Manila was the arrival point for a long awaited trip to The Philippines. The last major asian country we had not visited and somewhere we intended to spend a month. We were coming back so only spent a night near the airport for starters. Familiar stores like Seven 11 were nearby but the food was different to Japan. The following morning we were off to Cebu. The traffic in the Philippines is unbelievable and it took a while to reach our budget accommodation, but it was located in an area with a few restaurants and taxis were cheap to allow us to reach ferries for other islands quickly. We visited Olango which has a nice bird reserve and while the tides were not brilliant I managed to see some nice waders. Then we crosed to Bohol for beach time on Panglao where we did a dive refresh and some actual ones to rebuild our confidence, and a tour of Bohol to see the famous chocolate hills (they were green at this time of year….) and some tarsiers, a small mammal that lives here.

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Back in Cebu we flew to Palawan and transferred immediately to Puerta Princessa where we had a lovely hotel with a large pool and beach access. There were a few restaurants offering simple grills and a trip to the fantastic underwater river which is a large cave full of bats and swiftlets into which we took a lengthy boat trip with an interesting commentary on the fomations and the wildlife.

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Leaving Puerta Princessa we took a convoluted van/bus trip to El Nido for what turned into a nice base for snorkelling, swimming and diving. We’d come here as this was the start point for a multi-day island hop to Coron but served as a nice place in its own right. Good bars and restaurants filled the evenings and the scenery on the boat trips was stunning. We found our island hopping operator and paid our final money before meeting at the port for departure. About 20 people were on this trip and we made some great friends. 3 days to Coron, sleeping in beach huts, with stops for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, plus excellent food and unlimited drinks made for a great trip. 

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The party boat anchored up where we visited a school.

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Arriving in Coron we said our goodbyes and made our way to our accommodation. Coron is not a great place but does have restaurants and bars with some good food. We kept meeting people from our boat and ended up doing more trips as everybody got on so well. By now we were well aware of all the stories about Coronavirus and the impact on the rest of the world but it all seemed a bit remote here.

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We left Coron and flew back to Manila to undertake a northern tour of the hanging coffins and rice terraces. To cut a long story short the Philippines began to close down, our trip was ruined and cut short, and we headed back to Manila early and just managed to escape before the lockdown closed everything. Unbeknown to us the FCO changed travel advice ruling the whole world out of reach. We however had flights to Palau and that’s where we went!!

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One of the famous rice terraces in Banaue, this features on a banknote.

© Paul Hyland 2012