Thursday, 11 April 2013

Bacuit Archipelago and how we almost got two kids

The last blog post ended with us giving Janeth a ride to El Nido. Here we hung out a couple of days, mostly with Shawn from Ohlala (met in PNG and again Palau). El Nido is an big tourist mekka, and the town is probably one of the most touristy places we have visited so far. The main attraction is the Bacuit Archipelago at its footstep. Like Coron Island and Palau's rock islands, there's a lot of cool lime stone around, including some really steep cliffs, very impressive landscape. Add a heap of islands, pretty beaches and that's the archipelago. Boat trips is the thing to do. We did our own touring around in Sophia, much nicer, cheaper and more private.
Ohlala motoring along one of the steep limestone cliffs near El Nido
We saw the cathedral cave, a cavern with soaring limestone columns and yeah, cathedral like. We also checked out both big and small lagoon on Miniloc Island. It wasn't possible to anchor Sophia at any of these places, so we just took turns taking the dinghy to have a look, while the other stayed in deeper water with Sophia, it worked out just fine. Sophia must have been one of the most photographed things in the archipelago those days though, everyone that came past in tourist boats took photos of us.
The last cool thing we did in the archipelago was to snorkel in the Tapiutan Strait between two of the most outlying islands. It's no real anchorage, but we manged to anchor Sophia on the reef wall and could therefore both jump in. The water was super super clear, really nice. And there were huge schools of little fish and we were treated to an amazing show watching small (15 cm) tuna chase the little fish around, a mere few meters away from us! We always see these little fish jump out of the water in big school, being chased by something bigger, and sometimes we do see the bigger fish jump out too, but this was the first time we saw the chasing while actually in the water. Pretty neat. Of course the chain AND anchor had snagged on rock and coral, but luckily my new free diving skills meant it was no problem diving down to 22-23 meters to free both.
The only downside to the paradise that the archipelago is, are jelly fish! Especially deeper into the bays there were lots, even some really big (and nasty-looking) ones. The worst is there are sometimes box jelly fish, mostly known from Australia, sometimes they actually kill people. It can't be that big a problem though, because there is a huge amount of people around and about and many swim and snorkel, and if it was that dangerous, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be.
The last couple of days we have been on the move again down the west coast of Palawan, although so far the anchorages are close enough that we don't need to do dawn to dusk day sails, but more comfortable 4-6 hour sails. The most interesting stop was at Buayan Island. We had seen there were a few small bankas about the bay fishing, but it wasn't until maybe an hour after we dropped the anchor, that they came near us. It was women with kids out fishing for dinner. Their English wasn't very good, but we chatted a bit and I watched them successfully jigging small fish. They kept hanging around and it was clear they were super curious so we invited them onboard Sophia. Soon more people from the small settlement (only seven families live in the bay) came out and we had a full ship. The most interesting thing was our photo board, always the biggest draw for visitors (except other yachties, interestingly enough), they just love seeing photos of our family and friends.
The kids we almost adopted are on the far right, both in red/pink t-shits
Two of the kids were especially keen to stay, they told their mum they could just stay and sleep in the cockpit and quickly illustrated how comfortably they'd sleep on our cockpit squabs. Everyone slowly trickled back ashore, but the two kids, brother and sister, maybe 6-8 years old, just stayed and showed no distress whatsoever when their mum had left. In the end we actually had to help them into their banka to get them to leave, haha, and they were the first visitors back next morning 7am! More visitors quickly arrived, and soon we had four women and maybe 12 kids onboard. A big hit was also rowing around in our dinghy, much more exciting than their trimaran bankas, naturally. We asked if we could come ahore to visit their settlement and soon we were all on land. They are very poor, and the women are married very early, and have lots of kids, unfortunately, not helping Philippine's growing population and  poverty problem.
Giant me next to small Philipino women. None of the kids wore diapers, and the woman on the right has wet pants because her kids peed on her. I'm just wet from sweat!
We're now in Puerto Princessa (via jeepney from the west coast) to clear out of the country, unfortunatley we haven't had internet the last week or so and here it's pretty poor too plus we have no time, so although we have lot of nice pics to accompany the stories, there will be no photos now, I'll try and add them later. We have had fun visiting a small navy station Uluong Bay, more about that in the next post.

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