I wasn’t really a travel enthusiast. As a child, I travelled with my family to different parts of India, such as Andamans and Kerala in the south, Kullu Manali, Chandigarh, Amritsar in the North, Gangtok in the north east to name a few.
During my professional stint, being in hotel regional sales, I had the opportunity to travel to many other places within India. When I was working with Marriott hotels, the hotel arranged an incentive trip for high performers and because of that I did my first International trip to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
When I arrived in Manila last year in September, I made up my mind that I would make the most out of the short breaks in this MBA and travel in and around Philippines. The first break we got was during the All Saints Day weekend. We had 4 days off.
Since my visa extension was still due, I had to look for a destination within Philippines. There was a lot of hype about Palawan, Boracay, and Cebu. I picked Palawan. It was my first solo trip in an international country. Luckily, one of my classmates, Darilyn was from there. She made all the necessary arrangements for me and even gave me with an itinerary.
I arrived at Puerto Princesa airport around 8am. It is best to arrive before 9am so that you can cover one spot in Puerto Princesa. A van was already waiting for me to take me to the Underground River Tour. It was a group tour so the car went picking up 9 other passengers on the way. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is said to be the longest navigable underground river in the world, with a total length of 8.2 kilometres. This breath-taking tour takes you on a journey of 1.5 kilometres into the cave while on a boat.
I reached the Sabang wharf at around 11am. While waiting for our ride to get us there, they took us to a restaurant for a Filipino buffet lunch. By then, it was almost our turn to go. We got into a motorized boat to go to the other side of the island. Once we reached there, we were then taken by small boats inside the cave. We were given audio sets describing the different formations inside the cave which was also flashed by torch by the boatman.
Tour price: PHP 1840 per person inclusive of lunch
After the tour, we were got back to Sabang wharf. We had some nice fruit juices and then got into the car to head to El Nido which was another 7 hours’ drive.
I reached El Nido at 10pm. It was pouring so heavily that I decided to just eat a sandwich and hit the bed.
El Nido is known for its day packages – Tour A and Tour C. The first day, I was scheduled to do Tour A. I left the hotel around 9am. A short walk to the beach from the hotel, I got into the boat and was ready to explore the blue waters. I went island hopping to explore the hidden wonders of Bacuit Bay – Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando beach. We were about 12 people in the boat. The brave ones jumped into the water wherever they could to snorkel and admire the corals and fishes. I wasn’t too confident of swimming in the sea but the Kuya in the boat helped me go around with a float. At noon, we stopped on an island for lunch. The crew prepared a delicious lunch for us. We were back in the evening around 4pm.
Some good restaurants to try for dinner are Altrove, Art Café, Squidos to name a few. I tried Art Cafe that evening for some continental food.
Tour price: PHP 1200 per person inclusive of lunch
Today, I was scheduled to do Tour C. I again left the hotel around 9am. This time I was in the boat with some new people. The itinerary for island hopping included a visit to Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine, and Star Beach to discover the amazing rock formations and hidden beaches that have given inspiration to Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach” which was written while the author was in El Nido and has been made into a major motion picture starring Leonardo Di Caprio. The lunch set up was similar to the previous day. I headed back to the hotel around 4pm and had to leave back for Puerto Princessa the same evening.
Tour Price: PHP 1400 per person inclusive of lunch
The hotel dropped me to the car terminal. I reached my hostel in Puerto Princessa by midnight.
It was my last day in Palawan and I was already missing the serene blue waters of El Nido. I packed everything and was ready to leave for Honda Bay Island Tour which was along the fascinating coastline of the capital of Palawan. Its blue cool waters were scattered with islands. It was a one of kind experience. I visited three stunning islands – Pandan Island, Starfish Island, and Pambato Reef. There were a lot of water activities such as snorkelling and fish feeding. I was dropped back to the hotel around 5pm.
Tour price: PHP 1340 per person inclusive of lunch
I freshened up and got into a tricycle to get back to the Puerto Princessa airport. Shortly after, I was back in reality that is AIM.
If you have more days, you can add 2 more days in Coron. There is a boat that can take you to Coron. You can fly back from Coron to Manila. Separate article on adventures in Coron to follow.
Aratrika “Ari” Samanta is a student from Master in Business Administration 2017. She is also the Secretary at the Student Association.