Thursday, May 16, 2013

Coron: Food Trip

We are not foodies nor culinary experts, but let us share with you two of the restaurants we enjoyed our meals. We order and share our meals with the group and our budget per meal cost 150-200php/pax.

Coron Village Lodge
We ate here twice because the prices were reasonable and because it was literally a few steps from our guesthouse. Their meals were good for sharing and were delicious. We especially loved their sinigang na baboy at hipon, as well as their bulalo. They also have free brewed coffee.

Beef Salpicao - Php180; Sizzling Tuna - Php180 
Bulalo - Php400; Pakbet - Php160
Kookies Restaurant
This came highly recommended in Tripadvisor and we had to try their famous stingray in coconut milk. It was a very unassuming place, located near the public market. We had the steamed fish, kinilaw na tangigue, pork spring rolls, and stingray in coconut milk. Food was good and prices were reasonable, although they have a lot to improve since our food took a long time to be prepared.  

Stingray in Coconut Milk and Steamed Fish (Photo by Loki)
Other Notable Restaurants
We didn’t get to try these restaurants because we were too lazy and prefer cozying up in our rooms, but these had good reviews:
-        Sea Dive Restaurant
-        La Sirenetta
-        Bistro Coron - good pizza
-        Santinos – near Maquinit hotsprings
-        Kawayanan Grill – Filipino food
-        Lolo Nonoy’s – Filipino food

Coron: Trip Highlights (2/2)

Coron: Trip Highlights (continued)
Click here for the first part of the trip highlights.

3. Beach Bumming
a.     Black Island
This was my favorite island because it was stunningly beautiful with its limestone mountain, powdery white sand, and azure water. This served as our stop-over for lunch after our trip from Calauit Park.

b.     Malcapuya Island
Malcapuya island is about 1½ hours of boat travel from Coron town. We were there on our last day and it was the perfect place to unwind after all our tours. It also boasts of an abundant marine life perfect for snorkeling.

Photo by Loki

c.     Bulungan Beach
This may not be as stunning as the other 2 islands in the list but it has its own charm. The Kalachuchi trees that abound its shores gave this small islet its charm and was a perfect stop-over for lunch.  

d.     CYC Beach
Like Bulungan Beach, it wasn’t as stunning but we had fun swimming towards the raft, trying to get on the raft, and doing jump shots while on it. It was pretty hilarious and jump shots in an unstable bamboo raft is not advisable and should never be done.

Photo by Loki/Oliver

4. Twin Lagoon
This was my favorite spot. It wasn’t included in the Coron Island Tour (B-1) from Coron Galeri, but they were accommodating enough to include this in our itinerary for an additional 100php/pax to cover for the entrance fee. It was incredibly picturesque. Two (2) lagoons separated by a wall of rock formation and you can pass to the inner lagoon by either swimming through a narrow opening or climbing the wooden stairs. The inner lagoon was so serene and eerie at the same time especially after the crowd has left.

5. Kayangan Lake
This is the most photographed spot in Coron for a reason. The limestone cliffs that surround the emerald lake is enchantingly beautiful. We were there late in the afternoon hence we enjoyed the serenity of the lake without the crowd.

6. Others
a. Mt. Tapyas
The 718 steps going up this mountain was challenging, but the sunset view that greeted us on top was worth it. Bring mosquito repellant and water.

Photo by Loki

b. Maquinit Hot spring
This was a perfect stop to relieve your aching muscles after the climb to Mt. Tapyas. Entrance fee was 150php/pax and the tricycle ride going here was 350php for a group of 3-5 persons.

c. Coron Market
We had fun snacking our way around the market. We found this fruit shake stand that sells 5-peso shakes, as well as snack stands reminiscent of our grade school years: cotton candies, grilled corn, and popcorns. You can also find souvenir items sold by the locals here. 

Day 1: Mt. Tapyas, Maquinit Hot spring
Day 2: Calauit Safari Tour (Calauit Safari, Black Island, Lusong Coral Garden, Lusong Gunboat)
Day 3: Coron Island Tour (CYC island, Calachuchi Coral Eden/Coral Garden, Twin Lagoon, Lunch at Bulungan Beach, Twin Peaks Reef, Kayangan Lake)
Day 4: Malcapuya Island Tour
*We availed of the Day 2-4 tours from Coron Galeri.
** For Day 1, we hired a tricycle to take us to Mt. Tapyas and Maquinit Hot springs
***Twin Lagoon was not part of the itinerary from Coron Galeri, we paid an additional 100/pax for this to be included in our tour.

Enough talking and hope you enjoy this video shot and edited by Froi.

Coron: Trip Highlights (1/2)

When Froi and I got our visa grant to permanently reside in Australia, the first thing we did was to cook up our travel escapes for 2013. The initial plan was to do a Visayan trip, dive Balicasag in Bohol, and see the Thresher sharks in Malapascua. But during the planning stage, we decided we would rather spend our remaining months in the Philippines with the people we love, instead of diving to these destinations by ourselves. We also realized that we prefer traveling with other people, because when we travel as a couple, my “lola” mode switch turns on and Froi has to contend with swimming in the beach alone (kawawa.. nagso-solo trip.. hehe). And so I present to you the 3rd leg of our pre-departure trip: Coron with the “lunchmates”.

The lunchmates (Oliver, Loki, and Jo) are Froi’s officemates of 10 years and Froi’s closest friends. We are truly blessed to have been surrounded by amazing people. Conversations were centered on whether the T-Rex can do push-ups or not, the existence of Undin (yung sa Shake, Rattle, and Roll), at pa-originalan ng knock knock jokes (ganyan kami ka-deep). I know now where Froi gets his kakornihan.. these guys can really crack you up. Da best yung knock-knock jokes lalo na yung “Pizza, puto, pandesa..aa..aal”. I swear it’s really funny, once you hear that song. Froi’s panlaban:
Froi: Knock knock. Mga talunan.
Lunchmates: Mga talunan who?
Froi: "Olats ones", I’m drifting on a lonely sea, wishing you’d come back to me, and that’s all that matters now, "Olats ones".

Coron was truly a memorable experience. It was breathtakingly beautiful and despite this being our 2nd time, we were still left in awe with just how mystical this place is. Big credits to The Big Guy up above for creating something so spectacular and magical.

I now give you the highlights of our trip:

1.     Calauit Safari Park
Calauit Island is a 3,700 hectare game preserve and wildlife sanctuary home to both endemic animals and African wildlife such as giraffes, zebras, elands, and bushbucks, among the few. We left Coron town at 4am so we could reach the park in time for the feeding. Make sure to bring jackets and sweaters since it was quite cold during the boat ride.

It’s nothing like an African safari, but the experience of seeing giraffes, zebras, and deers roaming around freely was definitely one for the books.
Photo by Oliver/Joannalyn

2. Snorkeling more fun in Coron
Coron has an abundance of snorkeling sites and while planning for our group’s itinerary, my dilemma was picking out the best snorkeling sites to include in our tour. Froi and I are not experts, but based on what we have researched and experienced, our top picks in Coron, in order of preference, are as follows:

Photo by Loki
a.     Lusong Coral Gardens
This marine sanctuary has limited reef fish but prepare to be awed by soft and hard corals of every hue, from green, navy blue and lavender. The huge table coral formations can be found within a few feet of the surface and offers great visibility. 75% of the reefs in this sanctuary are intact and healthy.
Photo by Loki
Photo by Loki
b.     Lusong Gunboat
The Lusong gunboat is a shallow sunken Japanese wreck and is the only shipwreck in Coron accessible to snorkelers. It’s not often you get to snorkel in a shipwreck, much less a remnant of WWII, hence should be included in your itinerary for Coron. Plus you’re hitting two birds in one stone, the Lusong Coral Gardens is just a few meters away from here.
Photo by Oliver
c.     Twin Peaks Reef
There has been a lot of damage in this reef but nonetheless we were greeted with stunning marine life. Parrot fish and bright yellow butterfly fish greeted our sight. We had sightings of puffer fish as well as a half-foot sized and scary looking clown fish.. hinde pala cute si Lolo Nemo.. hehe.

Photo by Loki
Photo by Oliver
d.     Malcapuya Island
This could have fought its way to the top spot had I seen the reef sharks. Do not be alarmed, these are small and harmless. We snorkeled vast areas of this place but only Oliver was lucky enough to have seen this. My awe for this majestic creature had sprouted ever since our dive instructor showed us the resident sharks in Diver’s Sanctuary. After that, I was hooked and had wanted to dive with the Great White Sharks as well as to see hundreds of Hammerheads in Galapagos. Despite not seeing the sharks, we were greeted with a large puffer fish swimming lazily in the corals, as well as clams, and other schools of reef fish.

15-inch Pufferfish (Photo by Oliver)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coron: Coron Galeri Services

I have never been a fan of packaged tours for the simple reason that I love planning for trips and doing the painstaking research for accommodations, itinerary and all those nitty gritty details. Contrary to what Froi thinks, it’s not because I’m OC. It’s just that I love planning, making checklists, and crossing out each tasks as I boss Froi around to do the tasks on my list.. hehe.

But I can no longer multi-task and I have to focus on my review for the medical boards, hence I have to create and train my minions of travel planners to dominate the world.. *evil laugh*. The Calaguas trip was planned by my nieces, while the Coron trip fell on Froi’s hands. He wanted to avail of the packaged tour from Darayonan (our guesthouse) for convenience, but since I can’t help myself (control freak) and I have made prior research as to the cost of this trip, I knew we could save more if we avail of the tours separately.

The tour services from Coron Galeri were superb! There were minor glitches but let me focus more on why we love them and why we wouldn’t hesitate booking with them again:

1.     Budget-friendly
As you can see from the picture below, these are the rates for boat rental if you want a DIY tour. Add to that the entrance fees as well as the food and water cost and you get an almost same rate for a group of 5pax. It may be a different story if you are traveling with a bigger group. The minimum number of joiners for each tour is 5pax, and since there were 5 of us in the group, they accommodated our request to have the whole boat to ourselves. They also gave discounts for the snorkeling set we rented.

For the 3 tours, we spent roughly around 4,300php/pax, which included breakfast and coffee (for the Calauit tour), lunch with fruits, water, and entrance fees on all tours.

Calauit Safari Tour (by Sea)
Calauit Safari Park
Black Island Caves
Panlaitan Fishing Village
Lusong Coral Garden and Lusong Gunboat
Coron Island Tour
CYC Beach
Calachuchi Coral Eden/Coral Garden
*Twin Lagoon
Bulungan Beach
Hidden Lagoon
Twin Peaks Reef
Kayangan Lake
*Twin Lagoon not included in the original itinerary, additional 100/pax for the entrance fee
Malcapuya Island Tour
Malcapuya Island
**Additional 250/pax to go to Banana and Bulog Island

2.     Eco-friendly
They have environmental projects but what strike me most are the simple gestures such as the availability of cartons where you can put your trash. The boat operators were also very careful in dropping their anchor away from the reefs, although this was noticeable in most of the boat operators in Coron. They also constantly reminded their guests not to leave any trash behind. What they can probably improve on is to minimize the use of water plastic bottles they provide their guests with.    

3.     Hassle-free
They prepare everything including the food and payment of fees. All you have to do is show up at their office and swim-eat-take photos repeatedly on your tours. The tour guide can also take you to the best snorkeling spots.

4.     Good Food
The best breakfast we had in Coron was on the boat on our way to Calauit Safari Park: pandesal and 3-in-1 Nescafe, while watching the sun rise on the horizon. It’s the simple things that truly matter =)

Photos taken by Oliver and Loki
The lunch prepared on all tours were yummy and filling and had variety of food choices, except for the lato (seaweed) salad which was a staple (not that we’re complaining). We all love the freshness of this salad and was a perfect pair with the grilled fish.

5.     Efficient and Accommodating Staff    
We appreciated that they were quick to respond when we encountered a minor issue. They accommodated all our requests such as having the boat all to ourselves, discounts for the snorkeling set, as well as changes in our itinerary.

If you are a solo traveler or traveling with a small group, I highly recommend availing of their services for a hassle-free and budget-friendly tours.