Posts by adminkathy

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Posted by on May 28, 2017

An Adventure of a Lifetime

Last year I went to the Philippines with a small group of friends where we boarded the beautiful Philippine Siren and set off for Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Our adventure started in Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island. We were so excited as we boarded and the crew greeted us huge smiles of welcome! We were directed to the dining area where we gathered with a cold drink for a briefing. Shu and Ed (cruise director and assistant cruise director, not to mention dive guides extraordinaire) covered all aspects of life on board including diving and dining schedule, where things were on the Siren, and on-board safety. We met the crew and then hustled to the dive deck to put our dive gear together for the first time. For the rest of the trip the crew took care to keep our dive gear ready to go and our tanks filled with nitrox (included in the price).  More…

A turtle swims right up to a diver to get its picture taken.

A turtle in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park swims right up to a diver to get its picture taken.

 

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Transportation Adventures in the Philippines – El Nido

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016

Transportation Adventures in the Philippines – El Nido

Getting to El Nido
I was booked on a trip to Tubbataha in June 2016. and decided to go to El Nido just before. El Nido is a beautiful area in the north of Palawan Island in the Philippines known for its multiple limestone islands rising sharply from blue, blue water. There are three options to get to and from El Nido. One of them is to fly. I flew to El Nido on AirSwift, a small local airline. The flight was about an hour.  It was expensive but the airline has excellent service and I recommend going that way. The other two options to get to El Nido are to fly to Puerto Princesa and take a bus (up to 10 hours one way) or a van (up to 5 hours one way). To leave El Nido one can either fly back to Manila and continue on from there or take a bus or van to Puerto Princesa and continue on from there.

AirSwift unloading passengers and luggage at a tiny airstrip near El Nido.

AirSwift unloading passengers and luggage at a tiny airstrip near El Nido.

Leaving El Nido
Since I was going to Puerto Princesa to board a dive boat when I left El Nido I decided to take a bus (an air-conditioned one) as it was cheaper. But when I asked the staff at the Spin Designer to book a space for me in one of the buses they talked me into paying a few more dollars to take a private van. That doesn’t mean I was going to be the only one on the van, it means that I was going to be one passenger in a 10 passenger air-conditioned van (if you’re lucky as I found out). The van is faster than the bus because they don’t make as many stops to pick up more passengers. This is important as the drive takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours! Two stops are made; one for potty and one for lunch. My van with 10 passengers took off and within half-an-hour stopped for the “potty” stop (they don’t really call it that but that’s what it is). At that point we took on a few more passengers. Now we’re at 12 passengers in a 10 passenger van. I’m thinking to myself wait a minute; what happened to the more comfortable van option. Then, a few miles down the road the driver sees a couple on the side of the road and he picks them up also!

Notice how the maximum passenger capacity is blank?

Notice how the maximum passenger capacity is blank?

One of the buses I "could" have taken to get from El Nido to Puerto Princesa.

One of the buses I could have taken to get from El Nido to Puerto Princesa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there we were, 14 people in our 10 passenger van and a driver. I had no idea where my luggage was including my unlocked carryon bag. I did have my camera backpack, and a small bag with iPad, iPhone, wallet, and passport with me. Luckily when I got on I had picked a seat in the row behind the driver next to the door and this row was the only one that did not get extra people squished in. I felt really bad (not bad enough to trade though) for one gentleman who had to be 6’2” stuffed into the back of the van with very little leg room. He was part of the couple that had been picked up on the road. And even with the air-conditioner going full blast it was hot in that van! The two twenty-something girls from Manila sitting next to me said that this was standard procedure. So just an FYI, if you take the van make sure to sit in the front seat or second row. All other seats get stuffed with people beyond their capacity.

View looking over bay in Palawan, from van.

View looking over bay towards El Nido, from van.

 

At that point I was wishing I had taken the bus where I would have had one seat allotted just to me with my luggage down below and carryon above or under my seat. Sure it would have taken longer with more stops. But the scenery was beautiful; after climbing up the hill out of El Nido there is a view looking back out over the blue water to see the multiple beautiful islands of the El Nido area rising out of the water. The lunch stop was at a roadside restaurant in a pretty spot with a pond and green hills around, with a colorful tent roof. As we continued on we drove past banana farms, rice fields and other farms. There was road construction in some areas, but most of the road was quite good.

Colorful lunch stop El Nido to Puerto Princesa

Colorful lunch stop El Nido to Puerto Princesa

Van driver navigating road construction.

Van driver navigating road construction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end it took a little over 4 hours to get to my hotel in Puerto Princesa and I had another interesting travel adventure to tell about my Philippines trip. And the driver dropped me off at my hotel, what a deal!

Read the full El Nido trip report!

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Coming soon: Another SCUBA Diving Adventure

Posted by on Mar 13, 2016

Sister ship to the Philippine Siren.

My last SCUBA diving adventure was on the Palau Siren, sister ship to the Philippine Siren.

The next SCUBA diving adventure is coming soon! I’m heading to the Philippines to SCUBA dive Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park on the Philippine Siren with seven friends. We’ll be on the “extended” trip boarding the Philippine Siren in Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island and disembarking at Cebu City, Cebu island. This adventure has been a long two years in the making, but it’s almost here, and before I know it I’ll be taking off from SFO headed to Manila. I’ve been saving my United miles and will be flying round trip to Manila using those miles, and on the way home I’ll be flying first class. Woohoo!

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Kosrae Village Ecolodge & Dive Resort

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014

For years I have heard from Katrina and Bruce about Kosrae; how great the diving is, how beautiful the island is and how peaceful life is at their resort, Kosrae Village Ecolodge. Finally after booking a trip on the Palau Siren I decided since I was going to be in the area I was going to visit Kosrae.

“I’m going to Kosrae” I would tell people. Where is Kosrae? How do you get there?

I'm Here! Kosrae Village Ecolodge.

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Jellyfish Lake Snorkel

Posted by on Mar 2, 2014

Kathy Snorkels with Jellyfish

Kathy Snorkels with Jellyfish

Snorkeling at Jellyfish Lake.

While in Palau we went to Jellyfish Lake. There are actually seven jellyfish lakes but only one is open to the public, Ongeim’l Tketau. The lake contains brackish water and is filled with rainwater (fresh) and salt water which leaches in through the limestone of the island. The Golden jellies have been in the lake for so long (maybe millions of years) that they have mostly lost their ability to sting. They pulse across the lake in search of the sun and in the middle are present in the thousands! The jellies bump into snorkelers and each other and it is hard to explain the sensation but it feels a bit like being hit by soft Jello.

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