Puerto Princesa – Philippines – Honda Bay Trip


JANUARY 2016:





INTRODUCTION:

I was staying in Puerto Princesa for a week and one of the top 2 things that are recommended online is a trip to Honda Bay.

I had already gone up The Coast By Scooter, and I was planning to make my own way to Sabang for the Underground River Trip. I planned to stay 3 or 4 nights in Sabang and to organise my river trip once I got there.

Today, it was time to try out Snorkelling in Honda Bay…


BOOKING THE TRIP:

I was staying at the Casitas De Az Pension in Puerto Princesa.

I booked my ticket at their reception for PHP1340: PHP1300 for the trip and PHP40 for the “Environmental Fee”.

I was told that the fee was ‘all inclusive’, that lunch was provided, that pickup would be between 6:30am and 7:30am and that I would be back at my hotel by about 4:00pm.

Later that day, the receptionist changed the pickup time to between 6:00am and 6:15am.


PICKUP TO THE BOAT:

Pick up was on schedule at 6:15am.

It was a 16-seater van. I was the first on board.

We had a full house and had 14 others to pick up from 6 other hotels.

We were informed by the Tour Guide that we were leaving early because we had to be back early to get people to the airport for a 4pm flight.

It took 1 hour to pick everyone up before we could head for the harbour.

On the way, we were advised that we needed to rent snorkelling gear; it was not included.

The gear rental shop was 5 minutes from the harbour, we stopped and everyone got their gear. You were advised to rent water shoes because of the Sea Urchins and Stone Fish underfoot.

I rented a Mask & Snorkel (PHP150), Water Shoes (PHP150), and Fins (PHP150).

This took about 10-15 minutes and we were back in the van and parked at the harbour by 8:00.

We needed to wait in and around our van whilst our Tour Guide arranged things with the authorities. The Harbour Master determines where the boats can go each day depending on the tides and currents.

We were on our boat by 8:15am.


THE TRIP:

The boat was a traditional Philippines boat big enough to seat 18 people.

We had to wear life jackets when leaving (and, later, arriving) at the harbour.

On the way out of the harbour you pass a wreck.

Once at sea, good swimmers were allowed to take their life jackets off.

Poor swimmers were advised to keep theirs on at all times (even whilst snorkelling).

Our first ‘port of call’ was a floating raft.

We docked the boat and proceeded to our first snorkelling spot.

Yellow buoys mark out an area where you cannot swim; presumably, an area of corals that they are protecting.

We snorkelled for about 1 hour. The coral was reasonable; although predominantly grey and brown, there were patches of reds, oranges, whites, yellows and purples.

The fish were colourful, but nothing big except for a 1.5Kg Tiger Fish.

We got back on board the boat and headed for our first island; Star Fish Island.

It was a small island and we had 1 hour 15 minutes of snorkelling before lunch.

I decided to snorkel around the island.

I couldn’t quite do it in time as the south of the island went very shallow and spread out for several 100s of meters in all directions.

I waded across that part to the other side and continued snorkelling.

Sea Urchin Island would have been a better name… they were everywhere.

Again, the corals were reasonable as too were the fish.

Our lunch was served at 11:15am and consisted of fried squid, chicken, a whole Tuna fish, rice, cucumber, a vegetable dish and water melon. Coke and ice were also provided.

There is even a Resthouse there where you can stay.

We were back on the boat again by 12:45pm and heading for our second island: Cowrie island.

We were there in less than 15 minutes.

Cowrie Island was a lot more commercialised with Jet Skies and Kayaks for rent as well as Banana rides.

There was a safe, cordoned off swimming area.

There are lots of seating areas for the tourists.

There was a restaurant and bar and several other kiosks for buying soft drinks and juices.

I had a walk along the beach to check the island out and wandered through some mangroves.

I then swam out to the anchored raft to feed some fish; there, a ‘Born Again Christian’ girl tried to convert me to Christianity – no chance there!

By 2:00pm were were back and heading home.

I was back at my hotel by 3:00pm.


CONCLUSION:

There aren’t many islands in the bay and all can be gotten to within a 15-25 minutes.

In ‘Peak Season’ the beaches would be crowded with day trippers and you would, no doubt, feel very much part of a conveyor belt.

However, it is a pleasant day out but nothing spectacular. But, still worth doing for the price.