CORAL GARDENS AND CALUMBUYAN ISLAND SNORKEL ADVENTURE
9:00 am and we are met by a small outrigger boat and two locals who do not speak any English and will take Don and I to two snorkel spots that have been recommended by avid snorkellers and divers. The first is Coral Gardens. We head into a strong headwind for an hour. Our drivers are excellent navigators of the waves and we reach the site just off a neighbouring Island. It is a drift along a steep wall and we arrive before the tour boats from Coron. It turns out to be a beautiful snorkel area - healthy coral reef with lots of variety, dropping into the purple blue deep, lots of bigger fish hanging out by the drop-off, and the added bonus of 4 turtle sightings and the chance to swim with them again. I love doing the breast stroke with them, my arms in time with their flippers, a few feet separating us. It is getting close to being my dream snorkel site. You can swim on the surface in close to the reef with corals a metre or two under you, or you can dive down along the wall descending 5 to 7 metres or look into blue ethereal depths. We drift the ledge till we hit the far point of land and more turbulent waters and strong tide movement and turn around to return to our boat an hour later. By this time there are 10 boats dropping tourists into the water but most don't venture more than a few metres from their anchorage.
Our next stop is Calumbuyan Island. It is a site recommended in diving and snorkel blogs regarded as one of the best in the area. We travel with the waves and land on the beach and soon are exploring its edges. Disappointing. Lots of dead coral, the first we have seen in the Philippines and the wind is churning up sediment reducing visibility. We head for the beach and run into the 66 year old caretaker of the Island and his family of 7. He speaks quite good English so we sit and chat while eating our lunch. They have been there 27 years. He nicknames me his Canadian Santa and I nickname him my Philippino Santa. One of the kids climbs and brings us down coconuts to drink.
I ask about the coral reef and he says 95% was destroyed by typhoon Yolanda that hit 4 years ago. Winds of 215 kilometers an hour. Most trees were toppled on the Island, and his home totally destroyed. Everthing is just now coming back including the coral. He hopes in another 10 years it will return to its former glory.
We return to our hotel, weaving between the oysters hanging from buoys throughout the area. The oysters are used to cultivate pearls for the export trade. Each oyster is inoculated with a trade secret ingredient to produce a pearl in a year or so
The afternoon is spent lazing by the pool. After a relaxing dinner I come back to the dining terrace to do my blog but find the internet is down, and spend a couple of hours lying on bean bag chairs by the pool looking out at the moon and getting into an interesting conversation with Sharon, the sweetest most beautiful Philippino woman and manager of the resort and Jacob, a German expat living in the resort town of Borocay who has a shop specializing in Indonesian prints and clothing. We talk about dating and relationships and share our experiences. Jacob now 60 has never been married and doesn't believe one should look for a mate to spend the rest of ones life with or set ones sight too high. Sharon in her early 30'is the opposite. She is looking for a husband, has been dating an older Canadian man from afar, but feels it won't work out. She wants a family. He doesn't. She has been mentored to wait for the man to approach her, to look up to a man and expect to be cared for, but wants to be respected. There are a lot of usually older foreign men who find this type of relationship more appealing than the more dynamic and balanced give and take of modern western relationships. It makes for a fascinating discussion into the wee hours of the evening.
AL FARO BEAUTY