Thursday, June 26, 2014

TRAVEL: Honda Bay, Palawan Tour


Bhogs and I never thought of having another island-hopping experience with the kids.  The first one the family had was at Boracay, our two girls were so small to really enjoy swimming on vast seas with schools of fish around them, they were wee scared then.  

Our initial Palawan tour itinerary does not include this.  Though we prepared for additional costs of travel and we had our credit cards ready.  Thanks to Mang Eddie- our ever reliable tricycle driver and Puerto Princesa city tour guide, we were able to book for it, just before we had our city tour.  The usual fee from DOT accredited tour agencies costs P 1400 which includes lunch and all other fees that goes with the tour.
We were able to haggle at P1200 each, while the kids are at P1000 each with Tourister Travel and Tour. 



Most of the tours, such as the Subterranean Underground River, Honda Bay and El Nido begin with a very early wake up call.  The hotel's reception called us at 6 am in preparation for our 7 am van pickup by the tour agency where we booked our tour with.  


We were with another family whom we fetched at an inn near the Sta. Lourdes wharf.


On the way to the wharf, we stopped by at Panz Mask and Snorkeling Shop to rent snorkeling gears and beach booties.  People with non-waterproof cameras can also rent waterproof casings. We were there also to have some light breakfast and hey, what do you know, coffee and pan de sal for free.

If you plan to do it on your own without the help of a tour agency, you can hire a tricycle or a van to Santa Lourdes wharf, to get to Honda Bay from the capital of Palawan. The ride takes about 30 minutes.

On Santa Lourdes wharf you will find a big hut with tourist office where you can rent a local fisherman boat, or bangka, which can take you to any of the islands in Honda Bay.

The boats have their own life vests, I'm not just sure if there is a different fee if you are just hiring a boat man.

For first-timers like us, and with kids, I would prefer travelling with a certified tour guide.  Not only will you get to learn a lot about Palawan, you are assured that you're getting your every pennies worth, that's just my two cents.


We were also able to see the incarcerated Chinese vessel where hundreds of Hawk's bill turtles were found.


The tour was very comfortable, with the boat that is big and carries up to 20 people.  The current was not rough, thank God, else my kids might not enjoy the sea.  We were actually loaded with enough bottled waters for the bunch, cookies and crackers for in-between snacks while on board.  If you are traveling with a tour guide, it would be a really nice gesture to share some and to the boatmen, who are so courteous.

Before I forget to mention, we also bought packs of bread buns, not for us though but for the fish.  As fish-feeding would really be an activity worth trying by the kids.


First stop, Luli Island

Once we got off the boat, leaving everything but our snorkeling gears and cameras, we were greeted by the clean, ivory sand and calm, clear emerald water and a boy selling ice candy.  There are several ice candy boys roaming around some beaches to earn for their school finances.  This boy, polite in his ways, is one of them.  I don't mind buying from him though, for it's a quick escape from the early morning sun's heat and the milky cold tube were yummy.  The "red mongo" flavored was our choice and it may not be enough to buy him ballpens, we hope at least it was one way to lessen his back burden for the day.  So, please do buy from them.



The ice candies for that day came in two flavors, the ones on the left are fruit salad while the ones on the right were red beans.


Luli Island is sandbar in Honda Bay which has garnered its name from the local description of Lulubog-Lilitaw, thus, shorted as LuLi, which means sinks and arises.  During low tide, its sand bar is visible while on high tide it sinks underwater leaving only the houses on it are visible, most often in the afternoon.

My youngest daughter made it to the diving place!  Yey!



The bouy floating around the beach signify the safe boundary for everyone to swim to or to snorkel.  Beyond that boundary is already more than 10 feet deep.

Then off to Star Fish Island...


We spent an hour snorkeling and swimming at Luli Island.  Here at Starfish Island, we stayed a lot longer.
Look at that super clear and blue sky...Noticeable to that the beach is very clean, though a bit rocky on some shoreline.

The sand is still white and the water crystal clear.


Funny, they call this island as starfish.  These are the only starfishes that we saw.  According to the boatmen, the island is really a starfish inhabitant but at certain moments they stay below the deep parts of ocean bed.


Coral watching and fish-feeding was way better at Luli, but make sure to come there early or you mind only see 30% of the whole sandbar.  My girls resorted to looking for unusually-shaped shells and stones.


"Look Mom!  I caught me some starfishes."


On the other side of the island are rows upon rows of  mangroves.  These mangroves are nesting grounds for fish and the note-worthy "tamilok" or mangrove wood worms.


Starfish Island is one of the longest sand bar in Honda Bay.  On the beach side where tourists are being dropped off are rows of nipa huts.  It is there where we had one of the sumptuous lunch our family had at Puerto Princesa.


Prepared by our tour guide, Ms. Emily with the help of the boatmen, our table was a spread of grilled fish, pork and eggplants, salted eggs, raw mangoes, seaweeds, steamed large shrimps.

The lunch fee was included in the Honda Bay tour package.  

Last island stop, Cowrie Island...

Third and last island to visit is the Cowrie Island.  There are more islands actually, in rare tour cases, five islands can be visited in one day.  More and more people are loving Honda Bay that they decided to buy the islands and turn in it into a private resort.


The view from a far, while we are all getting giddier.


Ahhh...look at that fine ivory sand being hugged by the calm, clear majestic sea water.


It was also the longest route we had, a 15-minute boat ride from Starfish island, so when we arrived we just occupied a hut with long benches just to breathe-in all the beauty that abounds.

No words and photos can do justice in the describing and capturing the island's beauty.




A few meters away from where I'm seated, I saw these beach huts, where spa and massage services are being offered.  One best way from easing your exhausted body from all the cruising and swimming is to get a relaxing massage.  But of course, as much as I want, I need to look after my two younger girls.




So instead of having a massage, I asked hubby and the kids to do some jumps while I capture the background that is just so breath-taking.

Daddy first...


And it's Ate and Kuya's turn...


Alright, how about these from the girly bunch?


And, why not another turn from these sibling.


That's our outrigger out there.


Other tourists prefer to have lunch here.  There are several restaurants here, after all.



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