I was staying in Port Barton for 6 nights. One of the main things to do is Island Hopping.
I had already done Island Hopping in Honda Bay whilst in Puerto Princesa. The Honda Bay trip cost PHP1200 PLUS PHP150 for Mask & Snorkel PLUS PHP150 for Watershoes PLUS PHP150 for Fins. A total of PHP1650 with less than 5 hours on the water.
It was time to try out another one in Port Barton and compare.
BOOKING THE TRIP:
There are people advertising trips everywhere in Port Barton. There are, usually, 4 trips to choose from: A, B, C, or D. Each visits 4 different main sites which have their own ‘flavour’. Some include short waterfall treks, some don’t. Each trip should cost a standard PHP700. They cannot go below PHP700 – the price is controlled by the Harbour Master.
It is, also, possible to negotiate your own variant of these for the same PHP700 price.
For this price, you always get lunch included but some charge PHP100 extra for the Mask & Snorkel. All charge PHP100 extra for Fins. Some want extra for ‘Island Landing Fees’. Some provide free drinking water…
I walked along the beach; there are several places to choose from – some have tables on the beach. The ones one the beach are usually manned by the actual boat captains… so, you can negotiate directly.
As I entered the beach one man offered me a trip for PHP900. I declined.
I approached the first beach stall. He wanted PHP700 but an extra PHP100 for the Mask & Snorkel and extra for ‘Landing Fees’. I said that I would think about it and moved on.
The first person who was ‘honest’ with me was Joy who has a stall at the front of the Ausan Resort. His price was ‘all inclusive’ but he could not include Fins. I said that I might return.
Further along the beach near Elsa’s Resort, I negotiated an ‘all inclusive’ trip for PHP700 including Fins with the ladies at a massage booth.
However, I liked Joy and he was the first to give me the right price – so I went back to him to see if he could match the PHP700 including Fins. He could not include Fins. I booked Trip A with him anyway… there has to be some benefit to locals who are honest with you from the start.
MEET AT THE BOAT:
We were to meet outside the Ausan at 9:00am the next day.
A couple of young girls who were on our trip didn’t arrive until 9:15.
It was now that we found out that we had to go to the Harbour Master and pay PHP50 extra for a Marine Sanctuary Permit. This Permit is mandatory and a standard EXTRA for all trips.
The Harbour Master Office was only 30 metres away. We got our Permit (which lasts for 1 week), paid our PHP700 for the trip (in front of the Harbour Master), and headed for our boat.
It was now that I was switched to another boat… this boat was going on a ‘customised’ trip which added a 3rd Snorkelling Reef, Paradise Island, and Star Fish Bay.
THE ISLAND HOPPING TRIP:
Our Captain was Dong and his deck hand was Oscar.
We were on a traditional boat that took a maximum of 8 people (the maximum is painted on the side of each boat). Lifejackets were provided on the back of each seat.
There were only 4 passengers on our trip.
It took 25 minutes to get to our first snorkelling site: Aquarium Reef.
The water here is shallow and you snorkel only 1 metre above the reef.
We each found a mask that fitted. The other 3 jumped in.
As I went to enter the water, Dong came up to me with some Fins… ‘Here’, he said, ‘Joy said that you could borrow these’. What a nice thing for him to do!
The sunlight shimmered over the corals. The coral was (mostly) live.
As always, most of the coral is brown and grey but there are patches of yellow, green, purple, and white.
We snorkelled for about 25 minutes (which was enough time to see most of the reef) and made our way back to the boat.
We were back in the boat and off to our next site: Fantastic Reef.
We arrived at about 10:45am.
And, again, the coral was (mostly) live and shimmered in the sunlight. There was one area that had been destroyed by boats anchoring.
Otherwise, this was the best snorkelling site of the day.
Browns and greys dominated but you had big clusters of white, green, and purple.
I don’t recall the name of the 3rd reef. I didn’t need to.
Most of the reef was dead but it was OK on the far side.
Here, I found Nemo.
He was hiding in the tentacles of some coral. I was centimeters away from him… so, there’s no need for a sequel!
Well, it was the island next to Exotic Island – because Exotic already had 4 boats moored.
Our island was a small jewel in the sea.
There was more than enough food for the 4 of us: BBQ’d Chicken, Pork (fatty and chewy), and Tuna with cucumber, onion, & tomato salad and rice. There was also a selection of fruits.
The crews shared our left-overs.
There was some last minute excitement when we spotted a Sea Cow swimming in the water channel just 15 meters away.
This island was even nicer than Exotic Island.
Again, you could swim out to some corals, but they weren’t any good.
It is called German Island because it was run by a German for 20 years. It is now run by a Filipino.
However, it is best to avoid weekends as this is where a lot of locals come to while-away some time and get drunk on rum all day.
It had a beautiful ‘finger’ of a beach lined with palm trees and hammocks.
German Island is where people stay overnight (see ‘Conclusion’, below).
Whilst we were there, some locals put up a tent for those staying the night. No mattresses though, I’m afraid…
You either sleep in the hammocks or on the floor of the tent.
The Port Barton Island Hopping Trip is twice as good as the one in Honda Bay at half the price… and, you get more time out on the water… we left at 9:25am and were landing back on Port Barton Beach at 4:30pm.
It is a very pleasant way to spend a day.
The more adventurous GRANDPAckers would also enjoy the 2 Day / 1 Night trip.
This costs PHP1500 (plus PHP50 for the Permit).
You spend a day (just like ours) getting to German Island, but you stay there for the night, and have a similar (but different route) day trip on the way home.
The locals come back in the evening to cook dinner (included in the price) and you enjoy the evening with other travellers to sunset, a bonfire on the beach, and fluorescent plankton.
I would suggest that you are best to bring your own Silk Hammocks or a blow-up mattress to sleep on; us GRANDPAckers aren’t used to ‘roughing it’ anymore. 🙂