I had the much-needed time to organize my thoughts for this blog on my one and a half month with Tao Philippines which consisted of 7 expeditions, and I’ve decided to dissect it in two parts (the El Nido section of the trip and the Coron part) since I wouldn’t want to drag you in a very long blog which you have to understand will consist a lot of photos so.. .
Let’s start off with bits of facts about the company, so Tao Philippines explores the remote islands between El Nido and Coron in Northern Palawan and it offers an ‘off the beaten path’ kind of adventure and we always tell the guests that ‘this is not a tour, it’s an expedition’ so don’t expect a 5-star accommodation on a remote island, it’s as rough as it gets. But anyway you’ll find a better description and all that about the company here, so let’s move on to how I got involved with Tao Philippines – the main man responsible for taking me on a trip of a lifetime is my longtime friend Johann, we have known each other since college and I’ve always referred to him as my best and worst friend only because we’ve always tolerated each other’s bad habits (but let’s not get into that huh?) which always result in a ‘friendly’ banter. So one fine day Johann texted me (he was already with Tao since October 2011) and asked me if I wanted to join and work with him in the expeditions, I was free, had nothing to do and nowhere to go last summer so why the hell not???
Johann – Tao Buhay’s Expedition Leader with me as his ‘wingwoman’ on board
I arrived in El Nido on April 3rd and had to wait the day after to join Johann’s group who were already on their 3rd day of the 7-day expedition. I won’t write about each trip I had but will just write about it as a whole for practical reasons noh? So where were we? Yes, the El Nido part of the expedition.. .
the town between the limestones and the sea, El Nido
Tao office – everyone’s all ready to go!
On the first day of the trip we’re usually still on the tourist zone so we go to these beautiful but at most times crowded spots in the area like the Small Lagoon which is, like all the other places (and I’ll probably say this a lot) a very surreal place because before entering the lagoon you have to pass this small opening and then let the sight inside take your breath away after. The rock formations, trees, and even the tiny cave that you can swim in are just picturesque, but too bad I wasn’t able to take photos inside though.
on the way to the small lagoon.. .
the small opening that you have to pass to get inside the lagoon
And at night we stay at our base camps, these are the places where only Tao is allowed and it’s either that Tao’s owner Eddie bought some part of the land or he knows the owner of the place (it should be noted by the way that Eddie along with Jack are the people behind Tao and both guys run the company). On our first night we usually stay in the Tao Village in Cadlao Island where Jack has a house with his tiny pet monkey. Plus if you’re really lucky then you might be able to see the very shy manatees who they say are present in Cadlao! And if we don’t get to stay in Cadlao, we take shelter in a place we fondly called ‘the Farm’ (and in a few months, true to its name it will become a real farm with all the organic stuff the guys at Tao have planted and will plant and raise there). The Farm is the biggest camp we have so far and it has one of the most beautiful sunsets ever and couples always do photo ops furing sunset.
Tao Village in Cadlao Island
fisherman’s wife whom Tao trained to be a masseuse for extra income
long stretch of white sand beach in Cadlao
the Farm in Pangaraykayan, El Nido
a luxury suite consists of a mattress, blanket and mosquito net.. .
picture perfect sunset in the Farm
coconut juice and meat in the morning with Redjie masterfully breaking it in half, yikes!!!
But it’s not always swimming, snorkeling and lazing under the sun everyday because for those who’d like an adrenaline rush even for a very brief moment then there’s always cliff jumping (I know it’s nothing like skydiving or base jumping but the rush still gets you, I promise). We have spots like Pinagbuyutan Island where you have to climb past a bird’s nest guard’s house which look like it’s made of sticks and ready to collapse anytime you put much weight on it and having passed that you’re now in a deciding moment of whether to jump 12 meters down in the water (which may not seem much but trust me, when you’re there at the edge it’s a pretty scary height) and which you wouldn’t have a choice of course because you wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of climbing down those rocks rather than a 3-5 second jump huh? And if you want an 8-10 meter jump then there’s always Brother Island which has a view deck that you can hike from shore and get to jump on the rocks below the view deck. It’s where I had my unfortunate accident, all for the love of cliff jumping (and again that’s another story to tell.. .).
Pinagbuyutan cliff jumping, notice the house of sticks on the left?
Ryan, one of the craziest guest we had wanted to do a back flip but it was too dangerous with all the rocks below, so he settled for this jump instead.
Aside from chatting with guests or clowning around the boat, a really fun part about the trip (and this happens a lot) is when the crew starts to show off their singing when there’s nothing left to do on the boat or while it’s cruising to the next destination. Hand them a guitar and they’re good to go, plus some of them can really carry a tune like Mak whom we tease as a ‘ladyboy’ because he’ so good at acting as one!
Redjie, Wasuy, Mak and Chance
An international doll collection they say with two Filipino hunks – Den2x and Captain Bogart plus a Filipina beauty of course, ahem! ;-)
I have too many favorite spots in the El Nido area of the expedition including our Tapiotan camp which I failed to take a photo from the inside because it’s like enclosed (almost) by these rock formations and only small boats can get inside but are not allowed because it’s our private camp (it was bought by Eddie a year ago or two). There’s also Daracuton where Tao built a school as one of their social welfare projects, it’s also a great snorkeling spot especially the wreck from the 2nd World War which is not far from shore.. .
photo from the inside of Tapiotan camp
climbing up and down the rocks in Daracuton – destination nowhere!
Diapila is also one of my early favorites, it’s a small town which consists mainly of families from Bantayan, Cebu and imagine my delight when I got to speak my local dialect again (Cebuano/Bisaya) when we get to roam around the town and interact with the locals. The beach there is like Boracay, white sand stretches far enough beneath the very clear waters but without the flocking tourists of course.
the beautiful seaside town of Diapila
I know that El Nido has flocks and flocks of tourist who come and go, let’s just all hope that it won’t be turned into a circus soon and that they’ll still be able to keep that small town charm. And with that I’ll probably end part one of the trip here, will be writing the Coron adventure real soon!
Peace, Love & some RakEnRoll,