Philippines Day 7: Hopping

Our day was to start a bit later than the one before, 9am for a bangka around Coron Island to do some island hopping. We woke up to our alarm again and headed down to the restaurant for a yummy breakfast. I had the banana pancakes which were AMAZING and Jenn had the omelet which didn’t disappoint.

Our guide came and got us at a bit past 9 and we waited for a ride out to our boat. Apparently others were doing a similar trip but they had us on our own boat with no one to split the cost with, but it did give us plenty of together time. Somehow we’re still not sick of one another.

The first stop was “Seven Islands” a group of little limestone islets with mature reefs. We put on our snorkeling gear and did a giant leap in heading up stream. Stung again a few times we made it quite a ways away. We spotted all kinds of wonderful things like puffer fish, squid, colorful parrot fish, all manner of trigger fish, plenty of clown and anemone fish, and every sort of color. Still no sea turtles though. I’ve never seen squid in the wild before so yet another diving first. The squid had bright nearly metallic blue markings and traveled in a pod with a mess of little ones. I tried my best to get pictures. I then tried to get them to ink, a bit cruel of me I supposed but I was curious! Back at the boat we headed downstream a bit, but before long I had us turn around since we had to make it back to the boat. It was a bit tougher than I expected and I didn’t want to wear us out at our very first stop. Jenn still had tons of fun, pointing every which way at all the colorful and interesting fish. This was much more like what I remembered snorkeling to be like as a kid, something I’d badly missed.

When we got out of the water our guide told us we had to pay 100p each to the villagers. This was news to us. We thought that the fee was included in the trip, but this made it complicated! What’s worse, we didn’t have any money on us having both thought about it but left it at home so it didn’t get lost or wet. Our guide wrote an IOU on our behalf and took us back to the hotel to get some cash. We’re pretty low on pesos at this point and grabbed the last of what we had. While we were at it we grabbed some fins from the dive shop and Jenn’s watch as well as a cliff bar to hold us over until lunch.

Our next stop was Lake Kuyungan on Coron Island known for its clear fresh water and amazing views. We had to fork out 200p each to cover our last entrance fee and this one. We brought our snorkels and fins this time as well and made the short hike up over the ridge and down to the lake. I figured there wouldn’t be any fish or life but I was wrong. The waters were teaming with specialized life. A type of shellfish practically matted every wall in the lake, and little needle fish skimmed the surface. We saw crayfish and other gray types hiding along the walls. The geology looked like a moonscape, everything was a dusty brown with strange jagged shapes and precipitations. We swam quite a while finding new things to look at over and over. You had to keep a sharp eye out though. I worried a little about finding a pack of barracuda since another freshwater lake on the island is called Barracuda Lake because of them, but never saw a single one, just curious needle fish following our every move.

Next up was lunch at a pretty beach where we forked out yet another 150p each. I could see how this was going. The food was similar to the day before: soft drinks, salad, rice, fish, and mangos. The entertainment though was provided by a family of dogs who had learned how to best effectively beg for food. Don’t yip or bark, but lay a sad face on your leg looking up longingly. The puppies were incredibly cute, Jenn fell in love with the runt of the litter a black and brown shaded dog that was too picky to eat the fish we tried to feed him. I found a black and white pup, the lone wolf of the pack the most adorable. Jenn jokingly asked if we could take one home with us.

Now it was time to go to a shallow water wreck called the Skeleton Wreck and another 100p each. I don’t know anything about the background of this ship just that it’s shallow enough to see snorkeling, maybe 3m down. I could freedive deep enough to get a pretty good look, though I find it hard operating a camera free diving, already there is so much to be thinking about and the camera is never stable enough to get photos that aren’t blurry without many tries. We swam along the reef, again hoping for a sea turtle. The reef was pretty sad though, clearly it had been dynamite fished recently with large chunks of coral knocked over, and most everything dead. I don’t get why they would do that here, so much of their business relies on dive tourism, and they don’t need the fish to be sufficient. No luck with the turtle.

We were onto the final stop of the day and another 100p each at the Twin Lagoons. Here salt water from the ocean mixes with fresh geothermal water from underground. Pockets of hot water mixing with not quite so hot water, when undisturbed is clear, but when disturbed like by a prop or a fin mixes into a swirling cloud of distortion. When I first jumped in I thought something was wrong with my mask, but when I popped my head up everything was clear. I then realized it was mixing water with different refraction coefficients. I’d seen this before somewhere as a kid. I figured it was freshwater but didn’t realize it was geothermal until later. Twin Lagoons gets its name from actually being a small and a large lagoon separated by an above water swim through. Jenn and I made our way to the other side, still unable to see much thanks to the wash from the boats. Once in the second lagoon though things got clearer. At first I didn’t see much life, but then noticed fish along the walls and lower down. Much more sparse than normal, but some seem to be able to tolerate the water different better than others apparently and found a new unique niche. Jenn noticed that if you didn’t disturb the water you could mostly see. I started playing around with moving my hands through the water and seeing the vortices where the two types of water mixed. It was unique and interesting, but didn’t hold my attention long. We made it as far as could go and turned back for our boat.

Our timing was quite good, as we headed back to Coron the sun was setting behind one of the many islands in the harbor. We dropped our fins off and went to find out about a boat to El Nido the following day. We hoped to take a bangka down to the main island of Palawan tomorrow, and eventually a bus to Puerto Princesa before flying to meet Oly in Manila on the morning of the 21st. Sadly Dalores told us that there were no boats scheduled because of a lack of interest. Now we had to figure out new plans, maybe sticking to our original goal of going to Pandan Island off Mindoro so we shot an email out to see if they still had vacancy. While we were out we looked for a rash guard for me as well but gave up. Near Sea Dive a vendor was cooking Chicken Sate and it smelled amazing. I bought 2 sticks for 8 persos and convinced Jenn to try some. It was too fatty, but tasty enough. Now Jenn can say she’s had street meat in South East Asia.

For dinner we both had the lobster, this time the daily special was prepared in a ginger sauce and was even more amazing. In Coron you just can’t seem to beat Sea Dive for dinner. Jenn retired upstairs while I wasted time hoping to hear back from Pandan without luck.

Because we were leaving the next day we were asked to settle our bill the night before. They charge a 5% fee for credit cards in Sea Dive which is a shame, but even still our 3 days including diving came out cheaper that way than the $5 fee from the local bank, the $5 fee from Wells Fargo, and the 3% foreign transaction fee. Besides Wells Fargo only lets me take $200 out at a time so we’d get hit twice with the $10 ATM fees! Ideally I’d like to never have to take money out of the bank overseas.

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