A tour in the Honda Bay of Palawan

The Philippines are the epitome of dream beaches. However, if you land in Puerto Princesa on Palawan, you won’t see too much of them at first. Good that there are boat tours to explore the surrounding islands.

Puerto Princesa was the first stop of our Philippines trip. In total, we stayed four days in the capital of Palawan Island in January 2020.

Tour booking

We booked the tour uncomplicated through our hotel. A look in one or the other tour office did not bring any other prices to light. The tour cost 1400 Philippine pesos, which in our case was about 25€.

Collection and journey

The pickup at our hotel was arranged for 7:30 a.m. and the bus also appeared halfway on time. Then we drove however still another felt eternity in the area around, to collect other tourists in their hotels in their hotels. The ride itself would have taken maybe 30 minutes, but by the time we reached the reached the port, however, almost two hours had passed.

Shortly before we reached the harbor, there was the opportunity to get swim shoes and snorkel equipment to borrow. We had both with us ourselves. If you didn’t have it, we would recommend both. The cost was in each case on about 3€.

At the kiosk also got our guide for the day, a Philippina with a renitent demeanor but a cordial, manner.

Then we stopped at the port. We had to wait until the tax Was paid and our boat came. At the harbor there were numerous mobile traders around. These were actually a bit annoying in the long run. In addition, a Sum of 150 pesos per person for the environmental tax collected.

At just before 10:00, our boat, a kind of canoe with Outriggers on the right and left, finally took off. The engine of the boat is incredibly loud and puts the boat in oscillations, which bring my jaw to vibrate bring, as I knew it actually only from the dentist.

Our group consisted of 8 people.

Stop 1: Cowrie Island

The first stop is Cowrie Island. The ride there took just under 20 minutes. The island consists of a densely forested part and a Sand Spit where only a few trees grow.

When going ashore you need water shoes or Flipflops in shallow water, as there are angular rocks here.

The beach is very nice white. There are a few kiosks on the island. Here you can get henna tattoos, eat something or drink a cold coconut. After we have made a small Beach walk, we decide to have a coconut. It is excellent. After half an hour stay, we are already moving on.

Stop 2: Snorkeling at Starfish Island

Our second stop is an island where we can snorkel can. Supposedly there are many starfish here. We get no Briefings, as one should actually expect:

  • If a starfish leaves the water it is instantly dead, as its lungs instantly explode without the water pressure. Even if you put him back in the water immediately, he dies miserably.
  • When you step on corals, they break off. When one tramples in a coral reef dies it.

These warnings (which we didn’t get) in advance, you probably already know you probably already what awaits us on the island.

In the front area there is some infrastructure: Changing rooms, toilets, benches and a kiosk.

There are two places where you can get into the water. The first one is the tourist one so far. We don’t need to go in there at all, explains our guide. It is for non-swimmers, we are told. We are sent sent to the back part of the island. Our guide does not come along, how well we can swim doesn’t matter, what we are doing in the reef also.

A reef is namely what we find after a few meters. find. On the beach are numerous starfish but already in the shallow Water begin the first corals. They are still in quite good condition. A miracle, considering that here the tourists are driven in.

The other tourists from our group I point out friendly point out that they should please not get starfish out of the water. should. None of them knew it was deadly to the animals.  There was a certain swell that made it difficult not to be washed against the reef by the waves. In addition the other tourists do not know how to snorkel. Instead of lying flat in the water and use the buoyancy, they kick their legs around in the reef.

The only thing that comforts me is that the reef slopes downward after a A few meters downward slopes. No one dares to go into deeper water and I don’t see anyone diving either. So there is a natural protection zone that begins there begins, where the legs of the tourists end.

It doesn’t keep me in the water long. It is beautiful, but I also have the impression that I have no business in this reef. Let the other tourists destroy it, I can’t stop them. But I don’t want not to take part in it.

Out of interest, I also go to the Snorkeling spot for the non-swimmers. Here there is not a single Starfish more. The seabed has been leveled by thousands of feet. Tourists stomp over the remains of dead coral, which cover the bottom as fragments.  

First, behind a cover that marks the area in which which one can stand, I see some corals in the deeper water. Despite this, there are there are also in the dead area strikingly many fish, which presumably come from the deeper areas of the reef and the back parts here.  Here they are fed by tourists with bread. fed, which numerous species gladly accept.

As we drive on, a Dutch tourist tells me, that just some tourists had fetched starfish from the water, while the guides had taken photos of them. So she pointed out to the guides that they were killing the starfish, she was laughed at  – and even worse, one guide had pulled a starfish out of the water to hold it under her nose.

Why there are licensed guides and an environmental tax is absolutely beyond us.

Stop 3: Eating and sunbathing on Luli Island

Accordingly, our mood is depressed at the last stop of the tour, Luli Island. Luli Island is quite small and consists mainly of sand. Part of the island consists of a small trough that fills up at high tide.

In a small restaurant there is buffet lunch. There is quite a crowd at the buffet and the bowls look kind of ransacked look. I’m actually used to a lot by now, but the sight of of dozens of people rummaging in the bowls I find unappetizing. In addition, the food is not labeled. Whether some of it is vegetarian, I can not say with the best will in the world. I pass and make do with a drinking coconut. The people at our table are poking around listlessly in their food, so I don’t Food around, therefore, I suppose, I have not missed much.

We have a total of two hours stay on the island. Time enough to lie down on the beach and take some pictures. Someone has colorful flags stuck into the beach. These are very well suited as photo motif.

There would also be a bar, for those who want to have a cocktail on the Beach to drink.

In a small cordoned off area you could also go into the Water. On the rest of the beach there is too much current and swimming is prohibited.

The return trip

At 14:00 we set off from the island and drive back to the port. There we still get our receipt for the environmental tax, for which we have asked – If we still want to make a second tour, it becomes she otherwise again due.

Then we drive back to the hotel. On the way back we stop again at the snorkel rental, so that the other tourists can return their equipment. can return their equipment. Then we rattle off every single damn hotel from this morning in reverse order again to drop people off. We’re the last ones.

Our conclusion

I think the text already says a lot about how we found the tour. The driving times were almost endless and of environmental protection nobody has heard anything here. The beaches were beautiful. The reef was partly also still very beautiful – which is for us however rather even a minus point – As a day tourist we should never have the chance to march into a largely intact reef. Reef to march in. Therefore we would not recommend the tour.

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