Coron, the coveted tropical archipelagic wonder in Palawan bearing multiple accolades for its shipwreck-diving expeditions, and the striking splendour it bears above sea level. The Pearl of the Orient, the Philippines, yet again certainly doesn’t disappoint to give any person the exotic getaway one needs.
Yes, it’s been awhile, and to say that I needed a getaway surely doesn’t do justice to how much my soul needed to escape an urban jungle I’ve found myself busy in (University applications, my editorial work at TimeOut magazine, etc.).
tldr; the Lustres including myself take on Coron at a private island getaway at Huma composed of scuba diving, island hopping towards surrounding territories, and more over a span of 2 days and 2 nights.
Finding myself in this stupor, I hopped on the soonest opportunity I could get, and when my similarly adventurous and rather more photogenic cousin, Nadine Lustre, suggested Palawan, I couldn’t say no. Coming from San Francisco, I found myself taking the 15 hour journey to Hong Kong, another 2 to Manila, on rendezvous with the rest of the Lustres aboard the Bombadier Q400 Turboprop aircraft on an hour 7AM flight to Busuanga. Although it may seem like a craft from the vietnam war, I’ll have you know it’s manufactured in 2000, and safer than one thinks.(#jetsetter?)
Day 1: It was a pleasant day, light breeze coming from East, and the array of the few cumulus clouds that broke at a good 10,000 feet made for quite the smooth flight. (Philippine Airlines, great stuff!) Busuanga airport was a quaint yet fully functional aerodrome, and the provincial vibe sets in real quick even before one were to disembark the aircraft.
We rush to van pickup that Huma Island had arranged as transport, set on course for a good 45 minute drive towards the pier . The paved highways were complemented with a range of hills at all angles, and the element of nature, just when you thought it’d tone down, was ever-so-present at every next turn. The air? Absolutely raw, just what the lungs needed on a Friday morning.
By 9PM, we were at Sagrada, heading towards a pier to ferry us over the island. The setting, at its own liberty to level up. Atop the mangrove trees that took root among the surroundings of the quaint town, clear, reflective and calm waters demonstrates a location filled with Zen. The kubo near the edge added a touch in the whole proccess of adjusting to the countryside.
So far, Nadz and I were very much impressed of the staff of Huma, having displayed the epitome of how hospitable and accommodating the filipino is and aspire to be. Constantly watching out for us, they go out of their way and persistently insist on carrying our gear, unreasonably heavy with tech enough to document a sequel of Castaway; and now, a half hour ferry ride to the private island!
As we approached the island, the neighboring coral reefs around the island had become prevalent, and as if nature exhibited a transition into an atmosphere of a total getaway, the blue seas progressively turned into luminescent turquoise! A sight most gratifying, and complemented the welcoming party that took us home.
Palawan is often pointed at as an untainted source of wonder, a raw sense of beauty, and well, Huma Island is one premium-luxury hideaway that does justice to this statement; the much-needed escape I needed. On the other hand, as if chucked into some existential throwback, the 81 water villas, stunning white beaches, and epic sunsets make quite fierce competition to the Maldives expedition I set out early 2016!
Huma, in both guest treatment and facilities spoke extravagance. Two water villas were booked for the next two nights, Room 111 and 112 respectively, and upon entering we were thrilled at the impression the island aimed to offer; we were to be pampered like Kings and Queens. Live a little right? The villa came with a full-suite bathroom complete with amenities like bathtubs and whatnot, a queen-sized bed, a fullsize flatscreen, more importantly, the jacuzzi-equipped deck which serves as the view upon waking up in the morning!
We unpack, slowly get settled, and obviously take an obnoxious amount of photos before deciding we’ve been famished for awhile. I didn’t think equipping a sleepless female celebrity and a jetlagged and relatively hungry jetsetter in scuba gear in a high pressure area under the sea, finding nemo, on an empty stomach was a pretty good idea. Via the island’s golf kart’s service, Nadz, her two brothers, and I head over to the Blu Bar, a view most welcome to the ravenous and exhausted.
and seeing as we were on an island in the middle of the South China and Sulu seas we couldn’t help but dive into the catch-of-the-day!
The seafood was of peak freshness, succulent and flavourful as the managers have promised, certainly bringing back smiles, and ofcourse, the compulsory food coma as we compensate our sleep-deprivity with satiation. We don our wetsuits, prep the cameras, and well, I took a 10 minute powernap for our introductory dive lesson. Jennifer Flores, our appointed Divemaster, was our instructor. Through a comprehensive video, safety check, and bobbing around, we take on the islands’ white beach to start the drills.
Accompanied by another diver, Rica Ocernar, we experienced how it feels like to vacuum pack everything from the nose up, a thirty pound oxygen tank made of steel on our backs, in the uncertain darkness that is the sea, and somehow, keep our cool. It sounds borderline frightening, but realistically, a calm and situationally alert demeanor throughout the ordeal was key in adjusting to the pressure, thereby opening doors to the undersea wonders such as:
The Day 1 Dive Experience is at 0:47 of the Coron Video down below!
After a successful introduction, a short victory dance, and the feeling of everlasting freedom after detaching from a sticky wetsuit, we head back to villas to relax by the jacuzzi upon the sunset, triumphant, albeit absolutely knackered. We skip dinner, and fall into a 12 hour slumber.
Day 2 in Coron started at an early 7 PM, as indeed having been out of the Philippines for months had me craving for an all-filipino classic breakfast: Beef Tapa and Corned Beef, two Sunny-side ups, and a mandatory mango shake. All pre-dive necessities ofcourse, or so I tell myself.
Agenda was straightforward. We hop over to the Black Island, bask in bewilderment over the island’s elegance, BBQ lunch, scuba, snorkel, and fish. We let the excitement take over, and have that exhibited over the speed at which we packed our gear and put our wetsuits on that we forgot every backup battery and memory card any responsible photographer equips like a lifeline. We hop onto the chartered boat, load the equipment, and await departure.
The boat ride was a battle against the tides, but if anything the occasional splash towards the face becomes an added authentic element to the island atmosphere of it all, but surely the heavy breakfast I took the liberty of helping myself to, thought otherwise. Multiple tiny islands were passed, and the frequent greetings from all the boats passing to and from were put in a sudden halt as we were stunned at the sight of this limestone spectacle:
Amidst the unified “holy moly”s and “woah”s upon visual of the exotic, alluring, almost alien island with its crooked limestone face blessed with a yellow and green shawl of flora, comes the bright (and I swear it shimmered in the daylight) white, virgin sands that drew the stunning line between the turquoise covered reef and the prominent cliffs. Soft, as it was, generously devoured my feet as I set foot (or maybe I was too heavy //sigh). God rested on the 7th day, and dare I say, He deserved the nap.
Still belonging in the municipality of Busuanga, the Black Island is only one of the many belonging in the group of the Calamianes group of islands, famous in Coron not only for the diving spots, but also for the World War II gunboats, now coral-infested shipwreck, that lie underneath (more on this later). Also referred to as “Malajem”, the island is owned and remains to be maintained by the indigenous.
Upon gorging on some fresh barbecued fish, fruits, and ofcourse a cracked-open coconut as the appropriate beverage, we took the liberty to get the lay of the land, almost feeling borderline territorial of the beauty we were setting foot on. A photoshoot was almost compulsory, and as such we set base on far left of the shore upon a palm tree
It didn’t take long before other tourists found our special corner of the land, and in an opportune notion, the divers had initiated a round of spelunking, a fascinating term for caving which I intend to overuse whenever asked for what kind of hobbies I’m into. Adjacent to the edge of the cliff-face, hidden in plant-life, palm-trees and warnings, lies the only tourist-accessible limestone-cave on the island.
Upon entry towards the cave, the sight as astonishing, as if we literally entered the island’s mouth and was peering at the guts of the actual island instead. Stalactites of all shapes and sizes made for excellent complement to the pure aquamarine pools that lie underneath, apparently a product of the wandering tide of the surrounding seas.
The cave’s actually darker than it appears to be, and obviously I’ve got flash and Lightroom’s exposure manipulation to thank for the the colouring up there. After a brief dip, we head back out, and after a quick adjustment to the sheer amount of sunlight we were greeted with the seas yet again, and as such, we await the thumbs up on the undersea exploration.
Eventually our gear was unpacked, and as quoted from our Dive Instructor Jen;
We were now joined but another diver, Kuya Orland Kamacho. Photos wouldn’t do justice to what’ll follow, and as the last sea adventure of our entire voyage, I’ve compiled all the clips into this video, in hopes you’d all get a feel of how it was like >20 metres under-sea-level in the exotic destination of Coron (skip to 1:36 for this Day’s dive!) ~ DISCLAIMER: I do not own the track Spaceship by Comet Blue used in the video.
To say that we were blown away was an understatement, and I’ve never felt so grateful as to have witnessed an entirely new perspective of existence. Scientists say we know more about the surface of the moon, than what lies beneath the oceans, and after that experience I’ve never believed it more, and for sure, it kept us all thirsting for yet another expedition. Such a dive can make anyone hungry, as seen below in the desperate hunt for second-lunch.
Eventually, we settled in the ferry, and set out for Huma, physically exhausted, but very much exuberant with the entire experience, that of which will keep an adventure-high for the days to come for sure. As if the universe conducted a total pathetic fallacy, sunset was upon us, and just in time, we made it to the Sandbar Cocktail. The sangria was exquisite, and the salted homemade chips made for excellent pulutan. Nadz, the born performer she truly is, was eventually tempted to sing, nay, serenade, with the island’s performers.
The scene: picture-perfect. The atmosphere: sublime. One thing was certain, that Coron was definite testament to the beauty of home. If anything, I’ve never been more motivated and ecstatic to explore, AND to showcase, what the pearl of the orient harbours in the Pacific. We were due to fly home the day after, our hearts, left deep in the trenches of the archipelago.
The trip, as short and spontaneous as it was, was an absolute success! and yet again, I’ve said it once before, #itsmorefuninthephilippines
- All photos and videos are property of VoyagerZulu
- Cameras used: Canon EOS 750D; and GoPro Hero 4
- Access Travel
- Philippine Airlines
- Huma Island and its exceptional staff
- Our divemasters: Jennifer Flores, Rica Ocenar, and Orland Camacho, and for capturing some shipwreck footage!
- Nadine, for having led and conducted the trip!
- Ezekiel and Isaiah, for being excellent buds throughout the expedition
- Tito Ronnie, for making sure we stayed in one piece
- Tito Dong and Tita Myra!
- Mum, Dad, and my entire family for having supported this entire blog!
- Big Man Upstairs for having such a place exist
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