Some ventures off the island

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Before I started these island development projects, the idea came to me to start an island hopping enterprise. A country of 7,107 islands, about a thousand of which are in my area alone. A calm area and more affluent part of the country, with honest folks, little crime and no typhoons. The dream was to explore them myself, equipped with portable solar panels (I expected none or next to no electricity in the villages I planned to visit, but was told there is a mobile signal everywhere), and fill in a database of contact numbers to local fishermen who could take guests to their next destination, while teaching the new homestays how to properly service them. A truly rural experience, with a map users can click on as they plan their route from one island village to the next. Once they made payment, the website would send them all the details and contact information along the path they selected.


Will update pic when I get back to camp, but purchased three of these from a forest ranger in the US who made these himself for his own needs and then started to sell them online. 60W each, folds up into very compact and light units, waterproof and pretty durable.

But since I stumbled on my own island project, which I considered much more interesting, I decided to make the island hopping a side venture, even though it has generated significantly more income than from paying guests visiting my paradise. But it was something I could easily manage through the internet and a text message to the various boat operators.

I was invited on a few trips with my main boat operator, Benji, but better safe than sorry and I began to slowly accumulate others. One such tour I had organised was for a Japanese girl and her boyfriend. Since it was such a small crew, I decided on trying out, for the first time, Henkey’s larger boat. But because I haven’t used him yet for such a service and because I felt it needed some supervision and training, I decided to join them, to make sure everything ran smoothly.


One of Henkey’s boats, laden from one of my big fat moves to the new island.

This coincided with two female German volunteers who were on their way, and one Italian paying guest (who was so gracious as to bring, on my request, deluxe parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar, which I greedily devoured myself). They were headed up from the same direction, so I came to an agreement with the Japanese couple for us to join them to reduce their costs. But when the crew arrived in their larger boat, the Japanese girl was aghast that it was too small and worried about the big waves. Meanwhile, on my request, she had brought a new battery-operated drill from Japan, to replace the one that was stolen from Patoyo before I moved to the new island, but on opening the package I learned they use a 110V system in Japan. This will require the purchase of yet another inverter (due to my paranoia, I now own about 5). They told me I can keep the deposit and went back to El Nido, so me, the Italian and the two Germans had a slightly discounted boat tour back to the island.

I boarded Henkey’s boat with his crew of three (son, daughter and her husband) and we made our way southbound to pick them up. We waited in San Fernando for the usual Filipino delay, during which time the local coast guard gleaned me of information, and once he found out my boat crew had no permit for such a service, I secretly whispered to them to make their way south to Sibaltan, where I will direct my new guests once their bus arrives.


More party mayhem in Pical.

We launch the tour and the first stop, as part of my suggested itinerary, is Pical, where I had the usual pleasure to party with Arcenas again. It was a great party, but the crew were not interested in joining while the wife moaned and groaned that she could not wait to get back home to breastfeed her baby.

I’ve always had a great time in Pical and with Arcenas who, like Benji his good friend, loves the local brandy. It just so happened to be Christmas and an appreciated diversion from my lonesome self back on my island.

I brought my African drum to the festivities and was seated next to Arcenas, the village’s captain, at the head table. Rather boring for the first few hours as everyone in the village took turns going up on stage to give a speech or entertain the other guests in a language we did not understand, but eventually the DJ disco man turned on his performance and the rest hit the dance floor.


Due to all the business I have been sending him, Arcenas’s
massive operations is expanding and spilling over onto the beachfront property.

As usual, when I have my drum and a few shots of brandy, I sink into rhythmic meditation and fraternise with the locals until around four in the morning, when a scuffle breaks out. Seems the atmosphere has been overly electric and one boy is jealous of another. The little scuffle quickly breaks out into an all out brawl, almost. With my martial arts training and significant size advantage, I choose to sit idly at my table, not budging an inch. When all of a sudden, Arcenas, the village captain and the tallest and largest of them all (my height I’d say), appears in his gleaming white pajamas brandishing a metal pole. Swinging it from side to side like a sword and hollering out commands in Tagalog.

The air stands still for a moment, as he gazes intently from person to person. Eventually his eyes hit mine as I sat there calmly, watching the show, he gives me a nod, continues his surveillance of the rest of the clan, tells the DJ to shut it down and we all go off to bed.

The next day the boat crew asks us what the plan is, but when I tell them, the daughter groans, “Another island??” They do not seem to understand my business objectives.


Camping out with the Italian dude and German girls on Takling.

We arrive to Calibangbangan, near to Takling island (where we intend to camp overnight), and do some business in terms of looking for a place where future guests can tank up on restaurant food and explore the mainland before retiring for the evening on the island. After all, the whole point of such a tour is to provide variety. To rush straight to Takling, a completely deserted island, can result in a totally boring evening.

We try a few places in calabingbangbong but all the locals we approach are worried they do not have a permit to serve tourists. At 30,000p a year for such a permit (about $700), it is not a worthwhile venture for them. Even though I find a great tree on the shore with a shady hut and large table which could easily be served by the private home adjoining it, the owners look at us like aliens and decline my invitation for future business.



On Takling we make the usual campfire on paradise beach, to which I bring my musical instruments while the daughter groans to the side on the beach, waiting for the dreaded experience to be over. After Takling there is one other island I want to stop by, but since I fell asleep on the boat, the crew took the opportunity to b-line their way straight home – and karaoke it is again for the evening.

On another occasion, I had three girls struggling to get to my island from Coron. I ask Henkey a few times if he would be interested in picking them up, offering 7,000p (about $140), which is a fair deal for his sized boat. He and his son agree, but when we arrived at his house, lunch becomes a priority and Filipino time takes precedence. Eventually, I confront them and point out that time is running short and that, if they really want to take the task, they should have left several hours ago. At which point they change their minds and decline the offer.


Holding some bizarre, prehistoric animal in front of Henkey’s house
while a neighbour’s eagle pet watches precariously in the background.

The third time I try to use his service for these extended boat tours, his son shows up three hours late in his small boat (we agreed he would always use their bigger, safer boat for these extended journeys), by which time my guests decide to abandon the wait and go for lunch. Once he finds them they explain they are not ready to go, but after lunch they find him cooking rice and not ready to depart for another hour and a half. Once the “tour” launches, he passes all the stops I instructed him about and makes a b-line straight for his home. When the guests ask if they can see some other beaches in the area, Mark, the son, tries to charge extra. Once at his home, when the guests ask what there is to do in the area, he replies “nothing,” and walks away.

It seems that many locals, as do many Asians in general, perceive foreigners as walking ATM machines and have no clue about providing a service in exchange for the payment. I consider Henkey and his family great people and my close friends, but business is something separate and I have had to boycott their service until we can sit down so I can explain, again, how it works, and they reimburse the last guests for his catastrophic service.


Local boys serenading to the German girls in Pical.

Problems have arisen with other providers as well, as they collude with one another to incrementally increase their price every time I send them new guests. So I play them against one another, possibly bring in a third party, and starve them into submission. I know that the prices I offer are fair and that they are only acting out of short-sighted greed. This becomes another front in my battles to make my intensions here successful.

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Home » Palawan » Patoyo » Some ventures off 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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