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Published: January 29th 2011
The young Filipino girl led us up the beach path to a small stilted Nippa hut. Her flip flops throwing sandy rooster tails up in her wake. Thatched roof, herringbone weave rattan walls, a mosquito netted double bed. The rough planked floor promised a future of painful splinters to the unshod and the sand under the hut was visible through the interstices of the boards. The bathroom had a toilet and a cold water shower. The tile floor was gritty with fine sand. The water from the island well is salt tinged. The porch deck sagged alarmingly when walked upon. Two white PVC chairs and a rickety wooden table were the only furnishings. The price was 3,900 pesos per day for the two of us. About $90 US. We agreed to take it immediately lest someone else should steal it away.
Coco Loco Island Resort is a world class gem. A stunning live coral reef surrounds the entire perimeter of this tiny atoll. The room rates include three gourmet meals a day and with an impressive supply of fish and crab at their doorstep there is plenty on the menu to please even the pickiest palate. The island is located
4 miles east of the port city of Roxas and offers unparalleled vistas framed by aquamarine waters.
After escaping El Nido we took a van southward with no particular resting place in mind. Peter Jennings mentions the resort briefly in his Philippines guide book and this provided the only nudge we needed. Our van driver dropped us off at the resort’s Roxas office next to the city pier. A sun-browned, Mr. Clean bald, affable Filipino man named Felix welcomed us in and provided us with the resort’s rates and amenities. We were taken back a bit by the un-southeast Asian price but we were at a point where we badly needed a short vacation from the vacation. The entire island is leased and controlled by the resort. There are two boats a day to the island. The first departs at 1 PM and the last at 6 PM. We arrived on the 1 PM boat after a 45-minute ride over choppy seas. The entire staff came out to greet us. Inside, waiting in the large common room, were fresh green coconuts pierced by straws and adorned with red hibiscus blooms. It was there that we learned that Felix is
The scene after the morning boat gets in from Roxas.
the resort’s general manager.
We placed our order for lunch for later in the afternoon and toddled off to our new abode where we were held spellbound by the view from the porch. One of the hotel’s three dogs stopped by for a howdy. A staff member arrived with our bags and we got settled in. Amazingly the hotel has electricity twenty-four hours a day but no internet which is both blessing and curse
Our bungalow is the closest to the lodge which means that the other guests pass by our place on their way to meals. We hold court like Ma and Pa Kettle. The visitors here are, as a rule, a very social group. Tice, a curly-haired, long drink of water from Amsterdam was the first to say hello and to give us suggestions on the best places to snorkel. Phil from Noosa, Australia sat for a spell and let us in on the latest Queensland flooding news. Shaking hands with him I got the impression that his grip was capable of lifting a full-sized kangaroo by the tail and using it to club a salt water crocodile to death. We met Dina and Zupy from
She seemed surprised and flattered when Karen and I asked permission to meet her.
London. They’re here for the diving and have just begun a one-year adventure. The hotel runs a small dive operation of some repute. Gary is from Innsbruck and is here on holiday before taking on a job in Zurich working on WEP as a computer scientist. Meals are animated and comradely and tasty beyond compare. It is some of the best food we have eaten anywhere on the road and that is saying a lot. The presentations are marvelous and the service attentive. We went to bed fat and happy.
In the morning we snorkeled the reef just in front of our bungalow. After decades of destructive dynamite fishing the Philippine government has finally gotten its act together on preservation. Many reefs are well on their way back. The one here is teeming with fish and an astounding variety of coral, many of which I have never seen before. Brilliant lavenders and neon greens. Hundreds of velvet blue and chocolate brown starfish lay draped on coral heads like plush toys tossed by playful children onto living room furniture. The fish are inquisitive and show little fear of man. Yesterday I had a small yellow fish with black vertical stripes
The scene in the dining room when you arrive.
scoot up to my mask and peer inside. He stayed with me the entire time I was in the water, swimming just under my chin. It was the oddest thing. At the deep edge of the coral heads I found myself enveloped by a vortex of foot-long Permit fish that ran from seabed to surface. We snorkel the reef at least twice a day, basking and snacking in between. The days have a mesmerizing rhythmic pulse.
Unfortunately, the resort after 25-years of operation has lost its lease on the island and will be forced to move. They’re still trying to re-lease the same property but unless something takes a turn, they will be closing Coco Loco at the end of May, 2011.
Last night after a dinner of crabs simmered in coconut milk we walked along the beach. The night was clear and dark beyond anything I’ve seen back home. Millions of brilliant diamonds scattered across a jeweler’s black cloth. In the water, thousands of twinkling phosphorescent plankton mirrored their cousins above and we found ourselves secured between the two planes. Our horizons appeared to be, unlimited.
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