Sunday, June 12, 2011

Island Hopping at Honda Bay

As post-summer getaway of our second day in Palawan last weekend, I took the whole family to an island hopping tour at Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa. Good thing that the weather had cooperated, without any rain the whole daytime we were in the area.

We arranged for Mang Dudz' van to pick us from the pension house at 8:00 am last Sunday. We passed by the Iwahig handicraft store along the way to rent snorkel sets (Php 100/set) and a native mat for Php 150. Then, we bought freshly-cooked rice from a carinderia, before proceeding to San Jose New Market to buy a kilo of suran triggerfish at Php 180/kg, half kilo of suahe shrimp at Php 115, and sliced porkloin at Php 170/kg, all to be cooked at the islands. We also bought tomatoes, soy sauce, calamansi, charcoal, and disposable plates and utensils for our island picnic lunch.

Arriving at Sta. Lourdes wharf less than an hour later, I booked a 4-cylinder motor boat for Php 1,500 whole day rental with 2 boatmen to operate the boat. We also paid Php 30 terminal fee at the wharf for 6 persons, excluding my youngest son of 3 years old who is free on boat, terminal, and island fees.

Our first stop is not an island, but a reef called Pambato Reef. There is a floating hut and variety store, where each person above 5 years old must pay Php 50 as entrance fee. The reef is quite deep, so it is hard to see the corals and the fishes on the dark seawater when snorkeling. Here is where our 3 kids experienced their first snorkeling session, assisted by one of our boatmen.

On our way to our second itinerary, the boatman pointed to us the Cowrie Island which also has a beach at Php 25 entrance fee/head. We passed the Lu-Li island along the way, which is basically a sandbar that gets submerged during high tide, hence the name Lu-Li from Filipino term "lulubog-lilitaw". Bat Island was also pointed to us which has no beach, and has many bats residing on its mangrove forest interior.

Second destination is the government-run Snake Island without island fee, and also without bath/toilet facility. Its name was derived from the island's shape on aerial view. At high tide, it has a narrow beach so the tourists have to contend with smaller space. There are also stores there selling beverages, halo-halo, and fresh seafoods at higher prices than in mainland. 

Our boatman arranged our brought seafoods and pork meat to be cooked by one of the stores at less than Php 50 cooking charge per item. There are also fishes on the island's waters, but not as many as in Pambato Reef. We paid about Php 50 for the rental of a nipa hut with 2 bamboo benches and a table on the middle.

After our hearty lunch, we transferred to Pandan Island which is being managed by Legend Hotels. Its a bigger island with bathroom, toilet, and freshwater facilities with Php 50 entrance fee per head. Since my wife did not swam at the beach, and my youngest son is below 5 years old, their entrance fees gets waived on the islands. 

The beach area here is bigger, so we did not rented the more expensive cottages, nor tables and chairs. We just spread out our rented mat under the shade of the tree near the beach. The island's waters has more fishes and seaweeds, so we enjoyed snorkeling here than at Snake Island. Here is where I spotted and held a horseshoe crab below.     

Van rental (drop off and pick up) from city proper starts at Php 1200 to Sta. Lourdes wharf. In our case, we included a side trip to Mitra's Ranch and Baker's Hill after the Honda Bay tour, for a total of Php 1,500 van rental. If you want to contact our service van's owner Mang Dudz, he can be reached thru (63) 929-8684500 and (63) 917-5902001.

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