The flight left at 10.45am. Over an hour late.
But took just an hour to pop over the Mindoro Straits.
As soon as I sat down on the plane, I was asleep for the whole journey. It had been a struggle to keep myself awake in the waiting room.
Coming into land over beautiful, luscious greenery, trees covering the rolling hills. Not any development in sight. Just green.
The airport was tiny, our bags handed across to us off the trolley. Walking out into the sunshine, I was surprised to see my name on a whiteboard – I hadn’t booked a transfer. The hotel had just organised it for me. That was thoughtful!
The drive to Coron town took about 45 minutes. Driving along a single track dirt road through the green countryside. The odd horse and cow here and there. Someone behind me said, it looks a bit like Africa – funny because that was exactly what I was thinking!!
The town is really small, just a couple of streets of small shops, restaurants and guesthouses. It’s really cute. There’s no beach in Coron, which is a shame. But my hotel is right on the water – with a lovely view across to the surrounding islands, the water littered with boats. I sat on the balcony and had some lunch 🙂
It did not take long for me to lose my tan. Over a years worth of being in the Bornean sun – and I had a slight colour! (It’s very difficult for me, the ghost, to get any kind of tan!). But being covered up in Lao, cold in Vietnam, then freeeeeeezing in China, I’m as white as when I started out over a year ago.
So it’s time to get my tan back!
Despite still being shattered, I went for a bit of a walk around. The town reminds me a lot of Semporna – a fish market selling a variety of reef fish and blue spotted stingray 😦 small little local convenience shops and a couple of dive shops. The market was nice, I bought some (probably way overpriced) mangos and booked some diving for tomorrow.
The sunset was lovely – I watched from the sun deck of my hotel, with a great view across the water towards all the surrounding islands. The bangka boats were still sailing around in the bay.
For dinner, I headed to the small food market and had some small snacks – spring rolls, calamari and sweetcorn. Was really good! All for the grand total of 80p.
After zero sleep last night, it was very much bed time!
Wednesday 20 March 2013
Time to go off diving again! It’s been 5 weeks since I’ve been in the sea, so am really excited to be back!
Coron is famous for its 10 Japanese shipwrecks. Sunk here during World War II by a raid from the US. It was about a 90 minute sail – on a bangka – out to the small bay where all the wrecks are. There were just 2 of us (and 3 crew) on the large boat – loads of room to spread out, it was great!
On the way there, the guide was telling me all about the people who had dived on the wrecks and gone to far, got lost and died. Ok thank you, instilling confidence here.
The first wreck, Akitsushima, is deep. Laying on its side at 36m, the top being at 22m and quite large at 118m long! Just a mooring line to guide you all the way down. After a quick swim around the stern, looking at a pulley which was used for loading the ship, we started to head inside. The entrance was a large crack along the side, which was created by the fatal bomb that hit the ship. Through a cloud of glass fish, into the dark. The propellor end was dark, with just a small few blue holes for light. We looked at an engine (exciting…..).
Then headed back the other way, towards the bow. We swam along a narrow corridor, some light was passing in from the sides, and it was too dark (even with a torch) to see the bottom. There was no way out. Just forwards. Too scary.
And at 28m – should we really be inside?! Back outside again, we swam along the top of the wreck – covered in a thin layer of coral. A large a family of common lionfish floating around.
After some lunch and some warming up on deck. Time for wreck number 2. This next one – Okikawa Maru – was shallower, sitting at 26m, but the top being at 12m. And is sitting upright. This ship was carrying oil and apparently spent a week burning before it finally sank. This wreck was a lot prettier – loads of soft and hard corals on the top. Some of the bowl corals were about a meter across (that’s quite large). I found a couple of nudibranches I’ve not seen before and were a few more lionfish hanging around. Lots of glass fish, but again, nothing bigger than that! Again, we went inside. Through a small dark door. Into a tiny space. I didn’t like it at all. It was far too dark and scary for me. I couldn’t see the way out – just darkness and small blue gaps. And was very, very glad when we got back out into the blue.
I had forgotten how expensive it is to dive if you have to pay for it yourself. Diving for free everyday and taking tanks for free whenever I liked for a year, it feels painful actually paying now! So I didn’t do the third dive of the day – it was on a reef (and they’re not renowned for reefs around here). So I spent the afternoon sunbathing (burning). Asked if I missed anything, “we saw 4 TURTLES!!”. Ok, didn’t miss anything then!! As much as I love turtles, I’ve seen enough – 10 per dive in Mabul was common, sometimes as many as 30.
I can’t say I love wrecks. They’re lumps of metal with a bit of coral growing on them. I suppose it’s more of a boy thing to love looking at engine rooms, guns and propellers. But I’ve had a go and am in no desperate rush to see more. I think I’ll stick with reefs and the tiny weird fish that I love!
It was 6pm when we arrived back at the port – so enjoyed a lovely orange sunset from the boat.
For dinner, I went to one of the local restaurants (ie not an overpriced tourist restaurant) and tried some silog. They all sell it. I had no idea what it was. Turns out fried rice, fried chicken and a fried egg! Must like things fried here!
Thursday 21 March 2013
I’m going on an island hopping trip!
After being told to arrive for 8am, we didn’t leave until 10am. That was annoying. The bangka boat was quite small, but there were only 8 of us on it. The group was really nice, all of a similar age to me.
We sailed a short distance across the bay, towards Coron island. This island is a strange shape – rows and rows of stone lumps, some connected, others forming small little islands themselves. We stopped just offshore at the Twin Peaks – two small rocky lumps, with a surrounding reef. Time for some snorkelling! I’m not the biggest fan of snorkelling and usually on trips such as these you are taken to a dead piece of reef that sees hundreds of visitors per day.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were the only boat there, with a beautiful reef to ourselves! It was so blue and the coral actually in really good condition. None of it was dead. There weren’t a lot of fish though. I assume they have all been fished away, which is a shame. I saw a little green nudibranch, but that was about it. And very, very, very annoyed when my underwater camera housing popped a button. Typical!!! (It’s fixable but not for a few weeks until I can get a spare part).
After a while floating around in the blue, we sailed around the corner into a small bay of Coron island. It was so beautiful! The green-covered rocky hills surrounded us in a bright blue bay. A short walk up some steep stone steps lead to a look out point across the bay. Lovely. The crystal clear water surrounding the green rocky island.
This spot is apparently the most photographed spot in Coron! Carrying on down another set of rocky steps lead to Kayangan Lake. A brackish lake within the island. Again, this was beautiful. Surrounded by tall rocks – with small little caves leading off from the water. The water was warm, but surprisingly clear and housed loads of small crocodile needle fish – cute! Under the water, the rock formations continued, loads of stalagmites! Really pretty.
To get back to the boat, back up and down the rocks, the way we came! Island hopping isn’t supposed to be this tiring!
We had lunch on the beach, looking out into the bay. The boys had cooked some fish, calamari, aubergine and rice on the back of the boat. It was so good!! And even some mango dessert!
Back onto the boat, we visited Coral Gardens. Another snorkelling site. Wasn’t particularly desperate to go snorkelling again. I had a look – wasn’t as nice as the last reef. Huge amounts of staghorn coral. So I sat on the boat admiring the view instead. Just around the corner was CYC beach. A small beach, wasn’t especially exciting. Some mangrove trees and lots of local children running around wanting to swim with us!
The last stop was a fish farm. I’m not sure why we stopped here. I don’t want to see reef fish (scribbled file fish, napoleon wrasse, long fin banner fish, jack fish and giant grouper) in small little pens. It wasn’t very nice.
We arrived back into town about 4pm, I called by a mango stall on my walk back. They sell the best mangos here, so juicy, sweet and tasty! And 30p each. What a lovely day.
Friday 22 March 2013
Today I did nothing. I sat around in the sun, feel asleep at lunchtime and bought cakes from the local bakery. A bit of drama in the evening. Well, it started in the morning. I woke to find a packet of Oreos on the floor next to my bed. I’m sure I left those on the desk last night. So, was rather shocked when I returned to my room in the evening to find a packet of dry noodles in the same place as where the Oreos had been this morning. The noodles had been taken out of a plastic bag in my backpack, dragged 4m across the floor, totally chewed apart and half entered a mouse hole in the wall. I could even hear them squeaking in excitement. Wonderful. After telling the receptionist, who didn’t believe me, I was upgraded to a nicer room!