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Monday, August 15, 2011

Coron: Hundred (Pesos) Islands

 Day 18: Coron (Busuanga)

Coron Island is the third largest island in the Calamian Group of Islands in northern Palawan in the Philippines. The island is part of the larger municipality of the same name. It is about 170 nautical miles (310 km) southwest of Manila, is known for several Japanese shipwrecks World War II vintage. The island is part of the ancestral domain of the indigenous Tagbanua people. Known as Calis among the Tagbanuas and Coronians, its Tribal Chieftain is Apo Rodolfo Aguilar.
The area around the wrecks have pleasant rock formations which provide for excellent snorkeling opportunities, with underwater visibility extending up to 80 feet (24 m). The water is often calm. Coron is one of the most visited destinations for wreck diving in the Philippines. Wreck dive sites are found in a depth as shallow as 10–30 feet and as deep as 120–140 feet. Most are in the range of about 60–80 feet, perfect for sports divers.
Dive sites around Coron include many different reef dive sites and the famous "Günter´s Cave", also known as Cathedral Cave because during a certain time of the day, the sun throws a beam of light through a hole in the cave ceiling, illuminating the inside. It is possible to surface in the cave, as the hole in the cave-ceiling allows fresh air to enter. The cave is named after Günther Bernert who was part of the first dive group to explore the cave, after hearing from local fishermen about its existence.
Wreck diving sites in Coron Bay include the Irako wreck, Okikawa Maru wreck, Akitsushima wreck, Kogyo Maru wreck, Olympia Maru wreck, Kyokuzan Maru wreck, East Tangat gunboat wreck (the real name of the ship, Terukaze Maru, was recently discovered by a group of Dutch divers, who spent a couple of days digging into bottom sand around the stern), Nanshin Maru wreck, Lusong Gunboat Wreck, and Skeleton Wreck.
The aquatic views from the sunken Japanese ships off Coron Island are listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine’s top-10 best scuba diving sites in the world.[1][2]

I fell asleep easily after this long day. It was pretty hot inside though since the room didn’t really have good ventilation. The very loud air con kind of bugged us off. But inspite of that, we were able to sleep soundly. We were served breakfast in the morning at the hut in the garden then took off after that for our island hopping. We booked it at the hotel. The boat costs 1500 pesos plus entrance fee at each island you visit. (Per person: 200 pesos for Kayangan Lake and 100 pesos on each of the other sites). 



Siete Pecados offer a fantastic area for snorkeling and shallow diving. It has a good coral reef where you can also feed the varied and colorful fishes. I would highly recommend it to every visitors of Coron.


Then we continued on to Kayangan Lake. It is perhaps the most popular amongst the sites. Ahead of us were already a couple of boats loaded with many tourists. Kayangan Lake which is also sometimes called the Blue Lagoon earned its title as the cleanest inland body of water. Half way on a little trek up the stony trail is a fantastic viewpoint to look at the astounding limestone cliffs and turquoise waters below. Going down to the platform, there were already few people frolicking in the cool and still clear waters of the lake. The water has varying temperature from cool to warm in one place.


After a short dip and around 100 pictures later we proceeded to the next destination on one of the few beaches. It is noon so our guide and boatmen took their lunch at one of the huts while we swam and fed the fishes again in shallow waters. Just like the other beaches and islands, the water was crystal clear. Our guides asked us to join them at lunch but we didn’t plan to eat there. Besides, we have our bread and something to drink. That was enough until we get back to town where we wanted to have our proper meal at some comfortable restaurant. They wanted to take us to another island which a bit farther but we decided to just stay at one where we could relax, swim and just take in the scenery. It was an advantage for them since they spared some gasoline.

Next stop was to the Twin Lagoon and Secret Lagoon. It was high tide at the time so we could not pass through the little hole in the rocks to go to the secret lagoon. There was a small platform and stairs which was just about 3 meters high. Without that one would have to climb those sharp rocks or dive through the submerged hole on the rocks to come to the other side. All was great and we took a plunge again. The place is really serene and so green. It was indeed an exciting trip.

At around 3:00 pm, we decided to head home coz we wanted to take a tricycle to go to the hot springs. Well of course they are masters of their business and told us the better way to go there is of course by boat, since by land on a tricycle it will take us about an hour for one way. So if we wanted, they could take us there right then with just an additional fee of 300 pesos. Well we thought it was a good deal so we could spare time and trouble. So off we went to Maquinit Hot Springs!

 

We paid another 100 pesos each for the entrance fee. Maquinit hot spring has a big pool and a couple of smaller ones. True to its name it was very hot. It would have been very relaxing if not for the time of the day we were there. But one can easily cool off in the sea which is right next to it. It must be really perfect in the evening. But I wished they could have a pool or a basin with really cold water. Then it would have been really perfect.

We then drove back to town with the boat. When we got there we withdrew some money to stock up some cash. There were a couple of ATM’s and they accept foreign credit cards. (Visa and MasterCard) The first bank we found didn’t have cash in their ATM and said we had to wait a few hours later or the next day, but we decided to go to another one which also has an ATM. It was advised esp. for foreign tourists to stock up enough cash when travelling in Palawan, outside Puerto Princesa many small towns still don’t have ATM’s unless there are some big hotels that would accept credit cards.

Dinner was at the Kawayanan Grill Station, which is located near the municipal hall. It was quite loud and crowded. I already had a little headache and all I want to do was to eat and get out of there but the food took a very long time. My mango shake was good and my friend got his fries. Back to the hotel, we decided to take a dip at the pool. That was quite refreshing!

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