Nov 30, 2009

Coron Overview : A mini travel guide

Coron is located in the northernmost part of Palawan and considered a 2nd class municipality. Together with Busuanga, Cullion and Linapacan, they form what is popularly called the Calamianes Group of Islands in Palawan. The indigenous people of Coron are referred to as Tagbanwas and the Philippine government have granted them the Ancestral Domains (Land and Water) of this territory.

Getting There :

The easiest and fastest way is by air. PAL Express and Cebu Pacific regularly fly to Coron via Busuanga Airport. Other options are Seair and Zest Air.

Watch out for Cebu Pacific's promo fares as round trip fares can go as low as 500 pesos. Worry no more for flight delays, my current experience with Cebu Pacific is very commendable. They are obviously trying to beat the clock, and trying to give us a brand new impression. Kudos Cebu Pacific! I'm impressed! Our pilot was gorgeous too!!! :)

Who needs to travel for 14 hours by ship if you can get there 45 minutes or earlier via Cebu Pacific on a cheaper rate.

From Busuanga, aircon vans ply to Coron town for 150 pesos per head (one hour or less of travel time).

Where we Stayed :

We stayed at Darayonan Lodge located within the town proper and had a nice experience. Check my Darayonan entry here. There are other lodgings around the area that also offer reasonable rates or you can choose to stay at a more expensive place like Club Paradise with white sand beach front, perfect for honeymooners but quite far from the town.

Our Itinerary :

Our limited 3days/2nights stay allowed us to explore the following itinerary as per arranged by Coron Wonders.

DAY 1 - Coron Inland Tour (PM)

DAY 2 - Coron Island Tour (Whole Day)

DAY 3 - Departure
  • Tour around town (Coron Market, Tagbanwa Office, Municipal Hall)
  • Souvenir Hunting
  • Harvest of Coron (Beef, Crab, Cashew Nuts)
  • Departure
3 days is definitely not enough to see the diversity of this place' flora and fauna, amazing limestone formations, natural white-sandy beaches and outstanding coral reefs ideal for diving and snorkeling.

Other Must See Sites to visit next time :
  • Banana/Malcapuya Island
  • Lusong/Sangat Gunboat and other WWII Shipwrecks
  • Cayman Islands
  • Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Cullion, former Leper Colony
Where to Eat :

Not really much opportunity to check out the different restos in the area. Our package comes with free meals and we took advantage of that. We just tried one popular resto in the area called Sea Dive Resort. Located in the bay area, it offers a spectacular view of the bay and the sunset. We had our dinner there and the place is packed with foreign diners, which I believed are also billeted in this resort, pretty popular for their diving services.

What I had, is just ok, not outstanding but more than enough to fill my rumbling stomach. This full meal costs me 375 pesos.

What to Bring :
  • Digital Camera and lots of charged batteries - so many beautiful sights to capture, you'll be sorry if your batteries went dead during the middle of the tour.... my cam for underwater shots did, sigh :(
  • Buy a dicapac for your underwater shots, marine life is amazing.
  • Insect Repellant - Mosquitos are huge and stings like hell and left me with so many insect bites.
  • Aqua Shoes or Trekking Sandals - its a must when you trek Barracuda Lake
  • Sunblock - you'll be staying the whole day under the sun
  • Snorkels and Swim Mask - its better to own one for hygienic purposes and besides 150 pesos rental cost is quite steep.
Getting Around :

Tricycles are popular mode of transport in Coron town. They are bigger in size compared to the regular trikes here in the metro. Rates range from 8-10 per trip.

How much we spent :

You'll be surprised to find out, this trip does not cost me that much. I can consider this as one of the cheapest trips I've had but the extent of awesomeness is worth 5 times. All-in except for the souvenirs and "pasalubongs", I only spent 4,934 pesos.... Isn't that WOW!!!


My Breakdown of expenses goes like this :

Cebu Pac Round Trip fare : 950.00
Airport Terminal Fee : 220.00
Darayonan Lodge 2nights : 1,164.00
(with breakfast)
Coron Wonders tour : 2,000.00
Extra Meals : 500.00
Tricycle Fares : 100.00
-------------------------
Total PhP 4,934.00




CORONWONDERS

Coron Wonders is the tour group that handled our Coron trip last June 25-27, 2009. They facilitated our reservation for our accommodation, our airport transfers, our meals during the tour, our boat with toilet and kitchen manned with experienced crews, tour guides and including the payments for entrance fees and permits on the different islands to be visited.

For a very reasonable amount, we experienced a very relaxing, stress free and enjoyable trip courtesy of this group.

For an idea how reasonable they charge, please see below......



They have everything arranged for us without requiring any reservation fee or deposit unlike some groups I've earlier contacted. Our payments were settled when we arrived Coron.

So when you plan to visit Coron, Palawan, Coron Wonders can definitely make your life easier.


CORON WONDERS Contact Details :
Email : coronwonders@gmail.com
Rina : 09085432824 / 09178136159


Twin Lagoon/Siete Pecados, Coron

Twin Lagoon got its name because of two lagoons that are connected via a limestone wall of narrow opening that is only visible during low tide. During high tide, one needs to dive a length of almost 2 meters to get to the inner lagoon. No entrance fee required for this site.



Siete Pecados was the finale of our Coron Island Tour. It has an entrance fee of 100 pesos. We didn't get to explore this site as much as we want to because it's getting dark and marine life is hardly visible via snorkeling and getting to the 7 islets is quite exhausting. We just snorkeled near the area where our boat docked and true enough plenty of different species of fish are there, excited with a piece of bread I was holding. This site is perfect for divers as marine life abound this area. I would suggest that you schedule this site in the morning to fully enjoy what this marine sanctuary has to offer.


What a day it was! Seeing all this islands in a day was so overwhelming. Thank God for this wonders and for making this trip possible. Also to Coronwonders for organizing this tour and facilitating a stress free trip.


Kayangan Lake, Coron

After that interesting and treacherous climb going to Barracuda Lake, our next stop is Kayangan Lake. The lake was named as the cleanest lake in Asia and some even refer to it as Blue Lagoon. An entrance fee of PhP 200.00 is required. But before reaching the lake, Kayangan Bay welcomes its visitors with this picturesque view below.


Below is a must see site and most prominent landmark of Coron, Palawan, widely popular on post cards and tourism banners.



But to get that shot above, one needs to hike for 10 minutes along an easier trail but caution should always be observed as the steps can also get slippery especially when wet. One of our older companions did slip but fortunately she was wearing her life vest that served as protection when she slid down a few steps and didn't let loose of her grip on one of the handles, just some bruises and a scratch on her leg for an unlikely remembrance.


A small cave is also located on this portion which we choose not to explore anymore. After some photo ops, a few steps downhill is required to get to that famous lake, also enclosed within towering lime stone cliffs.


Bamboo platforms lie on the edges of the lake for visitor's convenience.


And finally, a chance to swim on the cleanest lake in Asia where the bottom of the lake is so clear even at 15 feet deep.


As much as we want to stay for long and enjoy this relaxing activity, we need to move ahead to our next 2 more destinations before the sun sets on us.



Barracuda Lake, Coron

I find Barracuda Lake as the most interesting among the lakes I've visited in the Calamianes group of Islands. This lake was dubbed as such because of a story that huge Barracudas used to inhabit this freshwater lake. I'm not sure now but our boatman intimated that there are small ones you can see when you go diving.

Getting to this lake is the most difficult and quite tricky as the only access to this place requires hiking for a few minutes along a tricky limestone trail with all your gears if you must, especially if you will go diving. It made me nervous for a while knowing how "lampa" I can be as slipping on this part can be dangerous. The trick is choosing your steps carefully and slowly, making sure your feet is securely planted on each stones before moving to another.There's a portion where the gap is almost a meter and reaching for your next step requires extra caution. There are wooden handles on both sides to help you get your grip and some portion with wooden ladders. Wearing a trekking sandals is a must as the limestones are quite sharp. Entrance to this lake is PhP 100.00 only.


And upon reaching this spot, a big sigh of relief is all I can think of. Finally, a lake is in view within this small entrance and enclosed between towering limestones. What a wonder!


The water is very calm and you can feel that some parts of the water are warm while some are cold. I think this is what divers refer to as thermocline.


I almost lost my snorkel, its good to have a guide who searched for it and dive 15 feet below.


Banol Beach, CORON

Arriving Banol Beach we were greeted with clean turquoise waters, pure white sands beach shore and towering lime stones .....


Entrance to this paradise is only PhP 100.00.




Kayaking is best on the calm waters of this island or just laze around in one of the nipa huts and be tranquil while enjoying this beautiful moment with nature.


Or have fun and mimic Dyesebel like what my friend Ime did. LOL! .........


Or just do any sorts of stuffs, this moment is ours :D ............


We're just halfway through the tour, so more to come, till next ......










CYC Beach/Skeleton Wreck, Coron

Coronwonders call time is 8:00 am, the start of our Coron Island Tour. Our trike going to the port picked us up at exactly 8am. Had our first breakfast at Darayonan by 7am and readied our gears, cameras, my dicapac for underwater shots, sunblock, waterproof bag, swim mask and snorkel, wore my rash guard and my dependable sandugo trekking sandals, while forgetting something very important ... extra batteries for my cam, damn!



First stop is CYC beach which stands for Coron Youth Club Beach. Its free entrance makes it open to the public. White sand, crystal blue waters and mangroves defined this small island. We only stayed for a while here and then head on to our next stop.


Our next stop, Skeleton Beach/Skeleton Wreck! Snorkeling galore best describes our activity on this island. The beach front was not visible at that time due to high tide. The skeleton wreck are submerged remnants of a fishing boat. Plenty of marine life abound this area, truly a delight for snorkelers and much more for divers.


Being a few strokes swimmer, letting go of my life vest to dive is a no no! The waters are truly deep, my life vest is my savior, made me enjoy snorkeling and watching a school of fish circle around me when I feed them with bread.







Maquinit Hot Spring, Coron

After that arduous way up and down Mt Tapyas, our next stop is Maquinit Hot Spring, perfect way to treat our aching muscles. A few minutes of trike ride from Mt. Tapyas we arrived Maquinit. They actually have an antrance fee of PhP 100 but it's already part of the tour package we paid to Coronwonders.




This is the only known salt water hot spring in the Philippines, probably because it is situated between the ocean and the mountain and possible salt water contamination made this happen. It's temperature would range up to 40 degrees, really hot on first dip but its therapeutic effects relieved the leg muscle pains I felt from climbing Mt Tapyas.


Our dinner, prepared by coronwonders was served on one of the cottages of this resort. We had adobo and fried tilapia with matching manggang hilaw, kamatis and sauteed bagoong (yum!) on our first night here in Coron. It's a must that you rub on mosquito repellant as mosquito bites sting like hell and so itchy....


I like the place, a saltwater hot spring is unique. But the owners have lots of room for improvements. For one, mosses are evident just by looking at the waters. I hope they do something about it and have it cleaned on a regular basis. The place has plenty of roaming cats and dogs and they would circle around you while your eating, good if they all have anti rabies shot but what if they don't. But there's one dog who is really "gwapo" whom I feed with my adobo, wishing I could just take him home :)

Afterwards, we call it a day and head on to Darayanon to recharge for the next day's much awaited Coron Island tour.

Mt Tapyas, Coron

We made use of our time wisely, touring the popular sites of Coron for 3 days/2nights. Arriving late in the afternoon, not wasting any moment, the first activity on our itinerary is climbing Mt.Tapyas' 720+ steps with trail. This is one of the popular destinations in Coron town. On the road from Busuanga to Coron, Mt Tapyas can easily be seen because of a dominant Cross on top of it.



As we walked along a flight of stairs, we got a good peak of what's in store for us in the succeeding days.


Halfway through, we need to catch our breath and smile for the cam as we marvel at the beauty that is CORON.....


Reaching the summit, we were treated to this awe inspiring view and cloudy skies. It rained a bit but not enough to get us wet. I was quite hoping for a picture perfect sunset shot but that's already asking for more, when in fact we were already spared from the wrath of Typhoon Feria.


Climbing down, we hurried to our next stop Maquinit Hot Spring. Our hired trike is waiting at the foot of the hill...........


Darayonan Lodge

Coronwonders, the tour organizer we hired, booked us at Darayonan Lodge. It has a homey atmosphere and just located within the town proper where most establishments are easily accessible even by foot.



We got 2 deluxe family rooms that accommodated 4 heads each. It has a private bathroom equipped with shower heaters and with amenities like 21" TV, ref-minibar, writing desk, closets and veranda. All these for just PhP 581.25/day per head with breakfast included. The place has lush and spacious garden, multi purpose hall and nipa gazebo.


Veranda outside our rooms


deluxe family rooms


The lodging staff would make you choose the night before, what's your preferred breakfast and the time you want it served. I enjoyed my tapsilog on the first day and corned beef silog on the second day and of course an overflowing coffee or tea included.



.
Video tour around Darayonan Lodge









DARAYONAN LODGE Contact Details:
Letty Fernandez - 09287003072
Front Desk - 09087732964
email: dipulao@gmail.com
website : www.darayonan.com

Flying to Coron via Cebu Pacific

GOD is Great! We almost missed this chance to visit Coron due to Typhoon Feria but it did not arrive as predicted by PAGASA. I believed God favored us to see this paradise on earth.... AWESOME!!!


Our Cebu Pacific flight departed as scheduled and could have arrived Busuanga ahead of time if not of the thick clouds hovering the runway. The pilot announced, he can't land the plane yet and so we were treated to an aerial tour of the Calamianes Islands, circling around for 20 minutes and enjoying the magnificent view from the top until we had enough and prayed the runway be cleared of the thick clouds before our fuel runs out. The pilot did a good job although the sudden jerk when it landed gave me a jolt.




After an hour of flight, we arrived Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga. From the looks of it, the structure is fairly new. A placard being held by a guy, bears my name at the exit of the airport and a van is waiting for us to take us to our lodging in Coron called DARAYONAN Lodge.



From Busuanga, it will take 45 minutes to reach Coron town proper. Some part of the road is on the works, in a few months, travel time will be much shorter. The view along the way is really awe inspiring, like these plenty of cows under the care of the local government.


Here's a video of our actual landing ......



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