Finally it’s our third day in Coron! Our friends were on their way to join us at Coron Village Lodge for our 4 days and 3 nights package tour. Van and I woke up early, excitedly packed our things and checked-out from Sea Breeze Lodge. Our two nights stay here had been surprisingly fun and comfortable despite the absence of the usual hotel amenities and the weird smell of the nearby sea water. We sampled the crepe at Pizzito Coffee for breakfast before doing our last walk around the town.
It was around noontime when our friends arrived in Coron town and picked us up from our lodge. We were welcomed warmly at Coron Village Lodge by friendly and accommodating staff with a complimentary iced tea. It was already lunchtime so we quickly dropped our thing in our rooms and headed back to the restaurant for the afternoon briefing. The room was clean and spacious and after our stay at Sea Breeze Lodge, I was extra appreciative of the fresh sheets and towels they provided us. Luckily for Van and I, the only available room was the one with terrace marketed for clients with extra dough to spare. But since we already paid for our accommodation, we got an instant free upgrade. We could also access the WIFI from the hotel’s restaurant on the other side of the road. There were hot and cold shower, cable TV and AC in our room – civilisation at last!
For the duration of our stay, we were never disappointed with the food they served to us. The serving was big and the food was delicious. We had bulalo and fish fillet for our first lunch and the dessert was always a surprise. My favorite was the crispy danggit served during breakfast. It’s paired with either longganisa or tapa, egg and bottomless coffee. I also loved the free-flowing weng-weng and the complimentary fire crackers courtesy of Mr. Willot. Reggae music was playing in the background during our “spin the bottle” nights and I was dared to make a screw driver in Bob’s bar. Except for the 2nd night where our water supply ran out, our stay in Coron Village Lodge had been pleasant and comfortable
After our sumptuous lunch we met our tour guide and were off to the wharf again. Our first stop was Kayangan Lake considered as the cleanest lake in the country. It is located in Coron Island also known as the ancestral domain of the indigenous tribe called Tagbanuas. The lake was accessible by a 20-minute boat ride from the town. As we approached the lake, we were greeted by jagged and towering limestone cliffs peppered with green foliage growing on its crevices. The crystal clear water against the scenic limestone was so breathtaking we could hardly wait to dip in its refreshing pool. But this was just the entry point of Kayangan Lake also known as the Blue Lagoon. There was still a 10 minute-climb uphill to a small cave where you could take a picture of the most photographed spot in Coron.
It started to rain when our boat moored near the shore so the rocky steps on the way up were extra slippery. By the time we reached the steps, it was pouring heavily which was rather disappointing. I have been looking forward to this day when I could finally take snapshots of the famed Kayangan Bay.
When the rain subsided, we descended down to a beautiful lake enclosed by exquisitely carved limestone cliffs. The aquamarine water was as clear as the water at the entrance of the cove – we could clearly see its bottom. There were wooden platforms built on the surrounding edges but there was nothing much to see underwater, if you want to snorkel. But just the magnificent view and the refreshing water of Kayangan Lake were enough to make my day. On our way back to our boat, the sky finally cleared up so we all went back to the cave and took those coveted shots of Kayangan Bay.
Our next stop was the Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary. This is considered as one of the best spots for snorkeling in Coron. Fishing or taking of any marine species is not allowed in this area. Kuya Rene told us that there was a time when they could hardly catch any fish in this area until they declared it as a protected marine sanctuary years ago. This move received a lot of resistance from the locals but eventually they recognized its importance when the area teemed with marine life again. Now, a big chunk of the town’s income comes from the tourism boom in Coron.
We were only given 30- 45 minutes to explore this area since we were in an “express tour” mode. The current was a bit strong at the time so the visibility underwater wasn’t that good. But we were still able to see some colorful corals and tropical fish with the help of our guide who knew exactly which spot to bring us. Too bad, we ran out of bread to feed the fish. It would have been a delight to feed and see them swarming right in front of our snorkel masks.
Our third stop was the Twin Lagoon, another protected cove with uneven sharp limestone formations towering alternately around the deep blue waters. The first lagoon is accessible by boat while its twin lagoon can be reached by swimming through a small cavern that slightly shows above sea level. This opening is sometimes completely submerged under water during high tide so going to the other side was challenging especially for a novice swimmer like me. The water here was a combination of fresh and salt water called brackish and it was warm and cold at the same time.
There was no waterfront here so our boat docked near the opening link between the two lagoons. The most daring among my friends swam to other side with life vest and snorkeling gear of course and underwater cameras while Van, Annie and I stayed in the boat equally pleased with the awesome scenery around us. Sadly, our guide wasn’t able to take any pictures of underwater life because my borrowed waterproof digital camera that I lent him ran out of battery (bummer!). But compared to Siete Pecados, the reef here was nothing spectacular.
After an easy trek to Kayangan Lake, a delightful snorkeling experience at the marine sanctuary and a dip at the enchanting lagoon, we visited our first beach of the day. Atuwayan Beach was our next stop, a small but pristine beach with the signature powdery white sand and crystal clear water of Coron beaches. There was neither a trace of weariness nor any sign that we had just hiked and swam in 3 different places. After placing our things on the only bamboo table in the middle of the cove, we all dashed into the water as if it was the first stop of the day.
This beautiful spot was the perfect place to indulge my photo fanatic friends. It was a luxury to have the place for ourselves for quite a while till another boatload of tourist arrived in the beach. It would have been wonderful though if we stayed longer for the sunset or better yet have the place just for yourself and your special someone with a set-up candle lit dinner.
MAKINIT HOT SPRING
At last, it was time to go back to Coron Town. We just dropped our things in our hotel and got a towel and we were off again to our last pit stop of the day. Makinit Hot Spring was just a 10 minute tricycle ride from the town center. I was little bit jaded already about hot springs as I had live in Los Banos for five years and I wondered what could be so special about this one that we have to do it now when we have so much time tomorrow and wouldn’t it be nicer to visit it during daytime when you can appreciate more its beauty.
My question was answered when I dipped my feet into the pool. It was 40 degrees Celsius hot and would have been hotter during day time. It was indeed a perfect finale of the day to calm and sooth our nerves for the hectic day that was. The hot salty water which was unusual for a hot spring was very relaxing. At first, it was too hot I couldn’t even dip half of my body but eventually I got used to it and completely submerged myself for a few seconds.
It was the second day for our friends and the fourth day for Van and I and we were about to embark on another day of adventure this time enjoying the dive sites of Coron. Coron offers a wide range of diving opportunities for all levels of experience. It is considered as one of the best wreck diving sites in the world. Its main attractions were the wrecks of the Japanese supply fleet sunk by the Americans in September 1944. The best part of this was that some of these wrecks were situated in shallow depth it was perfect for non-divers like us to snorkel around.
EAST TANGAT GUNBOAT
After more than an hour of turbulent boat ride on a freezing rain, we finally reached our first stop of the day. This wreck was a small gunboat or submarine hunter inclined in the coral reef on the east side of Tangat Island. Our boat stopped a few meters from the wreck but we have to snorkel around it to see it clearly since it was high tide at that time and the visibility here wasn’t that good. It was a great relief swimming it its warm water after our freezing journey. The wreck starts at 3 meters down so we can see the shape of the ship even without diving. We snorkeled a lot in this area and took a lot of underwater and above water pictures to our hearts’ content.
Then, we had another hour of boat ride to Calomboyan Island, another tropical beach with mangroves along its shores and tall coconut trees with a couple of hammocks hanging around. The place has a couple of bamboo tables and one large thatched roof hut with a sizeable dining area that can accommodate big group of tourists. The place was busy with excursionists from Culion Island when we arrived. The current was a bit strong already showing signs of the rough waters of the middle of the year. The place reminded me of the natural beauty of Pandan Island in Mindoro minus the loads of tourists.
It was drizzling and quite windy during our visit. But the photo shoot must go on to the chagrin of Paolo, our balikbayan friend from Japan who cannot fathom yet the depth of Pinoy’s love for endless kodakan. He wasn’t the only one who was hungry though but when the weather was unpredictable, you wouldn’t waste any chance of a slight ray of sunshine that comes your way. For lunch, we had grilled squid, pork adobo, my super favorite fresh seaweed (lato) dipped in soy sauce with kalamansi, lots of mangoes for dessert and ice cold soft drinks.
After lunch, we explored the place, rested and slept in the hammock, continued our photo shoot while the others snorkeled from one side of the island and ended to the other side where we docked our boat. There were four of us who ended up listening to their stories about how rich and beautiful the marine life of Calomboyan Island with matching underwater shots to aggravate it more.
Our last stop for the day was another wreck also a gunboat or submarine hunter located in front of the east side of Lusong Island. This I would say was my best snorkeling experience in Coron. It was so shallow I could touch its stern with my feet. It doesn’t have an eerie feeling of a dark and menacing ship wreck you usually see in movies at least from our point of view. The wreck was covered with colorful corals in different shapes and sizes and was teeming with diverse species of fish. I never thought a wreck could look so beautiful and full of life. There were also divers at the bottom occasionally illuminating the underwater world with the flash of their impressive underwater camera. You really have to save the best for last!
MALCAPUYA ISLAND We were supposed to go to Calauit Safari on our third day but I guess it wasn’t mean to be. We were continually discouraged by the bad weather and the fact that everyone wanted to go to Malcapuya Island except for Van and I who had been there already. So on our fifth day in Coron, Van and I together with our friends were back in paradise.
It was another tumultuous and freezing boat ride worse than the previous day. It was raining hard and the waves were playing with our boat like a floating match box. Another boat on the way to Malcapuya broke down in the middle of the sea. These were also guests of Coron Village Lodge so we stopped for a while to help them. When we reached the beach, the sky had cleared up a bit but it was drizzling most of the time. But the fun must go on. This was supposed to be our photo shoot of all photo shoot as in! We all wore white outfits just for this but the overcast sky and occasional sprinkle messed up our photos but not our mood. At least lunch was always something to look forward to. We had shrimp, tapa and banana for dessert. Then it was time for swimming, exploring, climbing the cliff, chilling and more clicking of shutter.
Malcapuya Island will always have its charm no matter what the weather is. Its pristine beauty never fails to amaze me. But the best part of every visit was sharing it with people who know how to have fun.