Team travel journal: Coron, Philippines
17th May 2017 | by Danielle
Crystal clear waters, warm friendly locals, and a delicious cup of coffee. Destination Specialist Danielle shares her experience exploring Coron, in the Philippines.
Danielle in Coron
'Travelling to Asia as part of my job is something that often leads to envy from my friends and loved ones, and it's something that I could never take for granted - but when the days are filled with hotel inspections and meetings, the beauty of Asia can take a back seat. However, on every trip that I have taken to date, there are always moments when the tiredness is forgotten, and the wonder of where I am and what I'm doing takes over. My time in Coron was no exception to this!
Coron is in the eastern half of the Busuanga Islands of the Philippines, and Kate and I visited here at the end of our recent trip. We saw some stunning sights before we got here, yet this island will always be a highlight of my travels, and one that reminds me of just how beautiful South East Asia as a continent is - in particular the scenery and people. I was prepared for attractive beaches - I’d read about them, heard about them, followed travel blogs about them - so my hopes were high to say the least, but nothing is quite like seeing them in the flesh. It is almost impossible to oversell the beaches and scenery here! It is paradise:pearly white sands, sparkling seas, crystal clear waters and a sense of calm and ease that rendered me speechless.
On arrival at the port in Coron, having travelled in from El Nido, we met our guide for the two days, who took us via boat for lunch at the Two Seasons Resort, where the continuation of the famed Philippine hospitality and kindness wasn’t undone. The welcoming smiles, drinks and sunshine on this private island soon took away our tiredness from the early start, and here we experienced my favourite dessert of the trip - the Ube ice cream, which not only tastes amazing but looks incredible too.
After our lunch we headed back to Coron to have a short tour around the island and get a feel for what is here for visitors, but also what it is like to live here. The most poignant site is Mount Tapyas, with its 700 steps leading to fantastic views over the island and beyond, which I overheard locals describing it as their version of Christ the Redeemer.
One of my favourite things about travel is the experience of local culture. The enjoyment gained from staying in beautiful hotels has its place, but the opportunity to sit and take in local life, be it with local tribes or, in this instance, at the bustling fishing port, watching young people playing basketball at dusk, was something that was not only incredibly charming, but notably similar to scenes that could, in a sense, take place anywhere in the world, bringing a feeling of home even though thousands of miles away.
After more hotel visits and eating, we headed to our accommodation for the evening - the Busuanga Bay Lodge. For me, pulling up to the lodge was an absolute highlight of our trip. Our accommodation was changed at the last minute, and as we had travelled out of the town centre some forty minutes into rural and underdeveloped countryside I was expecting simply a bed and a shower before our early start tomorrow. I was very wrong! Turning up to the Grecian inspired hotel design, to fresh juice and welcoming views, I was immediately struck with how singular this location (based inland on the bay) was. With a few sailing yachts moored up, and the infinity pool overlooking the bay - the calmness and reminder that this destination isn’t only for beach lovers was apparent. Boating, snorkeling, diving and adventure all have their place in the Philippines, alongside the romantic views, with this being one of my favourites from the trip.
We set off the next morning to discover the three charms of Coron: the Hot Springs, the local Tagbanua tribe, and an afternoon of island hopping. Since receiving my itinerary weeks before, it'd been the day I was most excited about.
The first stop was the quiet hot springs on the edge of the island. We were advised to get there early to avoid the mainly domestic visitors, and as Kate and I walked around the edge ahead of our guide we decided it would be rude not to take the opportunity to get in and experience the healing benefits and warm bath-like cocoon of the pools. They really are something else, and we could have easily spent the entire day there alone, dipping in and out whilst reading or sunbathing. Unfortunately for us, we had to continue on to the small pier to board our private boat.
The next location we visited was a small, tribal village on one of the islands, which is part of a local community project. The tribe works with our guide to help build and develop their community.
As I disembarked from the boat and walked onto the small island filled with recently rebuilt homes, I was struck by the sense of calm in this small village. The homes have all been built to create organised horizontal and vertical pathways in between, much like towns in the UK, with a town hall and newly built modern school in the centre. As we wandered around, we were greeted with smiles and shy hellos from the locals, who carried on with everyday life of washing and cooking as we passed by.
Although tourism is beginning to grow here, it is still much newer than in neighbouring countries, and as such the low numbers of people who have visited this island, partly due to the purposeful restriction from the local government, means there is still a real genuineness to the visit, which is different to other places I have been.
Our last stop here was for some locally made coffee with a lady who, we were told, was a matriarch of the village. She grows and makes coffee for local hotels on Coron and as she smiled away she happily answered questions about her life, whilst sitting in her hut with her chickens at her feet. There is no doubt her life has been incredibly hard, and as we learnt about how communities have been destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again by the storms leading to regular relocation, her serenity and ease and comfort in having us filled me with a deep sense of respect.
After more time on the boat and stops to snorkel in a hidden lagoon known for its cave and rock formations, we stopped at our private beach for our lunch of freshly barbecued fish and vegetables, fresh watermelon and coconut juice. Here we spent time kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and swimming, and feeling like we were in paradise once again.
This day was quite simply one of the most memorable and special days I have ever had. If your travel experiences bucket list is anything like mine, then the excitement of sitting at the front of a speedboat on a day of island hopping is something that can’t be forgotten. It was incredible; the scenery, the guides and crew, and the simple tranquilness of the landscape here, alongside the humbling welcome that we received from visiting the locals, all heightened in to this moment. This quiet time on our way back to port was my moment to sit back and reminisce, taking in all the memories of a trip that will always be incredibly special to me.
Start planning your holiday to the Philippines or you can call Danielle on 01273 670 001