Andrew sent this over earlier in December … before Rick, Katy, and Aaron met up with him in Sydney for New Years …
I’ve just returned from a great holiday in one of the more untouched areas of Asia. When I looked at my map of the world and where I’ve traveled, the Philippines was a country close enough to Australia but seemingly off my radar. So I began planning my post university exam holiday.
I started my research with tripadvisor trying to discover what areas of the island nation had enough activities to keep me occupied while still providing a remote feel. Palawan province is a chain of islands on the western fringe of the country. After reading reviews of the northern bits of the Calamian Island chain I decided this was where I was meant to explore.
I began piecing together a series of cheap one way low cost carrier tickets. Jetstar from Sydney to Manila via Darwin approximately $400, then an hour hop on ZestAir from Manila to Busuanga for $45; returning to Manila on Cebu Pacific for $60, then on to Singapore for another $75 on Jetstar Asia, and finally Singapore to Sydney on Singapore Airlines low cost carrier Scoot for $200. Total price approximately $800 for airfare, Philippine Airlines has non-stop service from Sydney to Manila for approximately $1,000, BUT my piecemeal itinerary included overnight flights thereby maximizing the amount of time I was able to spend on the beach versus daylight hours in the air with Philippine Airlines.
Once on Busuanga, Sangat Island Dive Resort provided escort to Coron town marina whereby I was then transferred via small speed boat to Sangat Island for 5 days of sun, sand and wreck diving. September 24th 1944 the airmen of the USS Lexington carried out an attack on a number of Japanese supply ships. These ships remain mostly intact and within both snorkeling and diving distance from the water’s surface. Sangat Island Dive Resort specializes in providing guests three daily dives depending on conditions, plus a range of other water based activities.
My accommodation price included three meals, coffee and tea, daily bungalow cleaning, and plenty of time to use of the pool table. The resort is simple, in that electricity is provided from 6pm to 7am only, showering water comes in the form of one temperature, and one has the opportunity to dodge monkeys and monitor lizards to and from the dining area. Despite this, the staff was more than willing to accommodate any of my needs including organizing a private boat hire to near by Coron Island as a day trip, jetski and kayak rental, and transfer to the next island on my itinerary North Cay.
Whilst on a three hour jet-ski tour, I was taken to North Cay, a small island with white sand beaches, shaded areas for lounging under a palm tree, and dramatic sunsets. The island is maintained by a caretaker, which includes a few VERY basic rooms. There are NO services on the island, it is entirely BYO everything. For me it was an opportunity to live out my Castaway moment. I confirmed with Jimmy the island caretaker he could accommodate for two nights at the price of $18/night. Sangat Dive Resort arranged a cooler of food, water, snorkel equipment and boat transfer. While on North Cay, I walked the 12 minute circumference around the island a number of times taking in the isolation and perfect blue waters. I felt a world away from Sydney, amenities and communication with the rest of the world. For me, ideal.
With my time in the Calamian Islands coming to a close, I took in the surroundings one last time while heading back to the airport, completely oblivious to the impending typhoon approaching. While Typhoon Bopha’s most intense destruction missed the area where I was, other parts of the Philippines including Palawan suffered significant loss of life and total devastation. It was not until I was back in Sydney that I realized the storm was approaching and about to cause havoc. I missed Bopha landfall by 72hrs.
If you want a remote holiday, with plenty of relaxation, and water activities that is well off the tourist track, I would highly recommend visiting this amazing area of Asia. I hope my photos speak for themselves. Furthermore, in the light of a recent natural disaster, the area would most certainly be appreciative of a few tourist dollars to boost the local economy and rebuilding. Happy Travelling, Andrew!
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