Day 11: Puerto Princesa
We were already looking forward to the island hopping the next morning. Right after breakfast at 7:00 a.m., we took off with the van that fetched us to go to Honda Bay. We booked this tour through our hotel which cost us ₱1,500 (Ph pesos) per person. That included the van transfer to and fro, boat ride, and lunch and entrance fees to three islands. My friend was already feeling giddy since he saw pictures of the islands on the internet. Unlike in Panglao, this time we had to share the boat with a group of 12 people.
The problem started right then in the morning when the van was already pretty late then we still have to pick up some other guests at different hotels who some still needed to be woken up and apparently took their time and let the half-full van wait for them. That went for about an hour until we could finally drive to Sta. Lourdes wharf which by the way, took us another 45 minutes.
Our boat took us first to Snake Island, a long sandbar connected to the main beach. It has an excellent swimming area and mangrove on one side. Unfortunately, we were not shown a reasonable reef or snorkelling area. Island hoppers usually take their lunch there, so it’s advisable to arrive early to get a table. The downside of being in a group is that you always had to wait. My friend would have loved to go directly to the next island, but of course, we had to wait until lunch was served. Then there was the “French couple” who first went to walk to the farthest tip of the sandbar while the rest of the group ate their lunch. They came back when all were done eating, and that’s when they started eating slowly.
Eventually, we went to the next island, the Isla Pandan. It went really quickly into deep waters, which was very good for swimming. There I also got a “halo-halo”, my first in the Philippines since I arrived. We snorkelled a little and just enjoyed the scenery. We had enough anyway so off the group went to the last island for this tour, the Starfish Island. Our guide advised us instead not to swim on this island because of the poisonous fish that might prick us. It is rightly called stone fish because it looks like a stone and you would hardly notice it.
We took some photographs on the island, and since we could not really swim in there, it was decided that everyone had enough anyway. I already had a little sunburn in spite of the sunblock that I’ve put on all over my body. Whoever said a dark-skinned guy would never get sunburn?
Anyway, the drama began again as the “French couple” wanted to stay there longer. All other guests were already on the boat and ready to take off and these two decided to just lie there in the sun. Afterwards, they swam again for about half an hour until they decided to get into the boat. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to persuade our tour guide to leave those two behind. They could take the next boat anyway. No one on the boat was speaking, and I guess it was decided that everyone was a bit pissed.
The tour was somewhat disappointing – but there are the beautiful islands. Island hopping at Honda Bay would be advisable to hire your own boat if you want to get the most of the islands, then you don’t have other guests to wait for, and you can decide how long you wanted to stay on the islands.
Back to the hotel, we decided to take upon my friend Daisy’s offer to drive us up to El Nido. It was actually not in our plan due to limited time. So we agreed to be picked up at 4:00 a.m. the next morning. Then I called up my nephew to pick up the gifts (pasalubong) that I have brought them. Then another call to my friend Teng for dinner at Neva’s Place, while my companion decided to stay back at the hotel and just watch Filipino TV and rest.