A true blue Coronon Al Linsangan, poster boy of sustainable tourism in Coron, personally tours Dash around his beloved hometown and together we come up with an eco-adventure hotlist that better be on your bucketlist. It includes a dip in a natural hot springs, snorkeling in a limited-access coral garden, immersing with a tribe when no one else could, and more.
Hike Mt Tapyas for that perfect sunset
A grueling 734-step climb and you’re on top of Mt Tapyas.
“Mt Tapyas is ideal for sunset spotting. The sea is also calmest at this time, adding a bit of drama to the view. And once the natural light fades, the harbor lights start to bathe the town’s baywalk and this is best viewed from the peak,” says Al.
But the sunset is not the only crowd-drawer of Mt Tapyas. Stand at its peak and admire the 360-degree sight of the whole Coron town and Mt Dalara, the highest mountain in the Calamian. Also seen from the horizon is Coron Island shaped like a sleeping giant. The Tagbanwa believe that the sleeping giant is Dumarakul, an ancient hero said to have protected them from the onslaught of Moro invaders. The giant cross erected at the peak is a pilgrimage site during Holy Week.
Have a therapeutic dip at Maquinit Hot Spring
Unlike most hotsprings, Maquinit is unique and therapeutic for it’s made of saltwater with sulfuric content ranging from 30 to 40 degrees Celcius. It’s got natural hot tubs, which if you sit in will give you stunning views of the surroundings.
Swim or kayak at Hidden Lagoon
There are countless lagoons in Coron Island but isn’t it nice to go to one where no one else does?
Al can take you to Hidden Lagoon, which is like a shallow pool with gin-clear water and sandy bottom walled in by towering limestones. The water here is a thermocline meaning there’s a medling of cold deep water and warmer surface water.
Swim or grab them paddles! There is a narrowing path full of mangroves, calming to pass by on by kayak or stand up paddle. Make a quick turn after some leisurely paddling for it opens out into the sea.
See Siete Pecados Marine Park
Siete Pecados is home to large schools of barracuda and jackfish as well as colorful exotics including clownfish, angelfish and triggerfish. If it’s your lucky day, you may even encounter a sea turtle languidly roaming a reef.
“Siete Picados reflects the natural features of Palawan’s corals, ideal for snorkeling and even diving. It has excellent visibility, except during rainy season, making it easy to view its sloping coral formation—a mix of sea fans, staghorn coral, brain coral to name some,” shares Al.
Folklore has it that the seven islets that make up Siete Pecados are remnants of seven sisters cursed by the gods because of their wrongdoing.
Freedive or do an intro at Coral Eden
Coral Eden is an underwater garden thriving with corals. If you’re fortunate enough, you may spot a giant Napoleon fish, one of the largest reef fishes in the world.
“Its beach entry makes it ideal for intro dives. Underwater, you’ll be treated to Coral Eden’s wall-like coral formation teeming with marine life. There’s also a lobster cage which you’d only be able to see if you dive 18 meters deep,” adds Al.
Beautiful Calachuchi beach is Coral Eden’s entry point and nope, it’s not open to all. This pristine shoreline features huts shaded by kalachuchi trees for holding picnics.
Cave and shipwreck dive in Coron Bay
“Tae Maru and Cathedral Cave are two of my favorite dive spots. Tae Maru sunk in the 1940s and it’s now encrusted in beautiful corals and plenty of sea life particularly critters. Sometimes whale sharks swim by and there are strong chances to see them in July and August. Cathedral Cave will take you diving six meters deep into the open sea so you can find the opening tunnel leading to the interior of the cave. Inside, descend some more to explore the cavern and see reef fish and magnificent stalactites,” shares Al.
Advanced divers can navigate Tae Maru, a 168 meter long oil tanker sitting 26 meters deep into the ocean. Its rusting remnants sprout soft and hard corals that attract sea creatures like lionfish, soldierfish, sweetlips and a whole lot of critters.
Cathedral Cave has a main chamber 12 meters down the tunnel’s mouth, featuring a sandy mound and remnants of a fullgrown tree, lobsters, crabs and eels. Light streams in through the ceiling hole, illuminating the cave walls as you navigate another passage that leads to a second chamber with a huge air pocket.
“Active tourists looking for challenge and adventure should mountain bike—one of the best ways to explore Coron,” says Al.
One route is the dirt road of Decalachao going to Busuanga Airport. It entails a long, winding ride spanning 13 kilometers in which you’d pass by tree-studded plains, small villages and rice paddies. You’d also have to cross a steep and rolling terrain under the unforgiving heat of the sun.
If 13km seem simple, perhaps the Coron town-Balisungan-Maquinit Hot Spring loop will give you your adrenaline fix. It’s a 16 kilometer route, which starts in Coron town. Expect to navigate the pavement and dirt road while taking in views of tropical mountains and forests. Stop at Cabo beach for lunch then cap off your ride by soaking up at Maquinit to relax those sore muscles.
Stand up paddle Pangawaran river
“You’d encounter endemic birds and other wildlife when you paddle your way through the protected mangrove forest in Pangawaran. There are also villages along the river, and sometimes you’ll see locals washing clothes at the river bank or a carabao taking an afternoon bath,” says Al.
Paddle in the morning so you can leisurely finish the 6km stretch from Maricaban Bay to Pangawaran Ecotourism Farm and have lunch.
Birdwatch and see nature’s unique lights
“Kingfisher Park is ideal for bird-watching by day and firefly watching at night,” shares Al. “It’s home to five species of kingfisher. The critically endangered Philippine cockatoo is also being conserved here.”
Early morning or right before the sunrise is the best time to look for birds like stork-billed and white-collared kingfisher.
When the night falls, the park is completely shrouded in dark except for entrance lights. Walk closer to the viewdeck where the blackness gives way to fireflies bathing trees with their ethereal glow. Go down the mangrove area where brackish water will start to glow a brilliant blue at every step due to the planktons that thrive here. If you visit on a clear, moonless night, you’d be rewarded with the most amazing stargazing experience.
Go on a beach-hopping spree
Al recommends seeing these white-sand beaches and beautiful sandbars: Malcapuya Island, a half kilometer strip, the longest beach in Coron. It’s also the town’s Boracay counterpart with its powdery white sands. There’s a patch of forest at the back side of the beach, yet another spot for birding; Ditaytayan Island, which a changing sandbar pattern depending on the season. During habagat (southwest monsoon), the sandbar forms a letter C which then changes to a reversed C shape during amihan (northeast monsoon); and Bulog Island which is pretty much like Ditaytayan, only that its sandbar is shorter and forms a straight line. A private island called Cheron, which features a snake-shaped sandbar, is worth checking out.
Visit Kayangan Lake at its quietest
“Kayangan Lake is the icon of Coron” according to Al. In fact, Kayangan is a term for “entrance” signifying the entry point to 12 other lakes scattered across Coron Island– all leading to the legendary Cabugao Lake or Mother Lake—the biggest and most sacred lake for the Tagbanwa. Tourists are forbidden to enter any of the lakes except for Kayangan and Barracuda.
Kayangan’s natural beauty seems to only magnify the longer you stay here. Beneath the extremely clear waters are natural rock formations—a toast for freedivers who are likely to encounter shrimps, needlefish, freshwater crabs and catfish. Come at high noon because then everybody will be on a break having lunch and you’ll have the lagoon all to yourself. Stretch your legs before you brave the 200-step ascent to get you across the limestone wall so you don’t hurt your muscles afterwards.
The Kayangan Lagoon which has appeared in countless magazines and brochures, is best photographed from 11am to 1pm, according to Al, because it’s when its greens and blues are most vivid.
Immerse with the Tagbanwas in Lajala village
“You need to spend at least four hours in the cultural village of Lajala to be able to observe the way of life of the Tagbanwa. When you go on a walking tour, you’ll see native’s traditional homes, women still use the palo palo (a wood slade used in doing laundry), and they make coffee the traditional way,” says Al.
The Tagbanwas are the first people to inhabit Coron and the only tribe to win the “first ever ancestral waters claim.” Coron Island and its surrounding waters were declared their ancestral domain in 1998, meaning that they’re given the right to manage Coron Island, which spans over 22,000 hectares of land and sea.
No other tour operators can take you on a Tagbanwa tribal immersion but Al and it’s on an extremenly low-volume arrangement.
Skyjet flies up to 4x daily from Manila to Busuanga Airport. From the airport, it’s a 40-minute ride to the Coron town proper, the commercial capital of Calamianes Islands, and over an hour’s drive to Busuanga. Book a SkyJet flight now.
Calamianes Expeditions & Ecotours offers tour packages that can take you around Calamianes Islands. Their tours are specialized and some include to stops only they can take you. Cultural immersion with the Tagbanwa tribe may be arrange with owner Al Linsangan.
Mobile: +63917 552 6766, +63919 992 6766
Email: inquir[email protected]
Who is Al B. Linsangan III?
Born and raised in Coron, Al B. Linsangan III is one of the leading eco-experts in Palawan and an internationally-recognized nature photographer. He’s a staunch advocate of local community-based ecotourism and spearheaded a number of initiatives that promote and advance awareness when it comes to socially sustainable tourism. He’s also at the helm of tourism-related social enterprises, Corong Galeri Lokal and Calamianes Expeditions & Ecotours.
SkyJet Airlines flies daily from Manila to Batanes. Book a SkyJet flight now.Tours
Calamianes Expeditions & Ecotours offers specialized tour packages, some including stops exclusive to them. Arrange cultural immersion with the Tagbanua tribe with its owner Al Linsangan.
Mobile: +63917 552 6766, +63919 992 6766, email [email protected]
Photos by Daniel Soriano