philippines

During our time in Maldives we were fortunate to be able to do a fair amount of diving. We were both, in fact, certified up to rescue diver certification on Kuredu during our stay.

The trip to Philippines was arranged and planned mostly by Nicole with two things in mind. Seeing our friends Warren and Nikky, and diving with the long-tailed Thresher sharks of Malapascua island. We would fly out from Maldives, and meet up with our friends who were travelling from South Africa, with various activities and general catching up (drinking) on the cards. First meeting point would be Manilla airport, after which we would fly to Puerto Princesa together, on the large island of Palawan, Philippines.

We learnt a few valuable lessons during this trip. First, if you fly through Kuala Lumpur, make sure you fly the same carrier in and out. KL has two major international airports, one which caters mostly for Air Asia, and another which accommodates the rest. If you fly into KL on one carrier and fly out on another, you will have to change terminals. Here’s the first lesson we learnt, as you could now find yourself with limited time to get in a run-down taxi spending money we had not planned, with time we could not afford.

Once in Manilla we had to meet up with Warren and Nikky and fly onwards to Puerto Princesa. Second mistake, incoming and outgoing flights from Manilla also use various terminals, up to four I think, so we waited for our friends to arrive, with no arrival flights showing up on the boards. They, on the other hand, are waiting for us at terminal 4 while we wonder around terminal 1 like idiots.

After some frantic facebook messages, with intermittent and sluggish wifi, we get on a bus to terminal 4 and finally, reunited with our friends, we’re ready to continue the journey.

Mistake # 3… It’s not necessary to book all your accommodation in advance. After spending a few great days in Puerto Princesa (PP), we realised that we had booked our hotel for too long and we had enjoyed and experienced what was planned, in less time than anticipated. There are some great activities and experiences, including the underwater cave tours, banka excursions, hikes and amazing outdoor seafood buffets. Nix and I also did some kite-boarding but not much as the winds were light and unpredictable.

So we decided to move North on Palawan up to a small place called El Nido. Due to our earlier decisions, we ended up paying for hotels in both Puerto Princesa as well as El Nido, as explained before, we had booked too long in PP.

el nido1

El Nido is simply beautiful, with a much smaller and quaint feel than the busy city vibe of PP. Situated in a small bay with glorious sunsets over the hill, everything slows down. The scenery is breathtaking, the hangovers are intense (visits to the reggae bar are a must) and the boat excursions are affordable and relaxing. Over the hill, about an hour’s dirt bike ride is a great kite school where we rented some gear and spent an hour on the water. El Nido also has an amazing zip-line adventure situated on the beach where you can enjoy cold San Miguels while watching the sun set.

filipino 2

So, back to PP to catch our next flight which would take us to Cebu city, with one overnight stay and then onwards to Malapascua island. The ferries to Malapscua do not travel at night so we had one night stay over with a ferry planned for the next morning.

Mistake # 4… Let us introduce you to Lechon, a dish which the locals are extremely fond of. During our planning of this trip, all our friends from Philippines advised us that we need to try Lechon. This is a slow roasted pig and is served everywhere, in restaurants as well as in the streets. So we decide to visit a Lechon-inspired restaurant and order as much of the stuff that we can. Pork salads, soups with pork crackling, sliced roast pork and pork-fat fries. To this day, Nix will not ever again touch the stuff as we both struggled the next day with pork-and-wine hangovers.

Malapascua island is a 40 minute ferry from the mainland but is a world away. This is a quaint island which caters mostly for diving, with none of the big-city vibes. It’s main dive attraction is the long-tailed Thresher sharks, but also has some great macro diving. It is also is home to some amazing restaurants.

If you are diving for Threshers, then you are diving early, underwater by 6:30am, departing around 5:30am. Threshers will come up at first light to cleaning stations, after which they descend to un-diveable depths until the next morning. They move past you pretty quickly and you just have to hope you are in the right place at the right time, chilling on the side of a deep underwater plateau, in a wetsuit that doesn’t fit,with a dodgy dive computer, and dodgier air gauge.

We had some good sightings as the sharks cruised past us, and then our dive-master motioned for us to move to shallower waters. There are so many dive centres operating in the area, at the same time, and we ended up being the only group up on the top of the plateau, where there is actually nothing else to see.

While waiting there, from out of nowhere, a beautiful female appeared and spent some time with us, just above us, cruising around slowly. An amazing experience which resulted in the attached picture.

thresher

We would do another 3 Thresher dives but none would rate to that first one, which brings us to mistake # 5… Learn how to use your underwater camera before you go diving. The featured picture was pure luck as the other 200-odd photos I took over the week, were pretty poor.

For a small remote island, Malapascua has some amazing restaurants. You could also get by without dining out, as the street food is really affordable and tasty. We were not adventurous enough to try the local “balout” eggs, but we did make use of Philippines’ outdoor seafood markets.

Another great trip, good times with good friends…

Please note: All Tripadvisor posts were updated shortly after our visits. We do not believe in giving negative reviews unless we have made a personal request or comment to senior staff, allowing the relevant designated persons an opportunity to respond and rectify any shortcomings we might have experienced.

https://www.tripadvisor.co.za/ShowUserReviews-g294257-d3521968-r262095704-Acacia_Tree_Garden_Hotel-Puerto_Princesa_Palawan_Island_Palawan_Province_Mimarop.html

https://www.tripadvisor.co.za/ShowUserReviews-g294257-d7264963-r262094598-Rusticana_Restaurant_and_Bar-Puerto_Princesa_Palawan_Island_Palawan_Province_Mim.html

https://www.tripadvisor.co.za/ShowUserReviews-g659555-d4776625-r262093692-Amihan_Restaurant-Malapascua_Island_Cebu_Island_Visayas.html

https://www.tripadvisor.co.za/ShowUserReviews-g659555-d1788493-r262092365-Thresher_Shark_Divers-Malapascua_Island_Cebu_Island_Visayas.html

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