Saturday, February 27, 2010

Palawan - Honda Bay

We woke up right on time at 6:30.  We had breakfast set for 7am, then were getting picked up around 7:30.  We weren't sure which tour we were doing so we had to double check, then go change into swimming suits for the Honda Bay tour.  Our breakfast choices were 'Filipino' or 'American'.  We both played it safe with the American breakfast - toast, scrambled eggs, ham (spam) and coffee.  Yes, Bry tried the Nescafe fake coffee and he actually liked it. 

Our van picked us up a little after 7:30.  We were #'s 5 and 6 to get in - a group of 4 Filipino accountants from Makati joined us.  We headed to the Honda Bay wharf which took about 20 minutes.  At the wharf we bought bread to feed the fishes, an underwater camera (Erica- they actually had them here!  They were like P900 though) and rented snorkel gear from our tour guide, Gloria.  Then we loaded into a small banca or outrigger with two balancing bamboo branches on either side.  It had a questionable motor and two questionable banqueros, but we made it out to the middle of Honda Bay. (BTW, Honda is pronounced " 'Onda", drop the H.)  For those of you astute readers, Honda Bay was the site of an Abu Sayyaf kidnapping raid a few years ago.  They targeted a ritzy resort in the middle of the Bay, all by itself. We have been totally safe and are staying in town just to be sure.

Our first stop was not an island but a large area of preserved coral reef.  Dynamite fishing has been banned in this region so the reef is pristine.  This area is part of the coral triangle and has some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the world.  We dove right into the water and didn't have to swim far to find an amazing variety of fish and many colored coral.  We got to paddle around here for about 45 min and had the place to ourselves for over half of that time.  It was really neat.  Bry enjoyed his first attempt at snorkeling.  We had to wear our life jackets the whole time so that no one could dive down and disturb the coral.  (Our tour guide mentioned Koreans by name.....maybe they're more prone to disturbing the coral???!)

Our second stop was Pandan island.  Pandan is a type of tree that is common here in the Philippines.  The island is one of the only ones in Honda Bay to have its own water supply.  The whole island is set up for tourists with canopies and huts to use.  Soft, white sand beaches with crabs, shells, crystal clear's perfect.  We left the other guests to take pictures and have a walk on the beach.  We found sand dollars and crabs all over the beach.  Then we hopped in and went snorkeling again.  This time we passed people who were surrounded by hundreds of fish - they were feeding them the bread!  Our guide and the rest of the guests joined us in a little bit and they gave us some bread to hand out too.  Hundreds of fish would swarm around you - many different varieties and it was pretty neat.  Here we didn't have to wear our life jackets so we had some more freedom.  The only problem was that the fish couldn't discern between pieces of bread and white-people-toes - we got a few nibbles ourselves.

We ate lunch next and had a great meal of rice, pork, fish, squid, chicken, and sea grapes.  While these veggies look amazing (like long bunches of mini green grapes) they burst in your mouth leaving a stringy, salt-watery clear mucousy goo behind.  Not too appetizing.  Bry DID try some - so be impressed.  He also got to try some coconut - for P25 I bought him a coconut and he had a true island experience.

After lunch we headed to Snake Island.  We only had about 40 minutes here since the other people had to catch a flight.  We shared our bread with them and were once again surrounded by fishies.  The water was clear again, super nice.  We really had a nice time and enjoyed the boat ride home.

When we got back to Kawayanan we realized one mistake:  While applying our sunscreen liberally to our faces, we forgot that we would be on our BELLIES the whole day.  Both of us had burned the backs of our legs pretty good, Abi's shoulders too.  Duh!  And let's go sit on a plane for a couple hundred hours now too!  Oh well, hopefully the burn won't last too long.

For dinner we headed into town.  This was another adventure since the local transportation is a Tricycle.  This is a motorcycle with a Larry-Boettcher-type contraption attached to it to hold other people.  We sat in the cramped space and bargained with the driver to take us to three stops: 1) the bank to get some cash 2) the grocery store to buy some water 3) Badjao Seafront Restaurant.  Once again, it's a good thing I had a map along because there are 2 places named Badjao - and we had to turn around.  This tricycle thing is a little scary, especially since Abi's back was facing front.  In case of accident, I told Bry, I would most definitely be paralyzed.  Anywhoo, we made it to the restaurant.  This place wasn't kidding when they said "seafront", it is built on stilts out ON the ocean.  There are tons of Mangrove trees growing along the walkway and it's a gorgeous place for sunset.

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