Water world of Coron


Water world of Coron

As our plane descended below the tangle of clouds and its destination came into view, its cabin was filled with “oohs” and “aahs” from all on board. For the view below was unlike the cityscape we’d seen during take off; this was a different part of the Philippines altogether.

The island beneath was topped with hills in various shades of magnificent green, and was surrounded by a turquoise ring of sea that gradually gave way to deeper blue. I wanted to stay in Coron forever, but had a mere three days to experience it.

They would turn out to be three adventure-crammed, activity-packed days spent enjoying the treats of nature — marvelling with awe at majestic rock formations and discovering with amazement the entire secret world that exists beneath the ocean’s surface. An enchanting little slice of the Philippines, Coron is located in the island province of Palawan. We’d been faced with the task of choosing between Coron and El Nido — also in Palawan — and ultimately chose Coron because its underwater beauty is unmatched, even by El Nido.

For the duration of our stay, home was a lodge in the quaint Coron town, which serves as a base and launching pad for those who intend to visit the bewitching coral reefs and islands scattered over Coron Bay. This was exactly what we did on the first of our three days — we signed up for a tour of Coron Island, 20 minutes away from Coron town. After a hurried but delicious roadside breakfast, we boarded a bangka (outrigger canoe) and sped off.

Aquatic views

Once on the boat, it wasn’t long before we discovered what is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Coron: the jagged, vegetation-topped limestone rock formations that form a gorgeous skyline. They loom out of the sea in clusters — like families of giants — gazing down with a kingly air at awestruck tourists in bangkas. They lend an air of mystery to the place. But the ones at Lake Kayangan belittle all the rest, as we soon had the pleasure of finding out.

Lake Kayangan, which is entirely surrounded by limestone cliffs, is only accessible by a steep climb that is worth every step. To call the place picturesque would be an understatement. Imagine swimming in clear, deep and eerily still water, pausing periodically to squint up at the limestone gods that tower breathtakingly over you.

Next on our list to discover was the Twin Lagoon — two lagoons separated by limestone rock, the inner “secret lagoon” being accessible via an opening in the rock. We found it bizarre that different temperatures existed in such close proximity below the water — the upper halves of our bodies were freezing while our legs and feet enjoyed lukewarm water.

The day had several more treats in store. A delicious picnic lunch on Banol beach. A brief snorkelling lesson, followed by a stunning underwater view of corals of all shapes, sizes and colours. And Skeleton Wreck, a sunken Japanese shipwreck from World War II that can be viewed from above by snorkellers.

It had been a whole day of adventure, but we thirsted for more. After sleeping like logs, day two saw us back on a bangka, off to visit three islands about an hour away. The first two — Malaroyroy island and Banana island — were awe-inspiring. But our last stop, the Malcapuya Island, was a whole other level of beauty with powder-fine, blinding white sand, impossibly clear waters to snorkel in and an underwater treasure trove just off the coast — full of enormous clams, corals galore and schools of fish that went by like colourful traffic.

On our third and final day, we decided we wanted a change from all the water-based activities, so we hired a motorcycle and covered about 150 km of a highway. We saw a hot spring, a nice beach, a small waterfall and miles upon miles of charming scenery. Due to a small misadventure that involved a punctured tyre, we didn’t quite get back in time for the sunset, which we’d planned to see from atop Coron’s Mt Tapyas.

We had to practically gallop up the mountain’s exhausting 700 steps, desperate to catch whatever was left of the view. Once at the top, I sank to my knees, gulping in much-needed oxygen as I looked down at heaven. The sun had set, but its orange hue lingered on the horizon — a faint glow of fire behind silhouetted limestone giants.

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