01.05.2008 - 08.05.2008 30 °C
After finishing at Stairway, we headed for Manila again. I had booked a room via email at Friendly’s Guesthouse, but it turned out that the booking had been overlooked or forgotten, and at first they claimed to have no rooms. In the end, it sorted itself out though, as other people checked out of the hotel. We had a bunch of practical things to sort out, so we ran back and forth in the city, in order to get it all done. Not as easy as it sounds, because Manila traffic always slows things down. Anyway, in the end we did get our visas renewed, picked up Alan’s dive computer, bought me a new BCD, and booked a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan.
Puerto Princesa is the capital of the province of Palawan, which is one of the more remote areas of the Philippines. The island lies off in the westernmost part of the country, sort of floating off by itself – heading for Borneo you could say. Perhaps due to this geographical position, the island is still remote, covered in jungle, and hard to traverse. It is off many travellers radar – although a growing number of tourists come here for the nature, the diving and the superb beaches. Puerto Princesa itself, as a city, is more relaxed than Manila, and feels more like a small town (well, it is a lot smaller I suppose – it has arpund 160.000 inhabitants, against Manila’s over 14 million). Most of the streets have no sidewalks, and are tree lined. Tricycles ply the streets up and down, all day long. The city has more small shops, rather than the large malls of Manila. Little barbers, roast chicken and lechon stalls line the streets. Not exactly pretty, but a lot more charming in my opinion.
We stayed at a hotel called Moanas, because they had a dive shop on the premises. Needed to do a couple of refresher dives, and test out my new BCD, before heading off for Tubbataha. We did two dives right here in Puerto Princesa bay, and unfortunately they were far from impressive. The first dive had a bit of a current – and the whole group got separated. The divemaster was unable to keep track of anyone, and on top of it all, there was hardly anything to see! Second dive was nicer, in a shallower spot, called Silica I think, with no current at all. The sea floor was covered in soft and hard coral in pretty good condition. However, it was covered in brown silt, and the visibility was very low, which took away from the experience.
Also, the reef would have to be lucky to last much longer, as the boat we were diving from dropped their anchor right into the reef, crushing coral as the boat pulled on the line. Not great style I must say!
On the 8th of May, we were picked up at Moana Hotel for a trip on a liveaboard to Tubbataha Reef.