Island hopping in the Philippines is one of the main attractions in this country of 7,107 islands. In fact the Philippine island of Palawan has been voted as the best island in the world. I have done many island hopping tours in various parts of Palawan, including around El Nido, Coron, Honda Bay and Port Barton, as well as other parts of the country such as Panglao, Puerto Gallera and Boracay.
Whether your interest is diving, snorkelling, swimming, coral reefs, sea turtles, sun tanning on beautiful white sand beaches or all of the above, you’re bound to have a memorable time. The beauty of some of these tropical islands has to be seen to be believed.
Here are some tips that will help you make the most of your vacation.
1. In general, tour companies offer much the same inclusions for much the same price. Depending on the place, you can usually choose from Tours A, B, C or D, so if you have more than one day available, you can do a different tour each day over 4 days. You might also have the option of a tour that combines several tours into one (with less time spent at each place). These tours are typically referred to as ‘Combination tours’. Tours are usually a full day with visits to 4 or more islands and a fresh BBQ lunch of fish, chicken, rice, salads and fruit included.
Check whether there are any extra charges such as entry fees to islands or for hire of snorkelling gear. Prices vary depending on the location, but as a rough guide it could be somewhere around P700 to P1500, which is not a bad deal really. That is of course for joining a boat with maybe 10 others. If you prefer, you can organise a private boat for you and your partner/group at higher cost. This way you can choose how long you want to stay at each location.
2. If possible ask to see the bangka (Filipino style outrigger boat). Does it look sea worthy? It’s the norm for boats to have a passenger manifest and safety vests which the coast guard will check before the boat leaves port. Often the boats are noisy, without mufflers, so you might want to choose a seat away from the engine.
3. Ask lots of questions. As in other countries, tighter safety regulations are usually initiated only after a death or tragedy.
- Are the boatmen trained in first aid?
- Are there stone fish, sea snakes or other dangerous sea creatures at the places to be visited?
- Does the town have a hospital? If not how far is it to the nearest one?
- Is the weather likely to turn nasty?
4. Take a little extra cash in case you want to buy a cold drink or fresh coconut or souvenir from the locals on the islands. The boatmen are usually very good and worthy of a tip too.
5. Take a hat, swimming gear, a towel, sun screen, water and your camera.
This post was contributed by Allan L — a retired Australian living in Sydney. Allan first went to the Philippines in 1980 and has been back many times since, travelling extensively, mainly through the Visayas and Mindanao regions. In the last 6 years he has been 10 times, usually staying at least one month at a time with his longest visit being 3 and a half months. Apart from knowing his way around the country well, he is also very familiar with Filipino customs and culture.
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