Maja and I were both leaving Singapore for good in a couple months and both wanted to get a couple more adventures in as a last hurrah. We tossed some ideas around and agreed to do the Tao Philippines Palawan adventure boat. Several friends had told me over the years how amazing this experience is. Tao Philippines is an adventure travel operator; their signature trip is week long island-hopping adventure from El Nido to Coron (or vice versa) on a souped-up bangka boat. My friend PL loved the trip so much that when her boat sailed into the last stop in Coron, she promptly got right back on to do the entire experience again and sailed back to El Nido. With that kind of endorsement, how could I pass up on it?
Our Philippines adventure started out rough, a foreshadow of things to come. In our haste to get in more adventures before leaving Asia, we had neglected to do proper research and hadn’t realized that July and August was rainy season in Palawan. We started with a couple nice days in Oslob swimming with the whale sharks, but our initial departing flight for El Nido was cancelled due to weather. When we finally made it to El Nido a full day later, we realised that the town was empty, half covered in giant puddles. There was even a mudslide right outside our hostel.
There’s always a lot of excitement and anticipation with group adventure tours because half the adventure is a result of the people in your group. The week long boat adventures normally have 20+ people on a boat. Not the case with ours though. Evidently most other travellers did do their research and passed on doing this during rainy season. Smart. Wish I had gotten the memo.
Despite the smaller group size and it not being the exact demographic we were expecting, it was still a good crew. We had a family from Barcelona, travelling with their three sons — one of whom was adopted from China. It was a curious experience for me, trying to communicate in English with this ethnically Chinese eight year old who did not speak a world of English (or Chinese, naturally). An Italian couple from Milano, and a Swiss couple.
The days are spent sailing on blue waters of Palawan, with lunch being served on the boat. In the afternoons, we pull up onto a remote island where the Tao group have set-up permanent campsites. A few of the islands have larger “base camps” where there are more facilities whilst other stops have just a few huts. Though there is a rough itinerary, depending on the winds and weather, the islands where the captain decides to camp at each night can vary.
The huts on the islands are two-sided constructions with a sheer curtain that you can pull to cover up the front. Each person is given a mat and a mosquito net to set-up inside the huts. I’m not a fan of camping, so this was already rustic enough. The first night we were at their larger basecamp and the weather was decent so it was actually fairly comfortable. However, the storms came in and by the second night, we were sleeping in open huts in wet stormy weather…not a lot of fun. Visibility for snorkeling and opportunities for other water adventures was also impacted. We made the most of the trip, but I think it would have been 10x better had we gone during peak season when the weather is hot and dry.
Highlights: the delicious food that the friendly crew just magically conjured up for every meal, the beautiful scenery, everyday just chilling and drifting, everyone on deck doing The Floss as we sailed into the final port.
The lowlights: being eaten alive by mosquitos, dealing with the rain storms, being cold and wishing I was in my comfortable room in Singapore. But hey, what are adventures for, right?