Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where to Stay in Perhentian Island: Coral View Island Resort


We stayed in Perhentian Besar's Coral View Island Resort. It is located at the north end of Besar's main beach. It is just a 5-minute walk to the popular Perhentian Island Resort which has the nicest white sand beach among all the resorts.

From afar, you can see the thick forest at the back of the resort. I love that jungle and tropical feel at the same time.


approaching  Coral View


It was low-tide when we arrived. Not only that, it is very rocky. Now I know why it is called "Coral View" :) The speed boat couldn't get any more closer to the shore. A small boat approached us and took us to the resort. We asked how much we should pay but the lady said "No, it's for free." Apparently, the resort has a free-pick up service. I've read somewhere that in Kecil, you have to pay for it. So staying in Besar has perks. ;)


resort exterior/front desk


The resort has a very quiet and laid-back atmosphere, very conducive to total relaxation. I liked it instantly. I'm not the beach party animal type.



family deluxe hill view


Checking-in was fast. Considering that it was peak-season and they were entertaining so many guests at the same time. The front desk staff were all nice and helpful.



huge bed


We were actually surprised to be given a big room. It is a Family Suite, located not too far from the reception and the beach.



a few amenities


Every room has a mini-fridge. It is also complete with other necessities such as towels, toilet papers and toiletries.


storage for your stuff


The room is clean. Carpets and rags are a bit worn out but still okay. The lighting is perfect for resting and sleeping.


Deluxe Garden View rooms


They have 10 room types to choose from. Rates varies of course, depending on its view or location.



perfect for nature lovers like me :)


We transferred to another room on our second night. We got a Premium Hill View room. It was smaller but I liked it better. We didn't need big beds anyway, there was just the two of us.



our second room


Everything was the same except the smaller space. But hey, it was cheaper. :)



same amenities


our mini-living room


Another thing I liked here was the view. Yes, it was located farther from the beach and higher in the hill but the view is much more nicer. Walking to and from the beach was like walking in a park.



i love it here! our private balcony on a tree! :)



Every time we walked going to and from the beach we see different animals. We had some monitor lizard, salamander and monkey sightings. It was really like staying in a jungle.


from the top


The resort also has a full-service restaurant that serves both local and Western dishes at an affordable price. Their dishes taste good I must say. Our favorite spot there was outside, right on the beach. Water taxis are also readily available at the resort, so going to the other islands is a breeze.

I highly recommend this to couples, families and even group of friends who likes peace and quiet. This is not for solo travelers because the rate will be too steep for just one person. Those who love to party will also find Besar boring. Find some place in Kecil if you're any of the two.

We had a great time in this resort. It was quite unexpected but we really had a nice time. I, in fact am thinking of coming back here when I go back to Perhentian. :)


Accommodation Information:

Coral View Island Resort
Address: Daerah Besut, Pulau Perhentian Besar 22300 Besut Terengganu, Malaysia
Contact No: +609-6974943
Website: http://www.coralviewislandresort.com/
Room Rates: From RM 140 for Premium Standard Fan to RM 550 for Executive Suite Sea View


Accommodation Rating: ♥♥♥

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sand Bar Island and Islas de Gigantes, Iloilo Travel Guide


4D3N Concepcion-Carles Sample Itinerary


This is based on our own trip itinerary (IT). From Manila (MNL), we flew to Iloilo City (ILO).


Part I: Concepcion  (Sand Bar Island)


Day 1

720am – Check in @ the airport

820am – ETD Manila

935am – ETA Iloilo

           – Ride a van/shuttle from the airport to Jaro

1000am – ETD Jaro

1230am – ETA Concepcion

             – Buy Food and Supplies/Lunch

100pm – Boat ride to Sandbar Island Beach Resort

130pm – Island Hopping Tour*

530pm – Back to resort

*Island hopping is optional on the 1st day. If you're spending another day in the island, it's best to do it on your second day. :)

Details on this entry:

http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-iloilo-sand-bar-island-experience.html



Day 2

530am – Sunrise

600am – Explore Sandbar Island

           – Breakfast

800am – ETD Sandbar

830am – ETA Concepcion

900am – Mini-Bus ride to Sara

930am – ETD Sara

1130am – ETA Estancia

             – Lunch

100pm – Board Gigantes ferry

200pm – ETD Estancia

400pm – ETA Brgy. Asluman, Gigantes Norte

**Make sure to board the ferry bound to Gigantes Norte where the Tourist Inn is located.

More details here:

http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2013/01/islas-de-gigantes-unexpected-journey.html


Day 3

630am – Breakfast

700am – Island Hopping Tour

  • Tangke Salt Water Lagoon, Gigantes Sur 
  • Cabugao Gamay Island, Gigantes Sur 
  • Antonia Beach, Gigantes Sur 
  • Uaydahon Island 
  • Bantigue Sandbar (Best during sunset) 

5:00 PM – End of tour


If you have more than a day to spend in Gigantes, here are other places of interest:

  • Balbagon Island
  • Balay ni Mayor
  • Langub Beach and Cave, Gigantes Norte
  • Spanish-colonial lighthouse (parola), Gigantes Norte
  • Pawikan Cave, Gigantes Sur 
  • Puting Baybay (Lumpatan Rock)

Island hopping and caving adventure details here:

http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-rugged-beauty-of-islas-de-gigantes.html

http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2013/02/roughing-it-out-in-gigantes-cave.html


Day 4

630am – Board ferry back to Estancia

700am – ETD Gigantes

900am – ETD Estancia

100pm – ETA Iloilo City

Late Lunch

130pm – Explore Iloilo City 

            – Pasalubong shopping

500pm – Travel back to the Airport 

530pm – Check In

725pm – ETD Iloilo City

830pm – ETA Manila

***If you no longer have anything to see or go to in Iloilo City, the nearest airport to Carles is Roxas City airport in Capiz. It is only 2 hours from Carles, unlike Iloilo which takes 4 hours. The van/shuttle terminal is just the same. If you plan to go this way, make sure to plan your departure plans well though. Airphil flies at 7:40 AM and CebuPac at 11:45 AM only.


Accommodation Information:

Concepcion:
Sand Bar Island Resort

http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2013/01/where-to-stay-in-concepcion-iloilo-sand.html

Carles:
Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn

http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2013/02/where-to-stay-in-islas-de-gigantes.html



Summary of Expenses:

Airport and Transportation:

  150.00 - Taxi to NAIA T2
  200.00 - T2 terminal fee
    50.00 - Van from ILO Airport to Jaro
      8.00 - Jeep to Tagbak Bus Terminal 
  110.00 - Bus to Concepcion
  500.00 - Boat to/from Sand Bar Island (divided by 2pax)
    30.00 - Bus to Sara
  100.00 - Bus to Estancia
    10.00 - Tric to the port
  160.00 - Ferry to and from Gigantes
    50.00 - Habal-habal in Gigantes Sur (2-way)
    50.00 - Boat Gigantes Sur to Norte
    10.00 - Tric to Terminal
  150.00 - Van to Iloilo City
    24.00 - Jeep to and from Lapaz
    16.00 - Jeep rides in Iloilo city
  150.00 - Taxi to ILO Airport (divided by 2pax)
  200.00 - ILO Terminal Fee
  150.00 - Taxi from T3 to Home
---------
2118.00 - Total Airport and Transpo Fees

Accommodation:

  400.00 - 1N in Concepcion (divided by 2pax)
  400.00 - 2N in Carles (200 per night per pax)
---------
  800.00 - Total Accommodation Fees


Tour Fees:

 600.00 - Gigantes Island Hopping Tour (divided by 2 pax)
 200.00 - Cave Spelunking Guide Fee
 100.00 - Tip
---------
 900.00 - Total Tour Costs

Food:

 600.00 - Total Food Expenses


the original La Paz Batchoy! namit gid!




Total Computation:

2118.00 - Airport and Transpo
  800.00 - Accommodation
  900.00 - Tour
  600.00 - Food
----------
4418.00 - Total Trip Expenses


****If you still have excess money after the trip, don't forget to drop by Biscocho Haus for yummy Ilonggo pasalubong treats!




 
I also brought home that delicious big burger from Perri Todds. :)

 




Note: Some rates probably went up already since this trip was back in August of 2011. Feel free to update me if you've been there recently. Thanks! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Roughing it Out in Gigantes: Cave Spelunking


Iloilo Day 3 (continued)

We only had 1 whole day in Gigantes. So after the island hopping and when the opportunity to go caving arose, we took it in a heart beat. Kuya Jingle invited us to spelunk in Lusot-Lusot Cave, a cave just within the vicinity of  the Hideaway Tourist Inn. Jump off is just walking distance from the inn.




trekking up


Soon enough, we found ourselves hiking to the cave entrance. It was an easy trek going up.


cave portal


We did not change our clothes anymore. It'll just get dirty anyway. I just reused one of my shirts.


spelunking starts here


The cave is just small or should I say narrow. Way cramped than the others I've been to. But never underestimate it, it was very challenging!


butt-technique? ;)


Yes, it was arduous. Why? Because you have to do everything by yourself. I mean, no ropes, no nothing! You have to do things just using your bare hands and other useful body parts.


whoah! i did it!


Some parts are so steep! And I never realized that not until I made it to the top. Whew!


Kuya Jingle making his way up


Being physically fit is not enough to surmount this challenge. You have to be quick-witted too. There's a lot of smart thinking involved here on how you're going to pass each obstacles.


buwis-buhay


You know, like where to place your feet, where to hold, guesstimating your leaps and steps. You have to do everything right or else, you might fall off and who knows what may happen next.


still O.K.! :)


Once you went deep into the cave, there is no turning back. Imagine going back, down those dangerous heights. I think ascending is easier and less risky than descending.


untouched


It was tiring and exciting at the same time. Doing anything that involves a little bit of danger is always thrilling. I love that feeling. :)


i made it! woot! :)


After 2 hours of climbing, crawling and whatnot - we made it to the other end of the cave. Yes!


came out of the abyss


Our guides said we were just the second group who finished this harsh activity. That was as of August of 2011. Maybe a lot more groups now had undergone and survived this.


trekking back


Our cave guide for the day was Kuya Atay (the one in orange shirt). We paid PHP 200 for this cave spelunking activity.


view from the hill top


Imagine hiking going up and down this high. The cave exit was located on a higher part of the hill so going down was actually more taxing. Plus, the trail is more difficult. More steep, with more limestone rocks with sharper edges. You have to be very careful with your steps.


watch your steps!


That was our final adventure in Gigantes. Doing this type of activity makes me feel alive more than ever. The adrenaline rush, facing your fears, doing things you think you cannot do - all of it made me ecstatic.

It was harder than that of Sagada, where there are plenty of guides watching over you, lifting you up and catching you whenever there's a part you can't get through. Here, you are almost all by yourself. Your courage and smarts will be tested. The bad-ass in Sagada Cave Connection though is that, it will take you 4 hours. Here, the time was half shorter.

If we had more time, I would have wanted to visit all the other caves in Gigantes. There's so much you can do here. If you're looking for a place where you can beach bum and explore caves at the same time, then you must consider visiting this place. I assure you, you will have a wonderful time. :)





This is Part 6 of my Iloilo travel series.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes


Iloilo Day 3

We woke up early the next day for our island hopping activity. We arranged one with Kuya Joel for PHP 1200. We only needed a small boat since there were just the two of us. Of course, breakfast first!


sweet and sour fish


We were still on a high from the seafood galore we had the other night and here we go again. :)


scrambled egg 


Kuya Joel told us not to worry about our food expenses. He promised it'll be inexpensive. You can actually request for a particular food and they will check it in the market for you if it's available.


dried fish


We had no complaints though. We liked everything they served to us. When breakfast was over, we immediately proceeded to the shore.


Our guide for the day was Kuya Jingle. He is Kuya Joel's close friend and was doing a guiding stint for him. We just grabbed our dry bag and snorkeling gears and went.


our 1st stop


Uaydahon was our first island. This was the only island we went to which has an actual signage. It also has open cottages and hammocks where you can rest.



totally rocks!


It looked a bit similar to a rocky beach in Batanes, only more scattered rocks that were irregularly shaped and jagged.


deep blue something


The beach was so rocky that we didn't try to swim nor snorkel. We just did some rock climbing. A little dangerous but fun! :)


it's the climb


While island hopping, we passed by Gigantes Sur. It reminded me of our misadventure the day before, but it felt great that we were able to travel around it on a habal-habal. The view was astonishing.


passing by Gigantes Sur


Our next stop was Antonia Beach. Oh la la!  Pristine beach, white sand, inviting waters, beautiful rock formation and snorkeling spot - ALL checked!


immaculate beach



This was where we stayed the longest. Aside from the fact that this was where we had our lunch, we swam and snorkeled for a good couple of hours here.


peculiar yet lovely


I knew from the moment I saw that rock formation that I will find myself climbing it up and sitting on it.


and there I was  ;)


It is the best spot to enjoy the breathtaking and refreshing scenery of the color-changing sea and nearby islands. I didn't care if it was hot. I loved what I was seeing and was enjoying the sea breeze.


see what I'm taking about?


When you grew tired of sight seeing, it's time to test those snorkel and goggles. The back beach houses some corals and fishes. Unfortunately, when we were there we didn't get to see that many sea creatures.


water so clear :)


Back to the front beach, we ate our lunch while appreciating this enchanting view.


dream-like panorama


There was this family of dogs in the island. People close to me knows how much of a dog-lover I am. I felt sad for them because they were so malnourished. Kuya Jingle said they were abandoned by their owners and was left behind in the island. They just live through the left over food given by the tourists and locals passing by. Still, they were happy welcoming people visiting the island. Just like the younger Pi, in the book (and movie) Life of Pi, I believe that animals have souls too. Just look into their eyes.


island dogs


The dogs followed us until we boarded the boat. I was looking at them as we went farther and farther and as they got smaller and smaller. It was heart breaking. Or maybe just for me, who loves animals (especially dogs). Emotional me.


sigh :'(


Trying to forget that sadness, I got excited for our next destination. But the bummer of them all - was us, unable to visit the supposedly highlight of all the attractions in Gigantes which is the Tangke Salt Water Lagoon. They say, this is similar to one of those that can be found in El Nido, Palawan.


the Tangke from a far


I badly wanted to see and experience it myself but it was the height of monsoon season when we visited. Our boatman and guide tried their best to get us there but the current and the waves were too strong to contend with. It was very difficult to get close to the lagoon entrance as tenacious waves continuously hit our vessel. Our safety comes first, so we backed-off. We will probably revisit Gigantes because of this. Damn.


islands waiting to be explored


So we just sailed to the next island destination on the list. Cabugao Dako (Big) and Cabugao Gamay (Small) are just next to each other. Yes, the name implies its literal translation.


Cabugao Gamay


There's nothing special in Dako, so we just went straight to Gamay. Unlike the other islands, there are people settling here.


local's goats


Again, I felt the urge to climb these rocks haha.


rockin it ;)


Rock formation here is very similar to that of Antonia Beach. There's just more vegetation here.


inviting turquoise waters


I love going to far-off places like this. You'll always have an island all to yourself. Total freedom and happiness! :)


clear sunny day


White sand strip + crystal clear waters + coconut trees = tropical paradise, right? When we're tired of rock climbing and swimming, we just sunbathed and tanned ourselves a bit more.


Our last stop for the day was the Bantigue Island Sand Bar. We went there the latest because low tide is in the afternoon and that's when we'll see it in all its glory.


gentle waves kissing the sand bar


The sand bar is immense that we were only able to walk through portions of it. I love sand bars. Every sand bar I went to had there own distinct characteristics. This is one is more laid back than the others. It's a perfect place for contemplation.


Bantigue Sand Bar


Of course, after traipsing in the sand bar we went swimming again. We didn't stay very long in the sand bar though. Kuya Jingle asked us if we want to go caving and our answer was YES. We immediately headed back to Gigantes Norte before the sun sets. Nobody wants to trek to the cave in the dark hehe.


cute-shaped islets


We had a super time hopping the islands of Gigantes. Not being able to see the Tangke was a downer, but it was alright. I think I've seen enough of its beauty to find out what make these islands mystical and yet alluring. But it wasn't over yet, our adventure continued spelunking a cave! :)




This is Part 5 of my Iloilo travel series.