Heading Back to the Island

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Laden with my new round of construction shopping, we cram ourselves into a single tricycle and make our way to the pier. We unload the goods, haul them past the gate, and I stand there with the volunteers holding two giant pieces of plywood when I remember that dogs often sniff the baggage before passengers load the boat. I also remember that I still have a few grams of green in my front shorts pocket and that possession is subject to a life sentence in this country. I whisper to them my predicament, wondering what to do, when a guard comes up from behind me, taps me on the shoulders, and says, “Cargo bay”, pointing to the second gate. I presume this is one of my usual Jedi mind tricks and I carry the two pieces of plywood to the second gate, as such circumventing the waiting lounge. Once my friends catch up to me, sure enough, they say their bags were sniffed by dogs at the lounge exit.


Little hotel I stayed at on the nearby island of Culion.

Back on the island I am disappointed to find the plot empty, the volunteers I left behind to tend the place long gone, while three others who came before the first couple left were tired of the relentless wind and left the island as well. Furthermore, before I had departed to Coron, I started to reinforce my own tent against the brutal wind, but since an unexpected boat became available, I sent the couple a text message with instructions how to complete the reinforcement job. On arrival though, not only did I not see any work done while I was gone and the kitchen in a total mess, but the last corner of my tent still exposed to the wind was now ripped to shreds, the rip continuing along the back of the tent to leave a gaping, flapping window for all to peer inside from the main footpath running right next to it. I had pleaded them to finish the reinforcement job (all of 5 seconds worth, once the glue had settled) for fear that my viola might get wet. On returning, I see my viola case wide open through the new, flapping window. Fortunately, nothing was taken by the locals, which includes my $400 GoPro camera laying on my bed in plain site.

On my suggestion, the two new volunteers set up their sleeping quarters in the back of the property, behind a row of jungle trees and in an area the previous volunteers began to clear out. With barely any wind back there, we set up a nice campfire spot under the open sky, leveled the ground and made a small bar table. It turns out to be a lovely space and I can see renewed hope for the property, although any venture past the jungle tree wall towards the shoreline or the main hut becomes an exasperating experience against the relentless wind. The daily trudge over the mountain ridge to the other side of the island, where we like to go to Henkey’s grocery store for lunch, becomes a tiring routine.


New tent spot in the back.

The new volunteers become my favourite so far, more than compensating for the previous disaster (now my second worst), and I excite them with the prospect of moving to the new island, or at least exploring it. Got tired of waiting for Ben the owner to take us, so I hire Alvin instead. The island is not the one I remembered, but much better than Patoyo, considering the strong mobile signal (and hence high speed internet), better beach, bearable wind, and calm enough waves to land a boat directly on shore. I receive approval from Ben to make the move and the next day we are back again, this time with shovel, axe, machete and vigorous enthusiasm. I ask the locals where Ben’s property is located and they earmark a section between two big trees.


Middle of beach section the locals picked out for me.

We start clearing out the weeds and raw jungle, the volunteers are ecstatic about the new location, and three of the locals even join us for a very productive first day. Later in the evening we decide to venture to the village, hearing some music off in the distance. We join their party, I get my guitar, drum and other instruments, and we have a great bonding session. At the end of the evening, Christopher, the village’s captain, walks back with me to our new camp so that we can polish off the rest of the brandy. I question him about the rest of the beach on the other side of our camp from his village and he responds in that special Filipino way which I presume to mean, “That is ours.” So wonderful news indeed.

The volunteers had been excited about beautifying the new campfire spot at the back of the previous property, but find this new project even more exciting and decide to extend their stay another week. It will be tough work though, since the entire property is totally overgrown with jungle, not regularly cleaned out by its caretaker as was the previous project. Then again, that could make things more interesting, as I instruct them which plants and trees to keep and which parts to clear out. It will give the new property more character, as opposed to the monoculture of coconut trees on the previous one.


Having spent more than three hours clearing out a small area just large enough for three tents, we bob our way back to Patoyo and wait for suitable weather conditions to haul off the rest of my stuff. The continual wind onslaught is producing relentless, crashing waves such that all the boats from my side of the island have sought refuge on the other. Henkey though agrees to take us, out of the blue, citing that the waves have subsided enough but that it will have to be to the third beach – a rather long walk but not the impossible trudge over the mountain ridge.

We wait until the two volunteers are back from their snorkeling excursion, load into his boat with his daughter and two sons and spend the next hour or so lugging what we can across the kilometre stretch of three beaches. Fortunately, the volunteers had already begun to pack in the morning, so all there is to do is the main hut and my own belongings. Bringing a few baskets and boxes from Henkey, I scramble to fill them up as fast as possible while the other tents are emptied, taken down and everything generally conglomerated in the main hut. By now darkness has fallen and we decide to set sail, taking up Henkey’s offer to sleep over at his place. Inevitably, the generator is turned on and it becomes another long evening of karaoke.


Henkey’s grandson napping on living room floor as
the adults roar karaoke around him.

The next morning I’m rather nervous about half my belongings exposed for all to see in the main hut and suggest that Henkey take the first load with the volunteers to the island while I walk back over the ridge and finish packing. We contemplate that it is quite possible none of the tents are in the first load and I suggest to the volunteers that they buy a big bottle of local brandy to befriend and snuggle up with some of the island locals for the evening. I come back to camp and discover that, in the darkness, I had left one of my most important items, the tool chest for construction, exposed on top of one of the baskets, but now with missing power drill – one of my most important items. Hopefully it will surface elsewhere [nope, gone it was].

I spend the day cleaning up the place and strapping everything together to make the long haul to the third beach easier. I realise there is still a lot left, including a stack of bamboo, coconut branches and roofing from coconut leaves. My plan is to leave the place for volunteers or paying guests who come equipped with their own tent. They can buy a cheap metal pot in town and donate it for the cause. This is ideal for cooking on an open fire. I also leave one of my tents, its poles rusted and broken preventing me from disassembling it anyway. It is patchable and a humble beginning for “the auxillary project”.


Some construction bamboo waiting for delivery at Henkey’s house.

Henkey informs me that the volunteers have been delivered with the first load to the new location and that he will come to pick me up by 3pm. That is relieving news, for I feared that the waves might pick up and we’d end up sleeping separately in disarray. As per Filipino time, Henkey shows up shortly after 4 and we scramble to haul over the second load, but the waves start picking up and we have to leave before we can manage to bring the last of it – three stacks of bamboo, coconut branches and roofing. Not a bad job though, and I figure Henkey can take the last of it once some volunteers or guests decide to venture there solo.

In fact, Henkey expressed some concern he is helping me to leave the island and can no longer look forward to our visits every day, new faces from around the world and occasional escort to town for shopping or internet. But I assure him that I will still be sending people to his island, since it is definitely an adventure and so much to explore there, that I will be sending him customers for local island hopping tours, or that local tours I organise with other operators will be given instructions to visit his shop for lunch. After all, he lives in a lovely little community in a rural setting with the same pigs, ducks, chickens and naked children as my side of Patoyo, making it a delectable stop on such tours. Not to mention that his prices are ridiculously low, his cooking from fresh seafood fantastic, and I have yet to convince him not to give away his jugs of fresh coconut water for free. I also plan to use his larger boat for tours between Coron and El Nido, so continued revenues in the pipeline are guaranteed for all, regardless of my move.


Henkey jammin’ on new guitar as volunteers get settled in on new property.

We manage to break through the crashing waves off of the third beach while local onlookers wave us off, and I spend another night in his cozy little kitchen, wondering how the volunteers are faring in the new location. No karaoke this time but the whole family and then some (the only house in the community with generator running) turn out, some peering through the window from outside his little living room, to watch a Jackie Chan movie.

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Home » Palawan » Patoyo » Heading Back to the Island

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.

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