On Holiday and Diving in the Philippines
Borocay and Coron
What's even better than escaping from the stresses of everyday life by taking a holiday? How about escaping from the extremely limited worries of "working" abroad by taking a trip to a tropical beach island, and then escaping from THAT by hitching a lift on a cruise ship to a remote diving location in the Philippines!
If this sounds well cool, that's because it was.
We escaped from Hong Kong to Borocay over the Easter break. It's a popular resort and was probably at its busiest over the Easter period. Busy for good reason - it's one of the most stunning island resorts I've ever been to. Fantastic food, snow white sand, and water so clear that when you're night-swimming it's petrifying to dive from a boat a metre above the surface, as all you can see is the moonlit sea-bed!
To get to Borocay from Hong Kong, we took an international flight to Manila, an internal flight to somewhere else, a bus to somewhere else again and a boat to Borocay. Sorry to be a bit vague about that but this is the Virtual Traveller, not the Lonely Planet!
|Manilla. Not a place of great beauty. The vehicles are fascinating, though. Known as "Jeepneys", it seems half the transport in Manilla once used to be an American army Jeep, and there are some weird and wonderful conversions. Traffic in Manilla is insane; here, we witness a box junction. The Filipino highway code clearly states that the correct way to approach such a junction is at full speed, using the horn to avoid other vehicles. Although the steering wheel usually seems to be on the left, I'm not sure whether there's an official preference as to which side of the road you should drive on!|
On the Virtual Traveller scale, Borocay is a five star island resort. It has all the basics - sun, sea, sand, and palm trees. On top of that you can go sailing or diving, and the food is great. On top of THAT, the local traditional Filipino outrigger boats look absolutely fantastic in silhouette! Much as fantastic weather, swimming-pool warm sea, long white beaches, good food and good diving ought to be enough to keep most people happy, personally if I haven't got something cool to point my camera at the place is never going to get five stars!
The Great Escape
After a couple of days of idyllic sunbathing, diving, drinking, eating, and night swimming we were bored of Borocay. Actually that isn't true, but the Colonel's military intelligence had led him to believe that we might be able to hitch a lift on the cruise ship Coco Explorer to the Palawan region of the Philippines, where the tourists are practically non-existent (even at Easter) and the diving is fantastic. Looking at the Lonely Planet guide, it didn't seem to say much about where we were going... but then that would be in keeping with the fact that there weren't many tourists!
So it came to pass that a number of us buggered off on a rubber dinghy with Oddy, the chap on the left, to the ship on the right.
For a very reasonable fee we got our passage to Coron, a three course dinner onboard, cabins for the night, buffet breakfast the next day and a trip to the blue lagoon on Coron Island. The crew were friendly, they seemed quite pleased to see us (there were ten times as many crew members as passengers) and they even sang to us over dinner!
The blue lagoon is blue. It's also extraordinarily beautiful. A glass-bottom boat is the last thing you need - the water is so calm and clear you can see the coral and sea-life as clearly as you could if you were snorkelling.
Our free guided tour took us to Coron Island and a destination known, imaginatively, as "the lake".
I don't know why it isn't called the blue lake as it is, quite undoubtedly, blue. In fact it's so blue it's likely to make people like me who are used to such things as the colour of the North Sea in winter go weak at the knees and start believeing they're in paradise!