I did not write during the expedition, as I wanted to unplug and enjoy each day on the islands. Now that we are in our hotel in Coron and D is sleeping in I have some time to write about it. I have decided to split the trip up into what we did each day to help myself keep it straight😁.
We arrived at the office around 8:30AM and dropped off our backpacks to be wrapped in big plastic bags for storage in the boat and beer we bought for the boat coolers. We put a few items in the dry bag and went first to a smaller tourist boat to see the local sights in El Nido. I was a little surprised when the first thing we had to do was wade out to the boat. I did not imagine we were going to be getting in the water so soon. I was glad we had decided to put on our swimsuits under our clothes.
After getting through the boat parking traffic jam we were off to see Big Lagoon. The water was a beautiful turquoise and so clear. We took a kayak and explored the lagoon. You could see fish swimming around without even having to snorkel because the water was so clear.
When we got back to the boat it appears that we were the last from our group to arrive. Our next stop was supposed to be Small Lagoon, but our tour guide, Barrack, had called ahead and said that there were many tourist boats already crowding the small lagoon, so he asked our group if we prefered to go there or to the more private island where our expedition boat was going to meet us for lunch. The majority voted for the island, so off we went.
The island of Katlao was beautiful and we spent a some time there enjoying the beach. Lunch was served on the boat. Freshly caught fish, rice, vegetables, and fruit. This was the basic outline of most of our meals, but you could not beat how fresh everything tasted. It was delicious.
There were 14 people in total on our expedition: a couple from London, a couple from Ireland, 7 people from Holland, 1 from Switzerland, and us. It turned out to be a great mix of people. The Irish couple was on their honeymoon and joked that they had hand selected us all to join them on this portion of their honeymoon. So many interesting occupations a doctor, professor in neuroscience, NGO worker in Israel, event planner, IT guy, lawyer, music venue operator, just to name a few. It is true that the rest of the world seems to get better vacation time or it is easier for them to take leave from work. This Chinese New Year vacation is the longest during the school year break I have ever experienced and yet some on our expedition were traveling for 3 months!
After lunch we set out for base camp, this was the longest stretch of boat travel time we did the whole trip. After about 2 1/2 hours as the sun was setting we saw the base camp on the shore. The waves had picked up and in order to get to the island we were supposed to transfer to a small motorized boat that would take us to the island. As we prepared an overnight bag, four people from the tour got on the boat to go to shore. It seemed unreal as we watched the boat get hit with a wave and tip over. Two of the women fell out and like something out of a scene from Baywatch the heroic gentleman jumped overboard to save them. The water was pretty shallow, so they waded to shore, but it was quite an exciting scene. On the boat we were all wondering what kind of adventure we had signed up for!
Within minutes due to the rough sea, they decided we would go to a nearby island with a more protected beach (calmer) and camp instead. That meant that our four brave adventurers had to get back on the little boat and re-board the big boat. Again with rough sea the little boat hit a wave wrong and took on water the remaining two passengers at that point decided to jump out of the boat and swim. With everyone safely back on board we set sail for the nearby island of Daracutun to camp on the beach.
Dusk had arrived by the time we did so we were disembarking in the dark. All of us where now weary getting on the small boat due to what we had witnessed. It did not help ease anyone’s fears that it was dark. On the ride to shore I decided to spend my time looking at the multitude of stars that were starting to appear in the sky. This beach though was much calmer than the other island and we all arrived on land without incident.
Camp was set up while we all decompressed from the day’s excitement by building a fire and drinking the first of many rum colas. There was a small shelter with a table where we sat and had dinner, which was also delicious. The local village ladies also offered massage for 300 pesos (about $6.00). I could not refuse a massage on the beach, literally! They set up a mat on the sand and gave me a great massage with coconut oil, which is supposed to be a natural insect repellent. After 3 rum colas I could no longer stay awake, so we claimed a tent and fell fast asleep.
What I imagine was several hours later I awoke to what sounded like drunken shouting. I was unsure if there was a fight ensuing or what was happening. Earlier there was a rousing rendition of the song Jolene, but this did not sound as happy. After listening to the conversations I concluded there was some kind of drunken wrestling happening as there was some laughter. The laughter eased my concern and I fell back asleep. Later the next morning we discovered that over a few too many rum colas several men in our party decided to challenge the crew to arm wrestling contests. It apparently did not go well for the tourists. Let’s be honest though… all day the crew drops the anchors, pull the ropes to reposition the boat, kayak supplies and people to and from the islands, etc… don’t be fooled by their lean appearance they are ridiculously fit and strong!