Move to Another Island

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As usual, my impulsive optimism quickly fades. On my return from a one month shopping trip to Manila, not only did I discover an increasing number of seemingly unimportant things missing from my belongings, such as my sowing kit (invaluable for fixing tents ripped from the wind, or shorts with rips in sensitive places), some flashlights earmarked for guests, lightbulbs, and most importantly, the little portable amplifier for my viola, but yet another new phone is acting up again.


Ben brings over his construction crew to build us a big, communal hut
for cooking and shelter from the rain.

I seem to be plagued by these phones. In Thailand, my first experience with ecstasy resulted in an hour long, rigorous dance in shallow water, as the waves and tide crept into shore and slowly up my shorts to render my three year old HTC useless. On a friend’s advice, I replaced this with a Nokia N8. Great camera, sturdy construction, but small display. And like most phones it seems, with a preprogrammed expiry date of about three years.



Rarely a nail or spike, a few notches, and 120 thick nylon string. Simple, genius and very sturdy.

For a while I had my eye on a Samsung, and one day in Kuala Lumpur I was dragged to the side by two aggressive salesmen. I spent an hour researching their offer on the net, at their stinky little stand on the edge of a mall, handed them the cash for their great deal, but when they came back from the storage room (probably just another stand), they asked, “How would you like to pay for the rest? Cash, credit card?” I really must learn not to be so trusting and gullible, but to hand over cash only once I carefully test a product, and equally, check the battery. I learned then that a different battery model is the first and foremost sign that the product is an imitation, and hence became the owner of my first LG Chinese back engineering ripoff.


Using a simple water hose to make sure the heights are equal.

At least, that is what was recommended to me by the snide salesman after I refused to pay for the rest of their Samsung swindle. The LG, a long, thin phone that looked like it would crack at first sneeze, held out pretty well until I went out on another boat tour with Benji. He loves the local brandy, and the combination with my beloved beer always seems to end in one disaster or another. In this case, after a wonderful evening on a deserted island with a boatload of beautiful women, he found me crawling on all fours towards their tents. He managed to divert me to my own, or rather rolled me towards it, such that I woke up the next morning with the highly predictable crack in my new phone.


On my second shopping spree in Manila, I was told it could not be repaired, and even if they could find the display for this imitation, it would cost as much to buy a new one.


Benches for seating.

The woman at the repair shop confidently suggests another LG phone, and predictably, I have gullible faith in her confidence. But on taking it back to my host, I find the internet extremely slow. Perhaps there are too many users in the metropolis. Now heading back south on the overnight ferry, I try one tower after another as I lay in my bunk bed on the overnight ferry, but the internet is still incredibly slow. Eventually I take it apart, check the battery, and discover, once again, I have purchased another fake. This time from some company in Qatar which has no contact on their website, but they do have 4G in that country – not something which is yet available in the Philippines. The sales lady confidently sold me some surplus and useless product, and I spend the next two months on Patoyo island with the most frustrating and slow internet experience I can imagine (since the local towers are 3G, my new phone defaults to 2G – a snail’s crawl).


Not only that, but it wont even connect to my laptop. I am forced to use the old Nokia as a bluetooth relay between the two. In a very inefficient manner, I manage to download and upload files with my customers, answer basic emails, and for real internet work, I use a 12V motorcycle battery a volunteer brought up from Princesa to circumnavigate my way around a volcanic point and connect my router to the tower above San Miguel, for a few hours before the battery dies. It’s a long walk to the point, I bring my umbrella as shelter from the searing heat, other times against the rain, lying uncomfortably on the jagged, volcanic rock, until I finally give up and decide to take a boat every day to San Miguel. I need more solid internet time if I am to promote this place or answer customer enquiries.


A somewhat expensive solution, with hours lost every day climbing over the mountain ridge, on the boat and setting up the router, but manageable, until my new inverter stops working. Was setting up for another regular day when smoke oozes out of the fan hole. The repairman later said I must have confused polarities. Without 220V I cannot charge anything and can no longer use my laptop’s limited battery to work or watch movies at night, as I lie in my small tent, staring up into the darkness, contemplating my existence.

Changing Winds, Changing Times

Since the trade winds changed only a few weeks ago, the waves have been magnanimous, not only forcing me to climb over the mountain ridge just to catch a boat every day to San Miguel, but the coast guard is preventing the boat operators from leaving harbour. At one point, a whole boatload of my guests sinks on its way to the mainland, the engine dying midstream while the operator struggles frantically with his little paddle. All were okay, albeit wet and miserable, while some lost their valuable electronics, such as their macbook.


The wind was so strong it completely ripped off the netting part of the volleyball/badminton net.
About a week later even this remaining rope was gone.

Each day I make the trip to town, to charge up my battery, put in some internet time, and stocked with two t-shirts and extra underwear in my computer bag in case a boat can leave to Coron, where I can fix or replace the much needed inverter. After a week one finally does manifest and I look forward to another juicy round of chicken burritos for breakfast every morning.


Ben even built us a fancy toilet, to which I added a hinged door and the cushioned seat I had bought in Manila.

The repairman lacks the spare parts to fix my inverter, so I buy a new one and look forward to finally getting a new Samsung. I am prepared to pay top dollar, as long as I get something that works. I cross my way from one end of town to the other, but am appalled that the only smart phone on sale in all of town is a brand I never heard of – Cherry Mobile. Apparently Filipino, with nonexistent online service. The sales lady instructs me that they do not provide service or repairs, and that it has a warrantee of only one week. I have no other choice but to buy their most expensive model, have been extremely careful never to roll on top of it, and should be grateful that it has lasted me six months (and that it paid for itself three fold since it helped me get a $330 job shortly after purchase). Together with all the short-lived flashlights I have bought locally, extension cords, tents and virtually anything else I have purchased in this country, I promise myself that I will only buy from ebay from now on. At least there the sellers care about their ratings and will take all measures to make sure you are happy, as opposed to locals who just shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, you bought it a whole three days ago, so…”.

Coron turns out to be another blast. The people and night vibes are great, but it does put a noticeable dent in my wallet. I run into my good buddy Rodney, who sold me the African drum last time I was in town. He takes me back to his shop, serving as a secret bar in the evening, we have a great jam session with his various instruments, drums and friends, and weed is passed around the table in all its copious glory. I decide to stock up for the journey back.


The children love to hang out in the new communal hut and help beautiful the place
with their little projects.

After all my shopping and nightly activities, I realise I forgot to transfer funds from my PayPal account before coming here. Since the start of the year PayPal has a new policy whereby its debit/credit cards are only issued to US citizens, forcing me to first transfer funds to my Bank of America account in order to withdraw funds from the debit card of that bank. This transfer takes 3-5 business days and I find myself with only a few thousand pesos in pocket.


I have my own projects, such as building this table for beers etc. next to the hammock, or securing my tent against the fierce wind and rain.

Fortunately, some new volunteers just landed in town on their way to my island and I was able to transfer funds to their paypal account. It has become routine for me to get cash from arriving volunteers who have a paypal account, since there is no atm in the vicinity.

The days go by as I wait with my new volunteers for a boat to take us back through the choppy waters, when I receive my first serious enquiry for a private boat tour to El Nido, from a group of 6 Hollanders. Since they too are in town, we decide to meet at my favourite chicken burrito breakfast venue. Since we are having trouble getting a ferry back, I ask the Dutch group if we can join them. They agree, but not before they grill me for details of the tour, wanting to know which islands we will visit and other matters. I stare blankly at them, not really knowing any of the answers and stuttering with guesses. After our meeting I surf Tripadvisor for a list of places with the best reviews, looking forward to document our route for future enquirers. However, it is too late, as I later receive a text message informing me that the group of six, after lengthy discussion, decided instead on Tao Expeditions at more than ten times my price. I realise I must better prepare myself for future enquiries, which may require I join a few of these tours and explore new ground myself. They tell me I can keep the thousand pesos deposit and explain that, since this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for them, they want to make sure they are happy. I think these sailing Dutch missed out on a great, custom journey, especially considering my new stock of green, but the day is saved as my travel agent scrounges up a boat and off we go the next day anyway.


Enjoying some last “Filipool” at Henkey’s before moving to the next island.
Slides on chalk like shuffle board, and the table rotates so you don’t have to move.

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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 “Move to Another Island”

  1. Another day in the adventurer of the Philippines. The good out weights the Bad from a long time sailing/diver just finished my beach house in La Paz Beach San Narciso Zambales with most of the problems fixed I hope? Cheers Mick


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