I hadn’t planned on visiting the Philippines originally on this trip, however on meeting a fellow Brit in Laos, she very quickly made me change my mind! I was so close to it, I couldn’t find a reason not to go! I ended up flying there at the end of November 2016 after my Cambodia visit and going via Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia. I spent 2 and a half weeks there and I honestly could have stayed for months on end…next time maybe!
I spent 5 days on the island of Cebu in the Central Visayas region mainly in a place called Moalboal. To be completely honest I had caught quite a bad chest infection by the time I reached the Philippines (run down from too much smog and partying in Cambodia maybe!) I quickly decided to make it more of a ‘holiday’ than travelling around from place to place to try to recoup. I only ended up visiting three islands (one of which included Manila on Luzon which is where I flew into) and this was a mere drop in the ocean of the 7,641 islands that make up this beautiful country.
I flew from Manila to Cebu City and stayed there for one night, I then caught a local bus the next day to Moalboal, it cost me less than $4 USD and took around 4 hours (it’s a 2 hour 45 mins ride but the bus stops along the way). I loved catching the local buses as I met some lovely people, especially a lovely Filipino lady who kept giving me food and in the end invited me to go and stay with her and her family (sadly I didn’t take her up on the offer, but she was so warm and genuinely friendly).
I stayed in the Moalboal T Breeze Coastal Resort for 3 nights and it was so relaxing and quiet, right next to the ocean with spectacular views over crystal clear turquoise waters. There was plenty of snorkelling (especially to see turtles) and also the Kawasan Falls which is easy to get to from Moalboal. I enjoyed snorkelling and relaxing by the beach watching the fishing boats go by!
After Cebu I decided to fly directly to Puerto Princesa city on the island of Palawan, which has repeatedly been voted as one of the best islands to visit in the world . I was recommended it time and time again by fellow travellers. It certainly did not disappoint and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too, mainly due to the colourful towns, golden beaches and clear blue turquoise sea.
I stayed in Puerto Princesa city for one night in the Sheebang Hostel which was a nice hostel about 10 mins from the city area of bars and restaurants. I loved this island so much, not too touristy yet and still absolutely beautiful with loads to do! Here are some of my highlights….
My Palawan highlights….
Puerto Princesa Underground River –
I loved taking a traditional Filipino boat into the caves, it is a well run tour nowadays, but done very well and ‘mass’ tourism doesn’t seem to have taken over just yet.
The ‘Underground River’ near Sabang (a bus ride from Puerto Princesa) is an amazing cave which you can take a boat too. In 2011 it was provisionally named one of the ‘New’ 7 Wonders of the Word, a title which Filipinos are very proud of.
El Nido, Palawan –
El Nido town is the ‘paradise’ that everyone I met told me to go to as soon as possible, mainly due to the island-hopping you can do around the Bacuit Archipelago which is 45 limestone ‘islands’ riddled with idyllic lagoons and secluded beaches.
As well as the Bacuit Archipelago, you can also get to Nacpan beach and Las Cabanas beach which are within easy reach by Tuk Tuk from El Nido. Both offering beautiful laid back sandy beaches and clear blue waters to swim in.I rented a Tuk Tuk for the day with some friends and visited a waterfall, Nacpan Beach and ended the day doing a ‘sunset’ Zip- Line over Las Cabanas beach for 500 peso (under $10 USD). Really memorable with gorgeous weather and sunsets.
El Nido and the Bacuit Archipelago –
The tours that go from El Nido take you island- hopping around different parts of the stunning Bacuit Archipelago, an area of outstanding beauty.
It if famed for amazing snorkelling, many lagoons, ‘secret’ and not so ‘secret’ beaches and you can still get perfect isolation away from the ‘tourist crowds’ if you want to. The tours are (quite simply!) named Tour A, B, C or D and each one take you to a different set of the 45 ‘islands’ around the Bacuit Archipelago. I ended up doing a combination of tours A and C which were known as the ‘best spots’ (this was due to some areas/islands being used for filing). I paid around 1200 pesos ($24 USD) for the day touring, you also have to pay 200 peso for the Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) but this can be used again on other tours for up to 10 days. I visited the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Beach which are located around the Miniloc Island. I also went to Paradise beach for a gorgeous sunset before leaving.
A day sailing around this region is unforgettable and I met so many lovely people on my boats and the tour guides were fantastic! I did the tour with a locally run tour company called El Nido Skyline Grill – really good personal service and friendly.
All photographs copyright Jemma Nicholson.