Just over three hours in the minivan, with the last hour being a very bumpy dirt track, we arrived at the small and secluded town of Port Barton. Chris and I were eager to be first off the van in order to be ahead of the crowd to look for a room for the night. We registered and paid the town fee, left our backpacks at the tourism office, and headed to the beach front to look for a room.
It wasn't long before we found a lovely bamboo hut at 'Cambugan guesthouse', right on the beach, with a private bathroom, terrace, and all for just 500 pesos a night (less than £8). We couldn't refuse. Our neighbours were a very friendly and welcoming couple; Paul, an English man, but has spent the last 40 years in Australia, and his Maltese partner, Caroline. We instantly bonded, and took their recommendation for a lunch spot. Quite a treat for us, an avocado salad, and fresh fish and chips. But it was delicious, and worth every peso.
The heavens opened, but this didn't stop us taking a wander along the beach front. Then we took the time to relax, and for me to catch up with my diary, as we sat on our terrace, on the beachfront, listening to the rain pound into the sea, and watch the blue sky begin to peep through.
As with most tropical storms, they do not tend to last long, so soon we were back out to purchase some mangoes to enjoy at the beach.
Keen to relax and watch the sun set on the beachfront, we bought a couple of beers, and finished off the roasted cashew nuts we had purchased from Coron. We were joined by two very playful and energetic puppies who were chasing each other along the beach.
Hearing about a small eatery selling cheap Filipino dishes, we walked there for our dinner. It was extremely busy, always a good sign, so we decided to stick with it. We ordered a chicken curry and pork adobo. It only took an hour and half for us to actually receive our food! We couldn't believe it. We were so close to leaving. Luckily the food was nice, but it didn't make up for the ridiculous wait.
Looking around the small shops in Port Barton, we had spied some very large and appealing avocados. Being huge avocado lovers we decided to buy a couple for breakfast, which we mushed onto some freshly baked bread, followed by a juicy mango. Having been approached by a local selling island hopping tours along the beach, we bartered with him to get a good price for a day trip. We had mentioned to Paul and Caroline that we were off on this trip, just us and one other, so there would be space for another three people, if they wanted to join us. Keen, themselves and friend Steve tagged along.
We climbed aboard a very small banca, and met Marco, from Croatia, who would be joining us for the day, but he would be spear fishing. Intrigued, Chris got asking away all about spear fishing and free diving.
Wen Wen, our captain, and Rumi, who barely spoke any English, guided us around various snorkel sites. Rumi was probably in his 50s, and although we couldn't communicate, he had the kindest face, and was so sweet.
The snorkelling was nice, not loads of fish, but plenty of colourful corals. Marco invited us to watch him partake in his spear fishing at one site. It was amazing to watch him free dive so effortlessly and lay on the sea bed. He wore a camouflaged wet suit, so you could barely see him. Later on, he returned to the surface looking gobsmacked and saying he had one hell of a story to tell us. It turned out he had shot a Giant Trevally, that was so powerful that she swam away with the spear in her, breaking the line as she went. He watched as she darted around with the spear still lodged in her side, but was unable to fm reach her before running out of breath. A little annoyed but more shocked, he gave up searching and accepted that he had a great story to tell.
We stopped off at 'German Island' for our lunch break. This very small island was absolutely stunning. Pristine white beaches, perfectly clear sea, a scattering of palm trees with woven hammocks draped in between, and a family of eight turtles swimming around just off the beach. As a group, we found a table and Wen Wen opened up the ice cold beers. He and Rumi cooked up a choice of BBQ fish, fresh cucumber, tomato, and onion salad, and rice. Very healthy and delicious. We tried a red banana for the first time, tasting a little sweeter than a yellow banana. Then of course we had to take a swim in search of the turtles. Chris and I were fortunate enough to find three large turtles. They were very happy for us to swim along side them and Chris was able to get the GoPro really close to one of them. He got some absolutely fantastic photos and video of these beautiful creatures.
From German island, it was a short ride over to 'Paradise island'. Another absolutely stunning island, with an immaculate white sandy beach. As we approached there was just one other boat on the island and the family that live there. A young couple with their 11 month old daughter have lived on the island for five years, along with chickens, cats and dogs. What a place to live. We spent about an hour soaking up our magnificent surroundings, and enjoying the peacefulness and tranquility.
Reluctantly climbing aboard our little banca, we made our way back towards the mainland, making one final stop at the 'Sand Bar'. A teeny tiny island with a bamboo shelter placed in the centre. Although when we arrived we were the only boat there, it didn't take long before another banca rocked up. But we were still just a small group of people enjoying being on this tiny island. The guides disappeared out to sea with their masks and snorkels on, arriving back to the island with handfuls of orange starfish! They didn't look real and felt like clay - but I'm sure they were real!
A little later we were back on the mainland, showered, and off out for dinner. After searching around we ended up at a restaurant along the beach front offering a set menu. It was the same price for the three courses as it was for just one dish elsewhere. The starter was crab and corn soup, which I was not a huge fan of, much to Chris' delight as he got to finish mine too. For my main I had chicken cooked in a white sauce with loads of veggies and mash potato! It was like being at home. Chris went for deep fried prawns with chips. Then for dessert we enjoyed a fresh fruit platter of pineapple, banana, and watermelon. We were well and truly stuffed.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our day trip yesterday, Wen Wen had planted the idea in our heads of another days snorkelling followed by a night camping on German Island. Seeing how beautiful and quiet the day trip was, myself and Chris jumped at the idea. We had been wanting to camp on an island since the beginning of our trip, and finally the opportunity had arose, and it wouldn't be an organised group tour. Just us, and Paul and Caroline.
With our over night bags packed, we were up ready to head off...just one slight delay...a typhoon! Don't worry though, we were lucky and Port Barton just caught the edge. So we had no choice but to sit on our veranda and wait until the storm passed.
We still managed to leave the mainland before 9.30am. With the little banca piled high with luggage and supplies, and joined by a German couple, making six of us, plus Wen Wen and Rumi, we slowly but surely set off.
With Caroline suffering badly from motion sickness, herself and Paul made a very hard decision (not!), to spend the day on German Island. So we dropped them off, and waved goodbye, as we left them alone on the exquisite German Island.
Wen Wen and Rumi took us to 'Wild Reef' for our first stop snorkelling. Despite the precarious dark clouds looming above us, we jumped into the inviting aqua blue water. We swam around for a good hour as there was so much to see, and caught sight of some squid swimming around us before we lifted ourselves back on board.
Wen Wen then took us to our next snorkelling site, which he managed to find just by looking over the edge of the boat....the water was tremendously crystal clear that he was able to locate what is known as 'Aquarium'. A very apt name for this snorkelling site. It was incredible, an extensive area full of magnificent corals in all shapes and colours, with a large variety of fish. Some of my most favourite snorkelling yet.
Having been swimming around all morning we were definitely ready for our lunch stop, which would be at 'Exotic Island'. Not quite as tranquil as German Island or Paradise Island, but I can't complain!
Wen Wen and Rumi cooked us up another delicious lunch, ensuring we had plenty of energy for our last snorkelling stop, at 'Fish sanctuary'. Hoping this name would also be very apt, we all eagerly jumped in to take a look around. A little disappointed, as we were expecting to see an abundance of fish, but no more so than the other sites. However, after an hours snorkelling we did manage to spot a Banded Sea Crate hunting through the coral and being warned off by the courageous Clown fish. Chris also feeling daring got a bit too close for my liking with the GoPro!
Pretty tired from a hard days snorkelling, we were taken back to German island, where we found Paul and Caroline chilled as a cucumber. It didn't take long before we also found a hammock to settle back in and enjoy our books. The slight downside was the island still had plenty of day trippers on the island, but as the afternoon went on, the bancas began to disperse. By late afternoon it was just us, Paul and Caroline, and one banca of six people who would be on the island for sunset and dinner. Of course, every island has its share of dogs, which their were three very well behaved dogs on German Island. When we noticed the youngest dog in particular became very needy when we started drinking from our water bottle, we realised perhaps she was thirsty. Looking around it didn't seem as though they had access to fresh water. Chris, using his initiative, picked up my mask and filled it with water, to which she gulped down around 10 mask fills! The poor thing was desperate for water.
Wen Wen and Rumi had gone back to the mainland to drop off the German couple and collect supplies for the evening. We greeted them with a warm welcome when they returned, knowing they would have some nice cold beers for us! We all stood around enjoying each others company as the sun set. Then before we knew it, Wen Wen called us over to the table for dinner.
Thanks to Caroline and Paul we had a candle lit dinner, a very satisfying glass (or two...or three!) of red wine, green olives, and even some freshly baked bread dipped in olive oil. What a treat! The red wine went down very nicely with the BBQ fish, rice, vegetables and salad that Wen Wen and Rumi had cooked for us.
Whilst we were munching away the other group set off back to the mainland, and Wen Wen and Rumi built a roaring bonfire for us to sit around. I was adamant about having marshmallows for the bonfire, and to our surprise we did actually manage to find some in Port Barton. Paul and Caroline bought along some chocolate, so we all indulged in the roasted marshmallows covered in melted chocolate. I think Wen Wen and Rumi appreciated the treat.
An evening in the Philippines is not complete without a bottle of Emperador. Wen Wen bought along a bottle, with some coke, which we devoured around the campfire. It was nice to be able to get to know Wen Wen and Rumi in a relaxed environment, when hopefully they felt they could be themselves and not tour guides. Feeling a little bit tipsy after beers, wine, and Emperador, we crawled into our tents for the night. Wen Wen and Rumi each took a hammock to sleep in.
It's not every day you get woken up by the sun rising on a desert island, and the only thing on your agenda is to go and swim with turtles. What a way to rid of a slight hangover as well.
Chris and I grabbed our masks and snorkels and headed out in search of the family of turtles. It wasn't long before we found a huge turtle munching on the sea grass. He was very happy for us to watch him graze. Swimming around, I was lucky enough to see another four turtles and Chris another six (as he was in the sea before me!). We took one by surprise, who was not keen to hang around, and darted off as quick as lightening. I didn't realise turtles could move so fast!
Feeling refreshed and content, we dried off on the beach and wolfed down an egg, cheese and salad sandwich for breakfast.
Bags packed, tents down, banca loaded up, we journeyed over to 'Bigaho Falls'. We approached a delightful bay, and Rumi guided us through the palm trees, inland, past forest land, through a small, very well kept village, and out the other side to the waterfall.
With no hesitation, we all lowered ourselves into the cool, refreshing, fresh water. It was nice to clean the salt from our skin. After some splashing around, and Chris not knowingly looking like Peter Andre in the 'Mysterious Girl' video, we dried off and walked back to find Wen Wen sleeping in his hammock on the banca.
It was about an hour or so boat journey back to the mainland, where we showed our thanks and appreciation to Wen Wen and Rumi for such an incredible experience. We rearranged our bags, grabbed an early lunch, and made our way to the minivan stop.