Getting Set Up

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I ordered a cab to take me the next morning to the bus terminal, because I imagined I had too much stuff to fit into the single motorized tricycles they mostly use as taxis here. The dispatcher suggested renting a van all the way, but that was too costly for my liking. In the evening I received a message that my friends cannot pick me up for the last leg of the journey at the usual price, because they have no guests at their resort that day. In that case the van seemed more feasible, as it would be quite a hassle to use three vehicles as I had planned, and wait in one place in between them with my mountain of purchases.

But when the dispatcher learned I wanted to go farther than the customary El Nido, but all the way to a village from where the boats depart, they wanted to charge even more. It was then suggested that the cab driver can take me all the way for an acceptable price. Perfect, one transfer only and the safest way.


My friends back in San Miguel reported that they will be stopping off in the village port two days after I intended to take the big public ferry. So even better, as they could help me move all the stuff onto their boat. I arranged to stay at their friend’s place overnight, and it was quite amusing watching all the horrified faces along the way, as they have never seen a real cab outside of the main town and must have thought I am really rich.

My tour operator friends showed up much later than planned, the 14 guests piled off the boat after completing a multi-day island exploration, we piled my stuff on, and off we sailed. This being the dry summer season, whenever on a tour, my friend would stop by an interesting bay where a hose lies floating in the ocean. He would whistle and wave to shore, where the caretaker would turn on a tap so they could fill up their water canisters from well water flowing down from the mountain. But because it was a late start today, by the time they filled up all their jugs, water bottles and showered themselves, we headed back in almost pitch black. They originally hoped to sleep in the bay, but the abundance of mosquitoes quickly changed that plan. With a small flashlight, we managed to make it back home, but slept on board due to the low tied and difficulty in getting to shore. Polished off the usual two bottles of local rum and slept like babies under the glimmering stars.


The next day we headed out at the crack of dawn, tugging behind a smaller boat to make the transfer to shore. But the waves were too rough and my friend was worried I might lose some of my expensive gear overboard when transferring to the tiny boat. So we headed back, where I slept outside in their party kiosk for the next three nights.

What an absolute tease. SOOO close to finally starting, but the weather was excellent for kitesurfing, so I took it as a good sign. My friend was hired for another group tour, so I had to move my stuff off his boat, and since it was still a bit windy, he suggested I try the mid-sized boat from the future resort’s property owner. We transferred the goods and bobbed our way to the island in this much smaller boat.

Now since I had not officially tested the mobile signal on my own phone, I held it in my hand and watched the signal bars as we made our way to the island. Always looking back to where the transmission tower loomed over the hilltop. As we got to the other, open ocean facing side of the island, the waves got increasingly rougher. I clambered to keep the solar panel and other loose items from falling into the ocean, while holding onto the mast in one hand and checking the signal in another. It held a solid 3.5G signal all the way to the beach, and you can imagine how ecstatic I was. We unloaded the goods, the boat sailed away, the locals gathered around my piled up empire and helped me lug it to the location I chose to set up tent.


Before doing so I thought I’d confirm the mobile internet signal, but now absolutely nothing. I was shocked. I walked around searching for a signal and still nothing. After setting up the very basics, I walked the length of three beaches, walked out to a point, and climbed up a small hill protruding from the shore, but still nothing. But I so fell in love with all that I saw that I decided there is no turning back and some solution will have to be found.

The next day I took my work tools and machete and decided to plough through the jungle in search of a signal. Fortunately, some paths had already been laid, which is quite fortunate, because the extent of thickly woven jungle would have proven a daunting task to carve even one meter’s length worth.

I must have walked an hour towards the other end of the island, but the ridge along which I was walking was blocked by a higher ridge across the valley, with no tower in sight. After getting about half way across what seems a 200 hectare sized island, I did manage to catch a few bars, but decided this was simply too far and headed back. Along the way, not far from my resort, I found one sweet spot on the hillside, with full signal and even some sort of abandoned jungle hut which I could use as an online workstation.


Internet spot I eventually settled for, with view.


But I’d rather avoid going up this steep hill for internet every day, even though getting in shape would probably be good, so I tried my luck along shore. Perhaps I could finally see the tower if I walked to the very end of the last point. It got a bit hairy walking on sharp volcanic rock, and in a few places I was precariously close to slipping into the ocean, holding mobile in hand as I constantly checked the signal. I did finally see the tower, but I’d need to build some cement sidewalk in key places, in which case abandoned jungle hut it shall be.

Back in camp I made quick friends by setting up the badminton net between two coconut trees and lending them my rackets and volleyball. The first thing that caught my attention was all the dead seaweed on shore. Certainly not appealing to tourists wishing for pristine beaches, so I started the long process of burning it all in the fire. This has kept a fire going for three days now, as I fill up two small buckets about every 30 minutes. Plenty of dead coconut branches and leaves to start it up on embers in the morning, and plenty of dried out coconut shells to add during the evenings, to give off a nice glow and build up coals to last until morning.


All this activity, together with my viola playing, the camp slowly taking form, the new face and unraveling of the solar system seems to have sparked great interest among the locals, who take turn hanging around watching my progress, or borrowing my badminton rackets and volleyball.


Special place made for storing volleyball, so locals could borrow any time.

The caretakers on the property were asking about a long wire to their hut, for lighting, but I explained that such long wires will result in too much drain on the battery, and that I need my single battery for my own needs. But I handed them a rechargeable flashlight/desklamp and explained that I can do all the charging during the day. They gratefully reciprocated with three small fish they had brought in from their latest dynamite style fishing, which I promptly threw on the grill of my perpetual fire.

With some experimenting, I found that I could get a mobile signal if I manually reduced it from 3G to GSM, and if I held it in certain locations, such as hanging from the roof of my tent. In this position the internet, albeit extremely slow, would work some of the time. I updated my autoresponse to customers explaining my situation and that we should text message with each other to confirm job placement. The signal would be strong enough most of the time to sms, and some of the time to view documents and send an email autoresponse.


First table built for workstation. Wont find Ikea around here!

So, in all, one might say that I was repelled back to the days when I first started traveling, 9 years ago, when internet in East Europe was just as sporadic. But in return I gained this island beach paradise and the opportunity to finally shift my income away from translation, which I have been dreaming of for many years. A shoestring connection for work, or to respond to guest queries, but it’s enough, and at least I’ll get back into shape!

Letter to mom with more details

Next page in story Next: Exploring the island with GPS
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Home » Palawan » Patoyo » Getting Set Up

05:51 03 Apr 24
I give 5 stars because they actually helped me to arrange the tour to Balabac in last minute. However, because the money wired through the local bank in my country took time to be processed, so i missed the boat due to peak season as many people paid before my money was received by the tour guide.As most of people usually feel, once your money has been transferred out to someone you do not know, you probably frustrated that your money would not be able to be refunded.But not in my experience. I dont need to be worry, the owner refunded me the money he has received (minus the bank fees). He promised to refund me and he did it. It was around 18.700 Pesos.So, eventhough i didn't manage to go with the tour, but i am really satisfied with their legitimate and great business practice. Hopefully, people will try their services and not worry about their legit business!Thanks a lot!
Chloe BlanchardChloe Blanchard
13:38 27 Mar 24
The most wonderful experience from booking to beach! Karel and Mel were so fast and responsive to my very last minute trip over the holidays. We booked a private boat for two and could not have been happier with our four day trip! We didn’t think about anything other than snorkeling the entire time. Linda, our captain, cooked wonderful meals and took us to totally empty beautiful beaches. We loved staying the night in Pical especially! Wonderful to experience the Philippines this way! Will come back again and would recommend to anyone!
hotel luci del farohotel luci del faro
08:13 31 Jan 24
We booked the 3 day 2 night expedition, from Coron to Sibaltan.First of all the booking part was really simple. I organized this trip to the Philippines last minute for my family (my parents and my uncles) but Karel answered all my questions very quickly and really made everything easier for me. It was an incredible experience. Albert, our tour leader, is a wonderful guy, always smiling and ready to help us. They assisted us in everything and really took care of making everything go smoothly. The accommodation on the islands is as spartan as you expect but the location of each hut alone is worth the trip. The wonder of nature was then added to the goodness of cuisine. It's really difficult to argue how you can cook all that goodness on a boat.If you are looking for an authentic experience, in contact with nature, off the beaten track, this company's private expedition is certainly for you.
Kate BrownKate Brown
00:22 27 Oct 23
What an unforgettable experience! We did a two night (3 day) island hopping tour from Sibaltan to Coron. Everything was so well organized and the boat crew were amazing and really made sure we had a great time. The accommodation was rustic, but added to the authentic experience of the Philippines. Karel always responded to any queries we had promptly. Our boatman, Albert, was the most amazing chef and we enjoyed every meal. The crew taught the kids how to fish with a line which was their highlight of the trip. They took us to the most unbelievable snorkelling spots along the way. Would highly recommend this trip.
Ian PascualIan Pascual
02:43 10 Aug 23
One of the most amazing, unforgettable things you can do in your life
Lou PrataliLou Pratali
11:04 25 Jul 23
This is a must to do!!Super ultimate tour is the best with Kayangan and barracuda lake, twin lagoons (my favorite), coral garden (blue fabulous coral) were the best. It’s really worth it to pay for private tour (3500 to 4000 PHP). You will also have to pay for entrance fees (150 to 200PHP by location) and eventually shopping at the market - must do (count 300 for 2 for fish, pork, fruits and vegetables, water).
16:11 07 Feb 23
I was looking for a personalized excursion to the stunning Bacuit Gulf.Based on the comments, I contacted Mel.Very responsive, very efficient and perfect organization.The on-board staff were very friendly and very helpful.And I'm not even talking about the meal on board...a marvel.In all fairness, this excursion will remain an excellent memory and I cannot recommend Mel and his team highly enough.A big thank-you.
Alyse TarbottonAlyse Tarbotton
23:48 30 Aug 22
This tour went well above all our expectations! I couldn't recommend this enough! The boat crew, captain and tour guide were nothing but amazing, everyone was so kind, helpful and friendly. The crew knew the best spots to visit that weren't overcrowded with tourists, 3 times we were lucky enough to have whole islands to ourselves! It was my partner's birthday while away and everything went above and beyond, bonfire, cake, birthday card, singing and celebrating with us.If you love camping this is definitely a tout you should do, it has been the highlight of our trip!!
Danish KayaniDanish Kayani
10:24 31 Oct 19
Coron is the best place i have ever seen.. picturesque. Beautiful. Peaceful
We booked a 4 days/3 nights private boat trip from Coron to Sibaltan. The organization went very well from the beginning, the owner answered to all my questions, and we were able to choose which islands to visit and where to sleep. The first night we slept in a bungalow in Banana Island, the second we camped in Araw beach and the last we slept in a seafront bungalow builded on a tree in Pical on Iloc Island.The islands in that area are the most beautiful islands I have ever seen, with clear water, lots of coral reef and fishes to see, white sand and almost deserted. The crew was very friendly and polite and they organize every single meal and for camping they give you a tent which was just perfect! This was our highlight in our 2 weeks in the Philippines and I wish I had booked a longer trip. A private trip gives you the freedom to decide where and when to go.
Gérard Benoit
Gérard Benoit
I was looking for a personalized excursion to the beautiful bay of Bacuit. Seeing the comments, I contacted Mel. Very responsive, very efficient and perfect organization. The crew were very friendly and very helpful. And I'm not even talking about the meal on board...a marvel. In all fairness, this excursion will remain an excellent memory and I can recommend Mel and his team highly enough. A big thank-you.
André Mardoñal
André Mardoñal
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The island world of Linapacan between Coron and El Nido with the clearest waters in the world is truly a dream for itself! Without a boat you won't be able to see it! But what this boat trips makes so amazing is the crew! Once you come on board they might be shy in the beginning but will make you feel welcome and home from the first moment. Not only that they are looking that you sit comfortable all the time, they will prepare fresh and delicious food what the buy from local markets. They know the best spots and most beautiful islands and will bring you to places where you get this "Robinson Cruisoe feeling". Every day you visit 3 to 5 spots for snorkeling, enjoying a beach or exploring a little island. The accommodation we had was good and simple. We slept in bungalows and tents right at the beach. Sheets and towels were always provided and sometimes towels. After a while you feel like a family on board. We loved living the boat life didn't wanna leave! If you doubt take a longer than shorter trip! For any questions please message me.
Sarah Uhan
Sarah Uhan
All in all it was a really great experience. It's a once in a lifetime thing to do and you won't get more authentic and basic Philippino experiences anywhere else. We were not so lucky with the wind and waves so we couldn't do all the stops we wanted to unfortunately. So be aware that especially the months from January to May can be very rough on water. But we still saw some great places Benji took us. Benji and his family was very nice and they did everything they could. The food was amazing - always freshly made in authentic Philippino style and way too much for the 2 of us. Make sure to bring enough cash - many of the islands cost extra (entrance fee) and be aware that any kind of accommodation and food (200php per meal) is not included in the boat fee. Also the deposit and commission fee for the agency are a little over the top, especially since the crew does not get any of it. The costs all in all are rather high for phillipino circumstances especially given the basicness of it all. However if you think about that all 5 boat people (in our case) live off of the boat fee alone, you spent the money willingly. Be aware though that accommodation and sanataries are very basic if even existant. So you gotta have the right mindset. Bring tissue, sanatiszer and earplugs to get some better sleep. Another feedback I have concerning the size of the boat. I don't think it is sufficient for more than 4 people. If the weather is like it was these days, you always have to sit on top and it was already a little squeezy with us 2 and 5 boat people. So I guess 4 guests can be fine but more than that won't have the space. There is different boat sizes but make sure to talk about that with Karel in advance. Other than that it was really worth it and we got to see so many great beaches and reefs which we could have never been able to visit without the tour.
Eric Liu
Eric Liu
It was scary to book a 5 day trip with no places to stay confirmed or a strong itinerary. And in the Philippines, communication is difficult. But that is part of changing mindsets to a rural island mindset. In the end, everything worked out. We had some tough moments with bugs. But we also had some amazingly beautiful secluded beaches, the best snorkeling in the world, relaxing on the beach, and freshly made food on the boat while docked at beautiful places (better than being on land). Note, we went with Benji. Recommendations: - you must get a local SIM when you arrive to make sure pickup and everything works out - some islands have bugs - use bug spray! Pros: - a fraction of the cost - away from the crowds - can customize what you want - just ask! - a truly local experience - saw a REAL rural town Cons: - locals aren't really polished tour guides - if you don't ask for it, you won't get it, need to be pretty proactive - pretty simple "activities" - no frills like bathrooms or kayaks etc.
Ángela Deand
Ángela Deand
We can't be more grateful to have had the opportunity of experience the peace in Patoyo Kitesurfing Camping! Spending two weeks in Dimancal Island, gave us the chance to experiment the rural and traditional way of life, in touch with the nature and people. We have learnt how to cook with fire, how to open a coconut and how to survive in an environment where for a time we forget about unnecessary needs, just to focus on enjoy the small details and pleasures of life. Mentioning too the amazing snorkeling and beautiful islands around this place, which make it unique​ and special. It is a lovely option if you are running away from tourists and overcrowded places in the Philippines. You will find yourself in the middle of virgin beaches and nature, surrounding​ by charming people. We will definitely come back!
Caroline Danielle
Caroline Danielle
We haven't done a Tao tour, but I would suspect that this is a cheaper version of the same thing. Our boat operator (Benji) and the entire crew were were fun, friendly and made an effort to ensure we had a good time. If you get a large group of people together it can be a really inexpensive alternative to other Coron-El Nino and vice versa island hopping tours. The food was good, but more expensive than as advertised by Karl. The price quote we got was 100 php a meal, but the boat charged us 200. Since the food was good we didn't mind the extra expense, but it is important to keep in mind if you're on a budget. Definitely plan for some incidental spending. Our boat did have some mechanical issues and as a result we ended up being stuck in the same place for longer than we wanted to be. That being said, little could have been done about it and the trip was fun nonetheless.
Hauk Are Fjeld
Hauk Are Fjeld
If you believe that doing the touristic tours in El Nido and going to "The hidden beach" takes you off the beaten path, you are wrong. There are lots of beautiful places in Palawan, but few of these places are without any other tourists. If you want to spend some extra effort on getting away from the tourist places, and don't mind a little "primitive" living, Island Hopping in the Philippines is definitely something you should check out
Arnold Cabiguen
Arnold Cabiguen
The snorkeling in this area is phenomenal. Clearest waters in the world. I guess it's because there is relatively such lower tourist traffic through here, and the locals really protect the reefs!
Karel Kosman
Karel Kosman
Love it so much, just had to say it twice!

We are a family operation managing private custom boat tours in the beautiful Palawan area, and are happy to help travelers with their plans through the country, having traveled a lot of it ourselves and planning to visit it all.

0 thoughts on “Getting Set Up”

  1. Hi Karel, I was reading on a blog about Batanes and read your comment thats how I found your site! I read every word and was smiling all the way, u are so lucky to be finding this place am so envious as I love hidden paradise, very exciting journey! I’m a CS [couchsurfing] member too and have traveled to Palawan 3 yrs. ago and now I am determined to go back and explore more, thanks for for being the bridge to this beautiful place and moreover helping locals directly. 🙂 good luck!

    • Glad I put a smile on your face Eva! Yeah, totally love developing this place and a big blob of cash is rolling into my account, while a volunteer is bringing a kiteboard from Ozzie. Hard to get around here. So things are falling into place and already have guests spending their money on local services, so good to contribute to the community. Hope to see you when you swing by the hood!

      • That’s great to know! Good luck improving that place & may the spirits help and guide you 🙂

        I read all contents of your website very simple,interesting and as If i am watching a survivor reality show… hoping to see this place and meet u soon, keep it up and I hope all your plan progresses!


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