After some crazy flight connections, a whole lot of waiting at airports and some not-so-fond experiences with filthy toilets (don’t ask why) at the long-haul China Southern flight from Amsterdam, we had finally arrived at our final destination Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan province in Southern Philippines. We were completely exhausted by then, and had no more energy than to go to the place we had booked and crash into a long, sweet sleep. Of course that didn’t happen as I and my boyfriend were eager to explore the surroundings even though it was past 9 PM already. We went out to a store, bought our first Philippine beers and snacks and spent some time in the warm air at the balcony drinking and talking. We had one whole day for exploring Puerto Princesa the other morning.
Puerto Princesa is most known for its island hopping tours, the highlight being a starfish island, and impressive underground river which we decided to skip. We were recommended by some Polish travelers that we had met in the same guesthouse to not give the underground river a miss, but we had already made a plan to go for island hopping instead as we had just over a day in Puerto Princesa.
We were arranged a pick-up from the guesthouse for island hopping tour at around 7:30 AM. We didn’t get that much sleep as there were some roosters in the neighborhood that crowed all. night. long. My boyfriend who is usually a big animal lover, was so irritated by them that I was surprised he could dislike animals at all 😀 Anyway, off we went on our island hopping tour to Honda Bay area, which was the site of the infamous foreigners kidnapping in 2001. I wasn’t too worried about it as we saw many coast guards and armed tourist police in the area.
Starfish island was our first stop, and as our boat pulled up on the crystal clear blue waters on the shore of the small island, I was awed by its color. I wanted to jump right into the water, but we had to walk a little further to the swimming area. The sand was white and glistening, the water was clear blue and the green hills on the distance really made for some postcard like views. We walked to the northern most tip of the island and there they were! The orange, numerous starfish on the shallow waters near the beach!
We were exhilarated! We were on the island with the most population of starfish in entire Palawan – how cool is that. 😀 It was our first time seeing that kind of starfish, and it was a memorable experience.
The snorkeling in a small allocated area wasn’t that great, as there were many people and the visibility wasn’t that good. The highlight for us was definitely starfish on the island!
All island hopping tours across the Philippines also serve a buffet lunch, and our lunch was to be served on the Starfish island that day. We had a delicious buffet lunch of Filipino style dishes like chicken adobo, grilled fish, squid on a sweet sauce, rice, grilled pork and fresh tropical fruits. Having a delicious lunch on a beautiful island was idyllic.
The next island destination on our tour was Luli island. The guide told us that it was a privately owned island with an allocated area for swimming. The day was partly cloudy so when we first arrived on the island, the sun was hidden among the clouds.
I was really hoping that the sun would appear again, and it did, bringing out the splendid blues on the sea again! We didn’t find anything special on the island, only swimming was possible but there was a dive board to jump into the deep water, which we made a lot of use of.
Stasiek, my boyfriend, was bitten by fish, so I was extra conscious to try to avoid the same fate 😉 We found the island to be good for some swimming and sunbathing and of course practicing your board dive moves! 😀
The last stop on our island hopping tour, this was the most developed with water sports available, beach bar selling cold drinks, massage huts and lots of other cabanas looking out to the sea. We bought some cold beers and relaxed at the beach.
At that point, Stasiek was already very sunburned so he spent the time on the island just on the beach by tree shade, while I swam a little. I slipped into a nap on the beach afterwards as I wasn’t still properly rested from the travels. The water was blue and clean but I was constantly bitten by what I think were the invisible plankton. While it’s not a very bad sensation, it’s definitely not too comfortable either. But I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying a blissful swim on the blue sea.
And with the tour of those three islands, we were brought back to Puerto Princesa. The traffic and the city structures reminded me of Kathmandu a bit. Not to mention the people, Nepalese people of certain ethnic groups look so similar to Filipinos! 😀 I felt right at home, except the sea and palm trees 😛 We were already quite tired by the time we got back as the tour lasted a whole day, so we spent the evening relaxing at our balcony and packing for the next morning when we’d leave for El Nido, on the northern part of Palawan, about 6 hours of bus ride from Puerto Princesa.
- Getting there: Many domestic flights from Manila arrive in Puerto Princesa. We flew Air Asia.
- Honda Bay island hopping tour: Ask any tour operator in the city. The cost is around 1300 pesos which includes 150 pesos of obligatory environmental fee, hotel transfers and a buffet lunch.
- Don’t forget: Lots and lots of sunscreen and after-tanning lotions.