Who needs an alarm clock, when the islands have built-in ones for you? It was a funny way to wake up. This is not an experience that was unique to this island, the roosters are all over the Philippines and if you wait long enough you are sure to hear them at any time of day. This particular rooster in the above video was the culprit of waking us up around 6:30AM and then repeating his alarm with no apparent snooze button.
At this point in the excursion it was clear that D had caught some kind-of flu/cold and did not have much of an appetite, but the extra sleep from the night before seemed to help. We had a lovely leisurely breakfast on the island before boarding the boat and heading for two great places to snorkel (Kak Danao Island & Asis Island) and a promise of cliffs that were good for jumping (Double Nueve Island). Our nighttime destination was a base camp on the island of Dika Bautot, which also had a small fishing village.
As we headed for the boat we saw many buoys floating near the base camp. Apparently we were next to a pearl farm owned by a Japanese company. It was constantly patrolled by a boat, which was said to be an armed guard who circles the pearl farm 24/7. After seeing it we noticed that there were a few pearl farms that dotted the coastlines of some of these tiny islands. They were easy to identify because of the rows of buoys that were close to the shore.
The next snorkeling spot was the coolest reef I have ever seen. It looked like stacks of reefs on top of each other that formed towers. It was like the downtown of a fish city and the reefs became their skyscrapers. Again there were the Disney fish cast that were busily going about life on the reef. Bright blue schools of fish swam in choreographed patterns and some fish hid in the nooks and crannies of the rocks, which made me wonder if there was a predator near, then I remembered that it was probably me. I also had one of those, I have seen Jaws too many times, moments where the shadows from the reefs let my imagination convince me it was time to take a break and get back on the boat for a while. It is amazing what our minds can do, I am guilty of scaring myself back into the boat. But, it was just in time for fried bananas and ginger tea, so I did not feel too bad.
The day passed quickly as we snorkeled off the islands and as we headed towards base camp we stopped near what appeared to be a shear wall of rock. This was the famed place for cliff jumping. In looking at the cliffs there were not many on the boat willing to try it only 4 of us out of 14 plus 3 of the crew. I, on the other hand spent a big chunk of my childhood jumping in the pool and during diving season even jumping off the platforms while Dad was coaching the divers to prepare for district and state. My main concern was the climb, I have been working out and all, but I was not sure I had the upper body strength for the climb up. I also did not have shoes for the sharp rock. After assurances the climb was easy from the crew and borrowed shoes (sidenote: 6 UK & 6 US are very different sizes!) I was off.
The swim felt far, but swimming in oversized shoes and worrying about loosing someone elses shoes did not help. Once to the base of the cliff you had to time it with the waves to help boost you up to where the footholds were. First try I timed it wrong. It wasn’t until I got to the top did I realize that I cut the palms of both hands on the rocks when I timed it wrong. Oh well, I was at the top, no turning back. Honestly, from the boat it did not look that high, but on the cliff it looked higher… a lot higher. It is amazing how as you age you look at your former younger self and wish you had kept some of that fearlessness. I was going to jump, Dad had taught me how, it was just that split second of convincing yourself that you know how to do it and you will be just fine. All of that being said, D filmed it from the boat.
Tighten the straps on the sandals, and go. It went quick, not even enough time to scream, just enough time to focus on making sure I entered the water in a way that would not hurt. Thanks Dad, I was complemented once back on the boat that my entry looked professional, apparently D was telling them about Captain Inferno😁. For those reading this that don’t know the myth and legend of Captain Inferno, let’s just say it has to do with diving and lighting yourself on fire. 🎇
After revisiting my childhood on the cliffs, off we went towards base camp racing the setting sun. As we approached the island there were several fishing boats either finishing their day or beginning it, I am not sure which and someone was already setting up camp on the beach. Some in our group were quite annoyed that there was another group of tourists camping on the beach, but honestly I was just glad to have a place to sleep. There was a large hut where we were to sleep or a tent on the beach. We picked the hut because there was a chance of rain and I wanted to be able to say that we had three different accommodations over the course of the trip. They set out mattress pads on the elevated floor and hung mosquito nets over the mattresses. Next to the hut was a shower room, much like the other one we had with large bins of water and a large covered table.
This island had a small village, which made sense since there were all the local fishing boats that we saw prior to our arrival. There were two small shops on the other side of the base camp. Again, some in the tour were upset about the “shop” not being a remote island experience, but the shops sold motor oil and laundry detergent, sure the snack foods and alcohol may have seemed like they cater to the tourists, but motor oil convinced me that it was a local village shop. I mean why would I buy motor oil? Another hilarious feature of the shop was the running generator so locals could watch TV and later that night sing karaoke. I could tell this night was going to be great fun.
A wonderful fish dinner and this really comforting mashed pumpkin with coconut milk side dish that I am going to try to replicate here in Taiwan made it a memorable meal. Rum and cola was shared and the realization that this was the last night together. As the karaoke began we concluded with our guide the only civil thing to do would be to join them. It was some of the most memorable karaoke I have ever participated in. According to the village chief, we were the first batch of tourists to score 100 in the karaoke machine and the first tourists to join them in general. I find that hard to believe, who wouldn’t want to sing karaoke on a beautiful island drinking rum and cola with the locals?! It is called a cultural experience people, just do it.
After we sat with the village chief and some of the other locals and talked. I went to bed at this point, but it was a really fun memorable night.