Friday, July 27, 2012

The Beauty of the Philippines Part 2: Coron, Palawan

Aerial View of  Dimakya Island (Club Paradise)
Photo taken by the author
Our island adventure started with an amazing day at Club Paradise, an Island Resort located in Dimakya Island, Municipality of Coron, a part of the Calamian Group of Islands, situated at the northern tip of Palawan, the Philippines' last frontier.   Since we were staying at Club Paradise, we felt the whole island entirely to ourselves.  We spent the day frolicking on the powdery white sand beach, strolling to the ‘Hidden Beach’, swimming in calm, crystal clear water, and polishing on our diving skills in the pool, trekking to Eagle's Point hill and watching the sunset while hundreds and hundreds of bats hovered over the beach and Eagle’s Point hill.

The following day, we continued to explore more of Coron.  Our speed boat crossed the open sea, cruised the river lined by mangroves. We hopped in the minivan to travel to the Port of Coron. From here, our boat started to navigate through different shades of blue, azure, turquoise and pale green water to visit and experience the natural wonders of Coron – the Twin Lagoon, Lake Barracuda, Kayangan Lake, Coron Marine Reserve and Maquinit Hot Spring.


Lake Barracuda
It started with a warning! Ricky, our guide, told us that we have to swim through a very narrow cave opening in order to get to Lake Barracuda. But that warning was intended for the seasoned divers or swimmers.   We used the ladder instead. Upon entering the lake, we were introduced to a natural splendor of a different sort.  The lake was surrounded by dark limestone, carved with crisscross pattern.  The sharp ridges were formed like steeples of a Gothic cathedral. With my snorkeling gear, I joined one of the Japanese tourists who jumped into the dark blue water. But the underwater was not that impressive.  I swam around the lake and floated on my back to admire the amazing rock formation.   The water barely hitting the hanging rocks gave an illusion of a wide mouth and huge teeth waiting to swallow a predator.  The rustling of the leaves from the scarce trees growing in between the rocks and the echoes coming from a visitor who shouted in awe as he jumped into the water created a ‘herculean’ feeling.   Lake Barracuda was aptly named I thought. It’s one majestic intimidating lake.

Kayangan Lake and the Postcard of Coron
In order to get to Kayangan Lake, we had to climb 150 narrow steps. I was filming using Iphone4s as we trekked.  Balancing a tiny Iphone to get a steady footage and climbing a very narrow rocky trail was a challenge.  Needless to say, I was gasping for air as we reached the top.   Ricky stopped as we reached the highest point to give us tidbit of information about Kayangan Lake. “Kayangan Lake is hailed as the cleanest in the country…you will see small needle fish and five other varieties of fish. Before we go down, a short walk from here is a view of Coron”, said Ricky. I thought saying ‘a view of Coron’ was an understatement. What I saw was a jaw-dropping panorama of Coron - a dramatic view of black limestone cliffs cascading down to green lakes and blue sea that you would typically see on a postcard.  Behind this vista point was a cave with stalactites formations hanging like a giant chandelier.  (click on the thumbnail below to watch the video)

I continued to film as we descended to Kayangan Lake, trying to capture the sight and sound of a lush tropical forest, the chirping of the cicadas and the twittering birds. Once we got to the lake, the site was stunning.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of nature.  I put my snorkeling gear on, but after seeing a few needle fish I decided to just swim, float and relax. The water was so clear and the stunning views were soothing. I felt I was floating between water and air – I have never felt such serenity.


Coron Marine Sanctuary
Back in the boat we headed towards the marine reserve. Ricky said, "this area is protected by the local government of Coron so fishing is not allowed".  As I dove into the water, the undersea was a vision of abundance indeed. I was especially struck by what seemed to be an underwater garden with corals that looked like red, yellow, blue, purple flowers in extravagant bloom. Some corals looked like polyps and elongated stalks. The pale white corals I was used to seeing in the Pacific Ocean formed a wall that seemed to highlight the fish of different colors.  As I swam farther I could see the water getting from pale blue to darker blue, which indicate an increase in depth.   I noticed a cluster of black corals scattered in this area.  I actually got scared. Perhaps it was from the cluster of black corals and the deepening sea or both.  When I popped out of the water and saw our boat, I realized how far I have drifted. So I decided to head back.  I was fascinated by the magnificent coral formation that I only begun to notice the variety of fish as I head back towards our boat.

Maquinit Hot Spring
It was amazing how we navigated our way from sea water to fresh water and back to salt water and how we ended up at the hot spring without getting off the boat.  We crossed the bridge, which was made of mangrove trunks and roots, on foot. On the other side of the bridge was the Maquinit Hot Spring, where we relaxed in hot (more than warm) water – a perfect place to hang out after a long day of activities.



Coron Market (Market Pier)
Leaving our boat, we walked from the quayside along Coron Market. I headed straight to the fish market to buy fish and green caviar.  (I was disappointed with our dinner the night before as I was hoping to have a meal of fresh seafood, but Club Paradise offered international cuisine of German and Italian food).

That evening, back at the resort, Ricky had the chef prepare the green caviar and fish. Before heading to the open-air restaurant for dinner, I stopped by the Dugong Bar and got me a bottle of sauvignon blanc. In addition to CP’s usual buffet dinner offering, Pia, our waitress, brought the grilled ‘lapu-lapu’ (rock cod) and green caviar salad (with fresh tomato and onions with kalamansi (lemon) to our table. A perfect dinner in paradise! I thought.

The following morning, I strolled along the ‘Hidden Beach’ and trekked up the hill to Eagles Point. The hill was steep but not strenuous.  As I reached the top, I found Abbey and Pia (Club Paradise staff) relaxing. I thought it was a nice hideaway for them.   We were also accompanied by sinister looking creatures. They were fruit bats that inhabit the island. They were harmless according to Abbey.

We were here on this hill towering the sea with a 360 view of the sea and the Escapade Island. Seemed so far-away, so pretty, so gorgeous... the Philippines more beautiful than I imagine.

1 comment:

  1. I think I should try going to this place next after my trip to Hidden Valley Laguna. Been looking for nice hot springs and beaches in the Philippines. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete