Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Coron, Palawan 2010

Most of my friends are travel bugs and diving fiends like myself. We planned a live-aboard dive safari trip to Tubbataha – a diving Mecca located in the Philippines (between Mindoro Island, Sulu Sea and Palawan Island), that failed. Our boat’s engine broke down and amidst the drama and frustration that ran amok amongst the group, none were willing to give up their precious holiday  easily. And so we went to the next best destination, Coron!

 We were so excited to finally be going somewhere but we remained skeptical. We started thinking we were jinxed. When the airport microphone started crackling -  a prelude to an airport announcement, you could see most of the passengers hold their breath, hoping for good news. Everyone was wary but still hopeful. Upon the announcement that the flights to Busuanga would proceed (albeit delayed) due to a bushfire, everyone screamed and cheered. You could see the excitement of everyone to finally be boarding the plane. And there we went, skipping along to our own tunes, hooting and happily hopping to the airport tarmac where our plane was waiting. We were collectively thinking...Yes! The curse has been lifted. Now we are finally going on an adventure!

But getting there would prove to be a challenge that would rival Odysseus' struggle to get home to Ethica. In our case, it was one travel disaster after another. First, we were lied to and repeatedly misled by the Expedition Fleet boat manager regarding our sailing trip to Tubbataha, then we were kicked out of the boat due to technical problems, then we had to haggle like fishmongers with Expedition Fleet’s owner Mr. Wee to get our refunds. Then there was the stress of having to book a flight to the next best destination (Coron) for a dozen people, rushing to make it to repeatedly canceled and delayed flights in addition
to Busuanga airport having a bushfire and a few other human stress factors (no names mentioned), and finally a plane that nearly crashed upon landing. Overall it was a huge sigh of relief once we landed SAFELY in Busuanga Airport.
  After going through a roller coaster ride at an amazing race speed, we were finally rewarded by 5 blissful days of perfect weather and amazing diving.Yes! The curse has indeed been lifted. Hallelujah!

 The group sought out a place to stay while I sat and waited for them to reach the dive shop. We were going to have lunch and take the first boat going out to get in 2 dives before sunset. We weren't going to waste any more time. Too much time has already been wasted. After lunch, we unpacked our gears, arranged our dive transport and off we went. 

Our first destination was Barracuda Lake. It's a thermocline dive site. There are only a few thermocline destinations in the world. Getting to Barracuda Lake took a quick hike over very jagged and narrow natural granite cliffs. It was very difficult carrying all your diving gears over those craggy crevices. You could fall to your death if you're not careful. Thank goodness for the porters who could carry them with ease for only P150 pesos ($1.80US). Photographs can't do justice to how breathtakingly beautiful the lake was.

The surface was fresh but it had a hint of salt. It was cool and keeping afloat without the aid of your inflated BCD was quite challenging. But once you descend to 15 feet, the temperature drastically changes to 28 degrees Celsius. The visibility gets fuzzy, literally. It looked like you're diving without contacts on. Everything is a blur. After descending several more feet, the visibility clears up. And what you see as Granite mountains in the surface, can also be seen underwater. It was a spectacular display of natural architecture.
 It kinda reminded of the original Little Mermaid cartoon (not the Disney cartoon but the one where the heroin died of heartbreak) and how it resembled the craggy cliffs that were the Mer peoples home. And so... as I swam through these underwater wonders, reliving a childhood fantasy and pretended I was a mermaid. I even started swimming like one, thankfully no one noticed. There weren't much else to see. There were very few underwater creatures due to the thermocline climate. There were shrimps, some tiny transparent fish, mussels and some really small catfish.

No comments: