Philippines – El Nido to Puerto Princessa

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006
  July has been a fabulous month, where we have seen many wonderful sights. A game reserve, snorkelling with turtles, a tour round a pearl farm, and an 8 km underground river have all been part of the experience, plus a fantastic couple of weeks in Puerto Princessa where John and Cissy Leader who run the Yacht Club have made us wonderfully welcome.  

After El Nido we headed north to the Calamaian Islands. Hesitantly, we stopped one night in the NW Bay of Linipacan Island – the island in whose South Bay we had run aground. We carefully went in in good light and dropped anchor near the village as per the cruising guide instructions. Jon was nervous – not good as he tends to have a 6th sense about these things – and went out in the dinghy armed with a plumbline. Right in our swinging circle he found the depth went sharply from 13m to 3m – time to move! So we started to pull up the anchor, but after a few meters the windlass strained hard and the chain stopped coming – the anchor was stuck fast. Linipacan Island is really jinxed for us! To our relief, a banca came out from the village and asked if we needed a diver. This was a sight to be seen – the diver simply had a mask, a couple of oversize table tennis bats for fins strapped to his feet, and stuck a tube in his mouth (through which compressed air was supplied by the boat above) and down he went. After being released from the offending rock the banca driver guided us out to the midddle of the bay to 30m of water and suggested we drop anchor there. Fortunately we carry 90m of chain though until this time had never had to drop it all, but we obediently did, and spent a calm night in deep water! Needless to say we ‘saw our diver and banca driver right’ with a suitable number of very well spent Pesos. However, we really do hate Linipacan and won’t be back there in a hurry!
Next major stop – Caluit Game Reserve. Zebra, giraffe and deer were imported in the 1970s and are now thriving on the island. The lack of predators and the human assistance of sick animals means the animals are not at all scared and even quite friendly, so we fed the giraffes by hand! What a wonderful, if surreal, experience, in a beautiful place, combined with a superb tour around with a knowledgeable guide.    
Further north we picked up a mooring buoy at a resort – Club Paradise – and the kids enjoyed swimming in a pool and watching hundreds of extremly large bats as darkness fell. The highlight here was a snorkel on the house reef – in the space of 1 hour we glimpsed a stingray, swam down and touched turtles, saw a giant clam (over 1m long!) and hundreds of fish, including one huge shoal that seemed to swim past us forever – a real life screen saver..  
A typhoon to the east of the Philippines spent the next week sucking up the south west monsoon leaving us in pouring rain and stormy squalls, so we stayed on Sangat Island Resort’s mooring buoy, near Coron, for just over a week and did day trips using the resort boats. One of the most interesting of these was the town of Port Culion, on nearby Culion Island. In 1906, under American rule in the Philippines, a law was passed for compulsory segregation of lepers in an attempt to eliminate leprosy. Port Culion was declared a leper colony and by the 1930s was home to about 6000 lepers. Doctors and researchers at the colony contributed significantly to the global understanding of leprosy, for which various treatments were found, but not a complete cure until 1986. It was 1998 before Port Culion was considered to have emilinated the problem. Until then we had thought leprosy was a problem only in biblical times!  
Around Sangat during WWII Japanese war ships were hiding ready to support an attack. These were bombed and all sunk in a raid by American bombers, and now the 10 or so wrecks make great dive sites as many are not too deep. We dived (without kids!) one in 22m of water – interesting, and good to see they make fabulous growing grounds for coral nowadays too!  
  Further south, at Butacan Island , we stopped at another resort (Flower Island) and from there did a trip round a pearl farm. We were shown the hatchery, how the young oysters are grown to 2 years old, how the nuclei are inserted for the oyster to cover with the lustre, and how the oysters are hung in nets in the water and cleaned to allow them to absorb maximum nutrients – all a fascinating experience.  
  After various difficult anchorages and mooring buoys (this is a tricky coast with lots of shallow water to avoid, and anchorages in 30m of water next to sharply shelving reef) we decided to do an overnighter all the way to Puerto Princessa, where we were delighted to be welcomed to Abanico Yacht Club by John and Cissy Leader who have set up a wonderful club in the last few years. Cissy is busy teaching people to dinghy sail, and has a number of Optomist dinghies plus a 420, a Phase 2, a couple of Sunfish, etc. On Saturdays and Sundays kids come along to sail and the parents to watch. They also serve a fabulous Sunday buffet. After initially being a bit clingy Nicola insisted in taking an Oppy out herself, and when tracked closely in Zippy (our dinghy) told us to go away! Alex also went out with some of the local girls with whom she had made friends. This was despite Alex being capsized in a Phase 2 (by Sandra) when the wind built up to 30 knots the previous week!  
A great trip from Puerto Princessa together with John and Denise, some other yachties, was 2 days to Sabang to see an 8.2km long underground river – quite spectacular.        
    All in all a wonderful month, which despite the weather (south west monsoon and definitely off-season for yachties) has been full of new experiences and adventures. Next stop Malaysia – Kudat on the north tip of Borneo should be our first destination. Oh, and finally, after wearing her hair in a ponytail for 3 months, Sandra took the plunge and had it all chopped off, really short. Check out the photos section for the mug shot and other photos if you are interested!        

4 Responses to “Philippines – El Nido to Puerto Princessa”

Great to hear all your comings and goings, We look forward to your next instalment

Grant, Lee, Keegan and Luke

Said by: Grant Miskimmin on August 23rd, 2006

This is splendid hearing about your journey in detail and knowing what you all are doing. We have jotted down the main islands and ports so that we can look them up. If you have time maybe you can send us a map on the blog. Do you think it might be a good school excercise? It would be a good chance of our seeing how clever are our young scholars. We would love that.

Keep up these most interesting travels and please don’t forget we are all agog for further novels.

Said by: Mum and Dad on August 27th, 2006

Sigh!!! I must say that I am very jealous. It looks like the most fabulous adventure and the pictures and stories are amazing. Please keep sharing the stories as it helps make time pass much more quickly here in London.

Keep up the great updates and stay safe!

Said by: James & Clare on September 5th, 2006

Sandra, Jon,

Great to be able to track your progress. We are very jealous (sure beats London comuting). Linz and Peter send their love,


Said by: Paul and Shan on September 13th, 2006