As much as I loved El Nido, and can’t deny the tours around the islands there were simply jaw-dropping, I think my favourite boat trip of the holiday was one we took from Sibaltan.
Sibaltan is a small town about a 2 hr drive from El Nido. When we stayed there there were just 2 options Tapik Park, or Ursula’s, but it looked like they were building another resort and I imagine in a few years this part of the island too, will be packed with tourists and more modernised (when we went there was only electricity between 8pm and 6am and no wi-fi). I’d recommend going sooner rather than later to experience the tranquility of the place.
We booked our trip through Tapik Park, and when we turned up the next morning realised that it was just us and a couple of German girls. Compare that to the 20 odd people you get on each boat in El Nido (and the fact that there are at least 10-20 boats all following the same routes there) and you can see already how the experience is different.
We began with a spot of snorkeling in the shallows, when the most incredible thing happened!! We ended up swimming with sharks! Eek!!!!
We moored the boat next to some rocks, where there was some brilliant snorkeling among the corals. We’d been there a few minutes when the guide asked if we wanted to see some sharks as we were actually snorkeling in a spot known to be a shark nursery! The two German girls we were on the trip with promptly got out of the water and sat watching us from the boat.
I followed the guide, not about to miss out on this experience. After 5 minutes of looking the guide tapped me on the shoulder and beckoned me to follow him. My husband didn’t notice and carried on swimming, oblivious. There, up ahead I saw it, gliding through the corals, and before long a few more came into view. We were lucky enough to see the baby sharks (although they seemed a pretty decent size to me!), swimming within 2 ft of us. It was simply magical watching them chase each other round the corals.
It didn’t last long until they disappeared into the shallows, but it was one of the best few minutes of my life. I felt honoured! Swimming with sharks has been on my bucket list for years. We had originally planned to go to Oslob on Cebu, where you can swim with Whale Sharks, but decided against it in the end. We heard that the tour guides in Oslob were feeding the sharks to guarantee them for tourists, affecting the natural migration patterns, and the local eco-systems. I felt like this unexpected shark encounter was natures way of saying thanks.
I was glad the guide was with me as I was so busy watching the sharks that I didn’t get a photo! I honestly don’t think Col would have believed me otherwise, especially as he’d missed seeing a sea turtle a couple of days before (I don’t know how because it was right next to us and even popped its head above the waterline to breathe. Afterwards I asked Col where he was looking – he’d been expecting it to be walking along the sea floor. Bless!)
Following this we sailed towards an island where we would stop for lunch. It was such a beautiful place it honestly didn’t feel real! I don’t think I’ll ever forget the view as we pulled up to that beach!
The best bit was that, unlike the crowded stops in El Nido, it really was Just us, and a couple of locals on the island. Lunch was the standard fish, pork, rice and salad we’d had almost every day on our trip to the Philippines, but no setting has been as good!
We took a walk down the beach after lunch, and found some local fishing boats. There is a very small community who live on the island and fish using wooden canoes.
Our final stop was another beautiful island, but it was simply too hot to stay there long. It was over 35 degrees with no breeze and no shelter (and I have VERY pale skin, and Colin is ginger… not a good combination). There was time for a final dip in the turquoise sea before we headed back to Sibaltan.
It really was a brilliant day. If you want to get away from the crowds and see the other side of the beautiful Palawan i couldn’t recommend it more.
Cost was 1200 php each, including guide, snorkel hire and lunch.