Coron is the largest town on Busuanga Island at the northern end of the Palawan archipelago in the Philippines. There is nothing special about the town, but something very special about the islands nearby – they are stunningly beautiful with untouched tropical splendor. Just look at the pictures and you’ll see what I mean.
The community runs half a dozen one-day tours that range from 650 pesos ($19 Canadian) to about 1,800 pesos ($52 Canadian). All of the tours include lunch. I took the el cheapo tour called Tour A. The other tours had equally romantic names – Tour B, Tour C etc. Tour A turned out to be a great one-day outing. There were about a dozen of us on this tour who piled into a narrow wooden boat stabilized by bamboo outriggers and driven by a powerful inboard motor. That puppy could really move when it had to.
This was the most un-guided guided tour I’d ever been on. That’s not a complaint; there was no need for a guide. Everything we saw was natural and self-evident.
Our first stop was in a beautiful bay surrounded by cliffs that soared nearly vertically and were covered with a tropical forest. The forest was part of a nature preserve and was untouched. I just sat on the boat and gazed at the mountains and the blue-green turning blue water. If I hadn’t been on the boat, I would have sworn I was watching a travelogue. Then, when I thought about the $19 I had shelled out, I was all the more pleased. Like everyone else, I hopped off the side of the boat and swam a bit in the warm water. I used my snorkeling mask but didn’t see much to delight me under the surface.
Our second stop was a small beach you could only reach by boat. No one lived on the island and there were no roads. One end of the beach ended with the forest, the other was book-ended by a small mangrove woods. There were no facilities there. A few people tied a tarp to some branches to create a bit of shade from the sun, but that was it.
Our third stop was a long white beach with a few shacks thrown up here and there. They were fit-for-purpose and nothing more. This was a place built for Filipinos but it welcomed foreigners as well. I loved it. This is where we had lunch – a wonderful spread of rice, vegetables and fish. I told our Filipino chef that I was delighted with his handiwork and then worried that his face would split from the ear-to-ear grin of happiness he gave me. I’d seen similar meals in town for 250 pesos. That meant that the tour itself (sans lunch) would only be 400 pesos or $11.75 Canadian. You can’t begin to touch a day’s outing like this in Canada for that price!
Our fourth stop was mind blowing – Kayangan Lake. After lunch we strolled down the beach and started climbing the stairs. Most of the steps were proper stairs but sometimes they gave way to the rock that served more or less as steps. There were about 300 steps but the climb up the hill and the descent on the other side was not onerous. When I saw the lake, I realized I was in one of those ‘better pinch yourself to make sure it’s real’ moments. The water was perfectly clear and warm. One end of the lake was bordered by a wooden walkway that was entirely adequate if you kept your eyes on your feet rather than the scenery (as I did). This lake is absolutely stunning. I realized only later that it was the poster lake for the Coron Islands.
Travel and Accommodations
It is easy to get to Coron. I booked deck passage on a ship from Manila to Coron with ‘2GO Travel.’ You could fly there, but that would be expensive. When I bought my ticket for the ship, I showed my old-fogey identification and got a senior citizen’s discount. It cost me less than $50 each way.
Once in Coron, I took a room at RB Transient House. The room was quite spacious, shared a bath and boasted an excellent kitchen. Interestingly, the house was built on stilts over the floodwater plains. I walked on a wooden elevated path from dry land out to the house. Cost? Are you sitting down? 500 pesos a day or about $15 Canadian ($10 US)!
If you book online, almost all the accommodations cost $40 a day and up. But once you get to Coron and stroll down the side streets, you can find a lot of places that are far more reasonably priced. Budget travelers and backpackers will find Coron to be a haven.
Photos by Jan Wall – all rights reserved