We touched down in 45 minutes from Manila to Coron in a tiny plane, seating no more than 60 people! Coron is one of the islands that make up the Calamanian group. After a 20-minute winding ride through the rolling lush green landscape, we arrived at Acacia Garden situated in the town of Coron. As we chucked our backpacks down for lunch, the sky turned grey, and a powerful thunderstorm passed through, bringing enormous amounts of rain and heavy winds. Once the storm had passed, we hitched down a tricycle and rode into town for a mere 15p per person! This was our first experience of Coron town, which is vibrant with colours, people, smells and in every direction there is something to look at! We manoeuvred our way through the crazy traffic, over unstable drains and broken sections of payment. The harbour was only a short walk and as we arrived colourful tricycles lined up in rows, drivers chatting to each other as they waited for customers. The harbour is lined with brightly painted boats floating along the shoreline. In some sections, the boats stretch three deep and are pulled together by rope at the ends. There were many boatmen
nimbly jumping across boats passing water, food and helping passengers not to slip off into the water! We started being followed by a stray dog that followed us straight through the market and almost into a shop! There is a dense population of stray cats and dogs in Coron, often fighting for territory and food and many of which have flees and rabbis so we needed to make sure that we didn’t come into any contact. That evening we walked back into the town and had some cheap Sanmiguel light beers (the popular choice on the island). From our window seat, we watched as the town bustled with commuters riding their scooters home, overloaded with people and shopping for dinner hanging from the handlebars.
Our first day out of Coron was a boat trip on a catamaran made up of a wooden frame and bamboo floats suspended from either side on a thick rope. We had to clamber across 3 slippery boats tied together until we reached ours and met our group and the cheery tour guide. In the Philippines, things don’t always run on time, and we had to wait an hour sat on the boat while they
located the last two missing passengers! The port is a real hub for tourism, and as a result, many locals gather to try and sell you water, snacks and wet bags for the boat trip. Once we sailed away from the port, the scenery was incredible with crystal blue waters and cascading jagged charcoal coloured cliff faces. We stopped at a number of lagoons close by to Coron to swim in the bath-warm waters. Even though health and safety on the land are questionable, our guide insisted we had to wear life jackets when swimming, but he did say we could be creative! We opened them up like a lilo and floated around on the surface inside the beautiful waters of the lagoon. At one stop we snorkelled over to the rusted wreck of a Japanese ship from the 60’s sunken deep into the sand. My favourite stop was the idyllic cove of the green lagoon where we stopped to eat lunch in a bamboo hut built in the water so the boat could glide right up to the side. As we ate rice, freshly grilled fish and slices of fresh watermelon, we could see the water through the gaps
in the wooden slats below us. Our final stop was a small island with a circumference of live coral around the base. Through my goggles, I watched mesmerisingly at schools of barracuda and whitebait darting through the water only a metre away from me. As we swam around the small island an abundance of colourful fish swam between the swaying coral, and we had to be careful not to get stung by the Black Sea urchins spiking out dangerously into the water!
The next morning we took another 90-minute boat ride away from Coron to some remote beaches far away from the hustle and bustle. We sat on Glorious sand bars and relaxed as the gentle waves lapped over us. It really was the pinnacle of paradise. We did lots more snorkelling and swimming and enjoyed a refreshing drink straight from a cut open coconut that had just been chopped down by a local Filipino man. In the evening we went for a few drinks at the island boy and coco bars and met an English family and a girl called Lucy from Manila. After sharing some cafe patron and tales of our holidays, we rode back to Acacia
Garden in a tricycle.
Our next destination was a 40-minute speed boat over to the remote Chindonan island. The accommodation was built into the hillside and had panoramic views of the harbour from our balcony. The sounds of large geckos squawking filled the air and swarms of flies, mosquitoes and other bugs crawled across everything in sight, even us! Unfortunately, Anna had severe food poisoning from some suspect prawns so spent most of the day in bed. I was able to have a look around the dive resort, which spanned only a very short 300 metres of the island. We were able to take a swim off the jetty and lounge under the palm trees and read our books. We stayed two nights and left feeling well rested and ready to enjoy the journey home on a catamaran with the sun beaming down and the splash of the waves to cool us in the 30-degree heat.
Numerous people had tried to sell us hot spring trips, so we decided to check it out on our last afternoon in Coron. The bumpy 25-minute journey to the hot springs that took us through the residential backstreets of Coron. We passed
many small corner shops built from tin and wood selling water, crisps, sweets sachets of shampoo. Lots of food stalls were set up for the evening, and the smoke from their BBQ’s filled the air as they prepared the pork and chicken skewers on the side of the road. There was a pungent smell from the fish market as we passed by, and many people hanging on the streets and children playing happily with basketballs. The hot spring itself was a 40 degrees pool that was so salty we were able to float along with surface with minimal assistance. That evening we got ourselves some Coron branded trinkets and some dried mango to take back with us. Our stomachs were still feeling a bit delicate, so we went on a mission to find some crisps and plain dry crackers to take with us to the next place as we knew there would be no shops.
We got picked up in a ute, chucked our backpacks in the trailer and drove out of Coron, north, through the centre of the island to the Busuanga half. As we left Coron town, we both commented on how safe we felt and how
welcomed by the locals we were as visitors. It was a bumpy ride, often with patches of tarmac missing along the red dirt track. We passed Jeepneys struggling to make it up to the hills. Black fumes burst from the engine, and the frame was weighed down with the overfilled cargo and passengers. We even saw one van with a person sitting on a plastic chair holding on precariously to the back of a trailer! Anything goes in the Philippines, safety is very much at your own risk (except when swimming in a lagoon)!
Cashew lodge is situated on the north coastline and includes a dozen delicately constructed bamboo huts. After a welcoming coconut drink, we took our beach stuff outside the front of the hut to enjoy the rays of sunshine. You never can predict the weather in Coron, and after some rumbling thunder, we managed to miss the rain and headed for the pool to cool down. That evening we played a game of pool to the sweet sounds of 80’s and 90’s love ballads, which is the favourite choice of background music in Filipino bars!
Throughout the night, we slept to the gentle lapping of
the waves with the occasional unknown animal scratching at the roof of our hut and bugs crawling up the net suspended from the ceiling surrounding the beds. I woke up to the sunrise beaming through our window, a thin stretch of orange rising up out of the sea. As we left our beach hut, two horses were chilling in the front garden scratching their backs on the trunk of a palm tree. That morning we took the double kayak and paddled a mile over to another island where a few Filipino boys were fishing. As we looked out to sea, there were a few fishing ships in the distance. We joked about pirates in the Sulu sea surrounding the south of Busuanga and then quickly decided it was best to head back to the safety of the resort! We stayed at Cashew Grove for two nights before jumping back on a plane to Manila, to stay in the Pasay area. We were meant to go on a bike tour but miscalculated the heavy traffic and missed it! So we spent the rest of the afternoon having a look around the SM Mall of Asia and having a farewell dinner at
the Modern Shanghai restaurant.
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