the sky when approaching San Jose but it is very impressive from the sea. From here it headed out towards the channel between the two large islands off the coast of San Jose, Ilin and Ambulong. The journey was very picturesque and as the boat entered the Ilin Strait where both islands flanked our route. There were small settlements dotted along the coasts but these islands were largely uninhabited.
Grace Island is approached from the right and the first sight is of an iconic rock with a solitary tree on top. Locally named Lininob Rock, this can be seen from the island and makes an interesting feature during sunrise and sunset.
Travelling in March, the Island was not green but the waters around the island made up for that. A deep blue green and as clear as crystal!. As the boat approached the floating cottages were evident, floating on deep blue plastic barrels on this bright sunny day.
As the boat docked, and passengers disembarked, we were given a soft welcome drink and I was asked to go to the reception area where it was confirmed that the cottages were not in use. Again i remonstrated and the lady promised to see if I could transfer to a cottage on my second day.
The cottage I had was on the hillside and was very pleasant. Two beds, a bathroom with toilet, basin, WC. There was also a nice terrace looking out over the island below and the floating cottages (GRRRRRR!!!!)
After meeting other visitors there, lunch was served. It was very good food; massive king prawns, a beef stew and mixed vegetable salad, juice, and a desert . After lunch I took a walk around the island. There is a pathway around the entire island and the views across Ambulong are impressive.
There is at one point a sandbar which at low tide extends to the large island itself. I swam from one of the visitor's platforms which I had all to myself. The swimming is amazing; the water is clear and the coral, fish and other marine animals are there in abundance. I saw a sea snake that was very unusual. The sunset was also very beautiful.
Tuesday 1st April
I woke early and it was not yet fully light so I dressed quickly and walked up to the top of the island to see the sun rise. The view of Lininob Rock as the sun came over the horizon was mesmerizing. The staff of the resort were also up early and attending a service in the chapel high up on the island.
I came down to some good news! A floating cottage was available an d I was able to move my things when I wanted to. Yay!! I moved over straight after breakfast and took a refreshing swim in the waters off the cottage. This was an amazing experience. The cottage was very beautiful. Every window had a stunning view over blue-green water. The room was very pretty and the toilet, a chemical loo, was adequate. Just to see the water and fish through the split bamboo floors was worth a little compromise.
In the evening the final meal on the terrace was accompanied by a live group of musicians. It was a very special evening and I was sure that I'd be back in the future
Next morning was an early start because the boat was leaving at 7.30am and i had to pack and have breakfast. The return boat was much smaller - and there were only 4 guests returning to San Jose. I really enjoyed my two days here. This is indeed a hidden gem.