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The Philippines – Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princess, Palawan, Philippines

Thursday cont’d

We arrived in Puerto Princesa about an hour late (seems to be the norm so far for this airline) and the heat hit us as we walked off the plane. It was about 32C in Manila and it continues…..

We were picked up by our hotel– Subli Guest Cabins – Trip Advisor rated #1 and we were very happy with it. Six small cabins with AC and WiFi; made of concrete, bamboo and palm leaves and a very local feel. Has a few hammocks to laze about in and a mynah bird to wake you with cat call whistles.

Friday April 25th
Next morning we were picked up for a day trip to Honda Bay which was a boat ride to two islands and a reef.  The local boats here are called bangkas.  First we went to the reef which was out alone in the bay and accessed by a dock only.  Snorkeling is supervised by environmental guards and required an orientation and use of life vests before going in, unless you had a diver’s license.   However, as we had all our own gear and ‘appeared’ more experienced, he excused us from wearing life jackets. There were many different corals and a fair amount of fish.   We enjoyed it; especially Doug as he often has “sealing issues” with his mask due to his mustache but this outing it sealed well.  We were the last ones back to the boat and then we were off to a small islet called Luli where we snorkeled and although not a great deal of coral there was a greater number of fish in schools but the water was not quite as clear for photos.  Our underwater is sort of hit and miss when it comes to photos but it’s not all the camera’s fault.  Fran wears her contacts when snorkeling and cannot always see the LCD screen so she randomly shoots and hopes for the best!

We were treated to a BBQ lunch and then off to Cowrie Island which was just a swimming beach with some amenities (simple things like toilets, showers and beer).  On this outing both of us got stung by jellyfish tentacles apparently they come off and continue floating so you may not even see the jellyfish itself.  It burns for a while and then goes away leaving no mark.

After we got back we walked into Puerto Princesa for some dinner.  Not an easy task trying to find one of the recommended restaurants when all you have is a street name and it’s a long street. We finally found one only to find it full.  So a trike driver named Arnold, told us about one over the water and we had him take us.  It turned out to be really nice although a bit pricier than we wanted but we enjoyed some good Chinese food before having Arnold return us to Subli.

As Arnold had mentioned he rents the trike he drives and was hoping to buy one someday, we educated him about BanKo, the virtual bank that Mercy Corps has been working with to increase accessibility of banking to the poor. Upon his commitment to open a bank account we gave him extra pesos to do it with.  We also incentivized him to save by offering to match a certain amount, upon proof being provided.

Saturday, April 26th – thirty eight years after our first date

Today we took the Underground River tour which while very memorable and interesting involved a fair bit of waiting around.  We took a shuttle van to the wharf in Sabang for the ferry bangka to the national park (which is also a new 7th wonder of the world as well as a UNESCO world heritage site).  En route we stopped for photos at a former Amazing Race pit stop; very cool for being huge fans of that show!  Then we got on the boat that takes you on the tour.  The little boats hold ten people and the driver/guide.  The river is 8.5km long but the tour only takes you 1.5km.

You are floating through limestone caves with stalagmites and stalactites, and lots of bats – made it all the more unique. There were probably over 50 images that have been given to the different formations. It was interesting to experience such a vast space below ground.  After taking the first boat back to the wharf we had a buffet lunch, some ice cream from an ice cream peddler, and then it was back to the city – about two hours in the van.