I almost forgot about this trip.
See, I bought my airline ticket on a whim (well, I mostly book flights on a whim) about 8 months before the actual trip so I only remembered it about 2 weeks before. Which meant I had to scramble to find a place to stay in a very small town where it’s mostly always full.
To add to it, I kept thinking that my flight was on a Saturday when it was on a Friday and only realised it THURSDAY NIGHT. Needless to say, it was a mad dash when I was packing 6 hours before my trip.
But having said that, I managed to get myself (sans toothbrush) on the flight. Thank the Goddess for web check-ins.
A quick lesson in Philippine geography:
When people say Coron, they usually mean the Coron town. It, however, consists the whole Coron island, the eastern half of Busuanga island, and quite a number of small islands and islets. It is part of the Calamian Archipelago, which is at the northern part of the province of Palawan, separating the West Philippine Sea from the Sulu Sea.
Or, if you look at the Philippine map, Coron is on the top part of that thing that looks like a cane on the left.
It eats up a share of about 50 islands and islets from the Philippines’ over 7,000.
Fun Fact #1: Island count of the Philippines has gone up. It used to be 7,107 but discovery of new islands due to new mapping technology bumped it up to 7,641 or more depending on whether it’s high tide or low tide.
Coron is just one part of the Palawan province – that group of islands boasting UNESCO World Heritage Sites Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs National Park. It has also been a consistent resident of the number 2 spot of Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Islands of the World, bested only by Boracay Island. Yes, Palawan is that annoying overachieving sibling that overshadows every single thing that you do, but you can’t really hate because it’s sooooo nice.
Fun Fact #2: Apart from the 2 that are already in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Palawan has FIVE MORE in the tentative list. FIVE.
Coron is a quiet town, even as it enjoys the hordes of tourists that visit every year, all year round. It is a sea lover’s paradise, with people all over the world staying for weeks and months to learn diving or just visit every blessed coral reef that the boatmen can think of (I talked to a boatman who said he ran out of places to take one client after 2 months).
Fun Fact #3: Coron has been in Forbes Travel Magazine’s top 10 best scuba diving sites in the world AND is one of those in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (well, of course I’m bragging)
Basically, this is me telling you to go there. And if the words of Conde Nast, Forbes, and UNESCO aren’t enough to convince you, then maybe a few photos could, yes?
What to do there, exactly?
Island-hopping tours are pretty much uniform regardless of the operator. You could rent a whole boat or, if you’re alone like me, you could just join a tour group. Tour groups commonly consist of 10 people, usually solo travellers or couples.
You get to choose the tour loop you want – the differences are basically the destinations – but all tours include lunch. For this trip, I chose the usual and most popular loop that is really mostly snorkelling.
Admittedly, there is little to do in Coron town. What I did was:
- Visited shops for handmade souvenirs
- Ate at canteens and small restaurants frequented by locals
- Drank beer at the No Name Bar (seriously, that’s what it’s called)
- Hiked up the 700 steps of Mt. Tapyas for fun
A few things:
- There are a lot of backpackers inn and hostels in town. There are also basic hotels. The more luxurious ones are on the part of town facing the mangroves.
- I joined the tour of Calamianes Expeditions Ecotours. I basically just asked the van driver to drop me off at their office straight from the airport so I could sign up and pay to join the following day’s tour.
- Almost everywhere in Coron town is accessible by walking. The airport, however, is not. Either arrange for your hotel to pick you up or just approach the van drivers at the airport. They’re usually clustered together.
- If you’re flying out the airport again and your hotel does not have airport transfer services, simply ask them to schedule you a van pick-up on the day of your flight. Do not forget to give them your airline and departure time. Also, when the van driver says they’ll pick you up at a certain time, don’t argue: they know travel times better than you do.
- If you’re looking for a beach, you won’t find it in Coron town. You would have to take a tour that loops around island beaches.
- DO NOT STEP ON OR TOUCH THE CORALS. The guides will constantly remind you of this. Take heed. Corals are already dying due to climate and weather conditions, the least you can do is not add to it.
- Follow the rules and instruction of your boatman if you don’t want to die. I’m not even kidding. If the boatman says that the undercurrents are too strong, don’t just jump in. If they say that you have to skip one destination because of safety reasons, don’t insist on going. Remember that they live there and know the place and it’s whims more than you do.
- Use SUNSCREEN like crazy.
- Be adults and throw your trash in the proper places. And just a reminder: cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and straws are trash. Don’t just go tossing them about.
- As with anywhere, do not litter, leave things as they were, follow rules, don’t leave your things unattended, and respect people, culture, and beliefs
For even more pictures of this trip, check it out on Flickr.