We’re in the midst of the summer season heat and the call of the sea grows even stronger. With AirAsia Filipino introducing direct flights from Manila to Bangkok, there’s another beach or island getaway to add to your summer destination – Pattaya, Thailand. Pattaya, is the second most visited city in Thailand after Bangkok and there’s a good reason why. It’s the closest beach escape from the bustling city. For a full day of tropical island fun, Pattaya Sea Adventure handled our tour (booked via KKday) which includes parachute ride, sea walk, snorkeling and beach bumming at Koh Larn Island.
Much can be said already about Sabtang Island, Batanes. It may be the the most accessible island from Batan island and host to many day trip tours, but there are still spots that remain untouched by visitors on the tourist trail. Lukoy Beach is one of those white sand beaches that people often pass by when doing a tour in Savidug and Chavayan. Often called the Secret Beach of Sabtang, the inviting white stretch can be viewed from a cliff. My native guide Mael, knew the way though. So coming from the Savidug Idjang Fortress, we rode back to the village to borrow his improvised snorkeling gear and rode towards this pristine white beach.
We could see the long strip of the white sandy shores of Alibijaban Island from the port. We arrived just in time for the sunrise after a long six-hour drive from Manila. I was in the company of my fellow officemates from the university I currently work with and we’re on an outing trip. But it seems, we won’t be alone on the island as we were expecting. The newly built port already had a few vehicles parked, probably heading to the same island. Alibijaban Island has garnered quite a popularity in the past couple of years, and I had to blame my friends, Dong Ho and Allan of Lantaw for that somehow. I had some laughs when I recount Dong Ho’s story of being mistaken as an NPA when he first set foot on the island. He had to seek comfort and security under the baranggay captain since no tourist comes to their island. Now visitors here picked up especially on weekends. What drives people on this southern region of Quezon province?
There’s an advantage and disadvantage of staying in San Vicente town proper as I have learned. Advantage is that I get to stay real close to San Vicente’s Long Beach, the longest white beach in Palawan which I have immensely enjoyed combing through. Disadvantage is that Island Hopping here is costly unlike if I stay in Port Barton. The Island hopping tours (A to D) only cost Php 700 per head for a minimum of four people in a group. But since I’m travelling alone, I would have to shell out Php 2,000 to get to Port Barton by boat. The people at tourism office said if there are any groups from here that would do the tours I could always join in but from the looks of the people coming and going through this town, chances are pretty slim. I was resigned to spend my last full day in San Vicente by the beach when Ate Flor, the owner of Ursula Long Beach Travaller’s Inn called me up while having breakfast that she’s at the tourism office and managed to get me a slot to join a group doing a Port Barton Island Hopping Tour. I immediately said yes, quickly packed my camera and gear and hopped on a motorbike to take me to the port.
It was hard to get used to the comforts of Hale Manna and explore more the beauty of the underwater world of Moalboal as in day 5 of our Oceana Philippines Photo Safari, we were on the move again. Off the coast the large white liveaboard outrigger vessel from Harold’s Dive Center in Dumaguete awaits to ferry us from Cebu, across Tañon Strait to Mantalip Reef in Bindoy, Negros Oriental. It was an impressive boat, spacious with lots of sitting and lounging areas, a well-kept mess area, restroom, and solar charging area. Ocean travel always had that soothing comfort, embraced by the breeze with boundless possibilities seen across the horizon.
The soothing comfort of Hale Manna in Moalboal may tempt us to just lounge around its garden in solitude but Tañon Strait, just over the cliffs, is calling to explore its depths. We’re on our fourth day into our Oceana Photosafari in Tañon Strait and it’s the day we get to become water creatures by being on the ocean the whole day visiting the denizens below. I was excited for this part of the trip that I made sure to bring my own snorkelling gear set. Some of our companion would be diving which I’m sure they’ll get the front seat in seeing the underwater spectacle. Some of us though would just content ourselves to explore near the surface and free dive once in a while.
An island of cows. I’ve imagined Vuhus Island to be a vast open plain where cows freely graze aimlessly in dense numbers, left alone by their owners to wander until the time they are ready to be butchered. The island, prominently seen at the western coast of Sabtang Island have always lured me from afar. It is one of the islands that welcomes travellers from the plane window while flying into Batanes. In my last visit to Sabtang Island, I finally got to step on Vuhus Island. Briefly explored its ocean channel and learned that life in a cattle ranch on the island. So the population of cows here seem to have an order too.